Did you know that Drums were one of the last recorded instrument? I don’t mean by that that during a session the drums will go last, I mean it historically. And hysterically, too. Haha! Let’s laugh, so haha! Moving on.
Why? Well, why, do you think? Because they were too loud. I should say, they were too LOUD! Back in the beginning of the 1920’s, they had to place the band according to were the ONE microphone or whatever contraption they had at the time to record could take. If you had a loud trumpet player (I’m looking at you Satchmo!), you had to be 20 feet away from the others. An upright piano, though, could be much closer. But the drums! Well, you could have put them orbiting the earth and it would still have been too close. So, no drums on the early recordings of Jelly Roll Morton, for example. The guy was a star at the time, but it didn’t matter. You could have been Michael Jackson-Swift-Mayer-Adele: no drummer for you!
In order to make that beat felt, they tried substitutes. They used the banjo, or the woodblocks, or temple blocks or cowbells. “Temple blocks”?! I mean, come on! Anyway, they did manage to record the drums. It took patience from the player and the recording engineer, but they did, even if they had to move them drums 25 feet away from the furthest horn player!
What’s weird, and I submit that to your judgement, is that drummers were the craze at that time. Basically, they were the engine of the dance band. Those drummers were playing their heart out on the bandstand to keep the folks moving. They were in high demand! You had a good drummer, you had yourself a gig, my friend. Oh, and they were playing the full kit, roaring snare drum, booming bass drums, crashing cymbals, the whole lot. People loved them. But, not on the recordings. The recording engineer would say: “Sorry, no. Put your sticks down, you’re going to make the needle go berserk.” I feel bad for the guy who’d been slaving on the skins night after night, learning all the intricacies of the arrangements, studying the way each player approach a theme or a solo, watching his sweating work pay off when they got the cheers of the crowd. But then he’s told to keep his kit in the car, right at the door of the recording studio. Poor sorry drummer. Who said that everything was better in the old age?