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Raye Du-Val

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My Life at The Drums

I was born of Anglo-French parents and brought up in the Latin quarter of Soho, London. I began my drumming career as a Carol Levis Talent Show “Discovery”, turning professional at the age of 15 after turning down an opportunity to become a professional footballer with Arsenal.

I studied drums with Max Abrams, Eddie Taylor and Verdie Shaw of the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra. I had a few valuable pointers from Gene Krupa and other greats. I was fortunate to hang out with most of the stars of the UK drum scene including Ginger Baker, Phil Seaman and Dickie Devere. I was the first in the world to exceed a century of hours in marathon drumming.

My true vocation is that of a Dixieland drummer but in the early days one had to turn one’s hand to as many styles as possible in order to survive eg Irish Music, Latin, Old Time, Trad Jazz, Fols de Rols and Big Band such as Joe Loss, Syd Dean, Sid Phillips, Ken Mackintosh, Harry Leader etc.

Later I worked in London West End cabaret at The Stork, Churchill’s etc. I also performed in the London Jazz clubs with Tubby Hayes, Don Rendell, Ronnie Scott and with The Dutch Swing College Band. As well as in Paris clubs such as “The Blue Note” and “Vieux de Colombier” on the Seine. I have also worked with a circus band and, in France, I ran my own Big Band with Sacha Distel on guitar.

My first ever sit-in was for Big Sid Catlett with Sidney Bechet and he gave me a pair of his sticks as a memento. I was the first drummer to play with a zither player, an Austrian lady, The Widow Hausl. I have performed drum rolls on recordings for BBC programmes and have recorded with chart names at Abbey Road studios, TV and screen adverts, sessions, film scores and the odd theatre gig.

International stars I have worked with include Shirley Bassey, Matt Munro, Dickie Valentine, Mahalia Jackson, Don Bagley, Dave Prell, Pete Fountain etc. I have played at The London Palladium, The Paris Olympia and for TV shows such as “Oh Boy” and “All That Jazz”. I became a great friend of Gene Krupa and family, who put me in the Hall of Fame, although I am not worthy of such an accolade.

I was head of the London Chapter of the Gene Krupa National Jazz Association. I like to regard myself as a historian of Gene’s life and career. He gave me a cymbal used on Benny Goodman’s Carnegie Hall Concert in 1938.

In the late 1950’s I saw the change in the music scene and moved into Rock & Roll. Between 1959 and 1969 I was triple winner of the World’s Non Stop Drumming Marathon Contest. This was verified by the Guinness Book of Records and The National Jazz Federation.

I turned down the opportunity to make a film of my life for personal reasons, the writing of my life story is now in progress. These days I am still very busy keeping my technique together and doing some teaching. I am also a keen collector of drumming memorabilia.

Raye Du-Val