My Tribute to ANIMAL

If you grew up in my generation, The Muppet Show was huge on Saturday Night TV. I just had an epiphany today watching the drum battle between Animal and Travis Barker (of Blink182 fame), and I realized that ANIMAL was actually my first official drum instructor. I think that explains a lot, don’t you? Check it out!

I can vaguely remember (being 4-yrs-old in 1978 when this was first released) seeing the Great Buddy Rich enter into a drum battle with Animal
There will be more on Buddy Rich later, as he was one of the drummers throughout the relatively short history of the drum set, who has brought the “conTRAPtion” of percussion instruments into the limelight of the last century.

Animal had a unique style, always bouncing to the beat. I questioned later in years if his operator was really a drummer. I haven’t done my homework yet. This introduced me to the term “Call & Response,” which I use a lot in my rhythm event facilitation. C & R is a tradition of many musical styles, but it can be traced to many forms of early African songs, where one person calls and the group responds. Here’s a video with Harry Belafonte trying to trick Animal with his C & R drumming.

Through the years, Animal had many different drum sets, but I can never recall seeing him tied to an “endorsement.” I think his style, or maybe his diversity, couldn’t exactly be pinned to a single genre. Check out his classical music background.

Yes, he was a bit of a “metal-head.” We all waited for him to burst into flames. I know that clip wasn’t legitimate, but I love the videos I stumble upon sometimes while doing research. Youtube can be quite entertaining.

This clip actually hosts the video from before, and gives us an inside interview with Animal by the green man himself.

Don’t let that video ruin the reputation of all us drummers! I’ve heard all the drummer jokes. My favorite is, “How do you know when the drum riser is level? Answer: Drool comes from both sides of the drummer’s mouth.” Speaking of what comes out of a drummer’s mouth, check out Animal’s vocal cameo with Queen.

Animal’s influence constantly reintroduced himself in my performances. I can think of more than one occasion that I probably could have “played less” to compliment the music on a gig. Check out Animal distracting Rita Moreno while she’s singing “Fever.”

I remember during my 9th grade talent show, some friends and I were playing “Crazy Train” by Ozzy Osbourne. Our chorus teacher had already frowned on our performance selection, and she constantly reinforced the 3 minute time limit by telling us, “If you go one second over the limit, I will personally cut the power off to the stage.” So we put the drum solo segment starting at 2 minutes 55 seconds. Sure enough she turned the power off at the 3 minute mark, and the amps, microphones and lights went off. However, the drums kept right on going. It felt like I soloed for hours. In reality I think it was probably about 10 minutes, but the crowd loved it! I threw my sticks out into the audience. I was at a red light a few years back, and this guy pulls up and recognizes me. He told me he still had the autographed stick from that performance. I thought it was amazing that anyone besides me even remembers it. Needless to say I also was not invited to join the chorus for the remainder of my high school career. Oh well, big loss there. Maybe that’s why I rarely sing when I play drums. Here’s where that idea for trouble probably subliminally came into my brain. (I think we all know Animal was not exactly designed to be a “positive role model” for kids at that time. Nowadays, we beg our kids to move like he did for five minutes, much less two and a half hours like in this next video.)

This next clip reminds of when I played a triangle part on ”Appalachian Spring” by Aaron Copeland with the Hendersonville Symphony Orchestra. I only had a couple of notes spaced out through the long piece. I also recall performing a PDQ Bach piece where I played a crash cymbal in the third movement “Musical Serenade for Winds and an Awful Lot of Percussion” where it built in volume from fortissimo to crasho groso (crash’em and drop’em). Because of my personal experience with how stressful reading and interpreting music can be for some people, I would like to dedicate this next clip to their successful own version, usually improvised in the moment.

We know him. We love him. He makes us laugh. I just never realized until today how influential he is in my life and career.

He’s definitely a “Wild Thing!”

I’ve really enjoyed reliving some of the greatest moments in ANIMAL HISTORY today. (As a side note, check out the bagpipe solo coming out of the saxamaphone in this AC/DC clip. Is that in the real song? I’m just curious. Let me know if you want to do some research for extra credit.)

For more information on ANIMAL’S HISTORY

There’s even an ANIMAL APP

To learn more about the Ronnie Verrell check out DRUMMER WORLD

John Zeller’s four-stroke roll lesson

Thanks so much to John Zeller for allowing us to film his lesson and help us get a new video up to share on

Please go by TANNER’S BIG ORANGE, grab a hot dog and their fabulous orange drink, and tell them you saw John’s video!

Tanners Big Orange
322 South Pleasantburg Drive
Greenville, SC 29607-2524
(864) 235-2247