Search This Blog

Friday, December 19, 2014

Richard Crooks A.K.A. Father Time

Richard Crooks, A.K.A. “Father Time”

“Father Time”. That’s what engineer/producer Dan Simpson referred to drummer extraordinaire,  Richard Crooks as. That's where I leared of the name first, though it was bestowed on him years earlier in New York.  We lost Richard December 16th. The finest musicians in Key West all said Richard was the best of the best. A Californian, Richard actually came to Key West via New York City, where he spent something in the vicinity of thirty years, as the “go to” drummer for everyone.

“Everyone”. Who’s this “everyone” anyway? Now I can’t say, because I don’t honestly know, but maybe Richard did play in a jazz trio in Battery Park on Sunday afternoons. Maybe yes, maybe no. What I can say is that Richard played and recorded with a plethora of  people, such as  Dylan, Paul Simon, Lowden Wayneright III, David Bromberg, Odeta,... the list goes on and on.

Richard was kind enough to play on my album “Shanghai’d and Marooned in Key West (things could be worse)”. He also played drums on my song “Island Blue”, which will be on my next album,  “Jump Into De Fiya!”. The memories of recording with him, as well as getting to know him, will always stay in my memory fondly. It will always be a great honor for me. Having said that, Richard was often the first to laugh and always had a fantastic, easy going, personality. You couldn’t help but love the guy! Either at the recording sessions we were involved in, or just shooting the breeze, there was always great fun and camaraderie involved!

(Listen to Richard Crooks’ silky smooth brush work on “Raise My Glass To The Upper 48”)

However, Richard was always the most professional player I’ve played with. Before we recorded my album, I gave everyone who was going to play on it an acoustic demo that I recorded, so that they could learn the songs. Now mind you, the entire crew were first rate musicians. When we got into the studio, more often than not it became a musician saying to me “Woh! Wait a minute, what the hell did the song do there?” to which I replied “I gave you the demo recording, and the chord sheet that went along with it. Didn’t you listen to it? Then they would say “Well, I was thinking your stuff was like that other Trop Rock guy...…” and I would reply “No, my stuff isn’t like his or anyone else's. My stuff has chord changes that are not the norm. They go off the beaten path, but manage to flow quite naturally.  That’s why I took the time and money to record and give you the recording and lyric/ chord charts, so you wouldn’t be learning the damn song in the friggin' studio.”

Richard, on the other hand, didn’t arrive in the studio cold turkey figuring he’s just knock it out, never listening to the demo to begin with. No, Richard not only listened to the arrangement demos, but he also charted out each and every song.

 photo GEDC0440_zps2904b219.jpg

(Richard Crooks viewing the music chart while recording “Shanghai’d and Marooned in Key West ( things could be worse)”

 photo GEDC0437_zps3e7e8399.jpg

It was kind of funny, somehow I managed to pretty much get it all right on my stuff, but there were two or three times when something was not quite the way it was presented by myself. Richard would say “So this is supposed to go another measure, you’re saying?”. I’d “Well, yeah, that’s my mistake Richard”. Then I’d get the look and he’d go back to his self made chart and make the correction and give me “the look” again.

It wasn’t a bad look, but more akin to a teacher sitting at their desk giving you the same look after you made a mistake on a paper. What it was, was a look that taught you. One that you learned from.

Then, with an upbeat tone he’s say “Okay, lets go!” One definitely learned when you  worked with Richard. Everyone did. Once he made his point, it was over and time to move on with a good spirit and vibe, because if the spirit and vibe weren't there, the entire session would be spinning it's wheels. That was the antithesis of what Richard Crooks was all about.

Richard was modest, to a “T”. Yes, he played with Dylan and Paul Simon, and a myriad of others. However, he wouldn’t volunteer that at all. He wasn’t the type to pipe up and blow out “Oh! Yes! I’ve played with Dylan! I’ve also played with Paul Simon! You should have been to the session I did with David Bromberg and the tour that followed!”

No, that wasn’t Richard at all. If you asked him, he'd be more than happy to share his stories and anecdotes. they were always peppered with humor and mirth. However, those stories never surfaced unless requested.

Knowing he was from California, I asked him if he ever played in the San Francisco bay area. HA HA! I then learned that he had played during the Summer of Love (1967), played the Filmore and many other gigs in a band that played with The Grateful Dead, the Jefferson Starship, Quicksilver Messenger Service.. the list went on! The point being, all you had to do with Richard ws ask.

 photo GEDC0602_zps62c59419.jpg

 photo DSCF3167_zpse9b8dd2d.jpg
(Richard Crooks arrives at the San Carlos Institute in Key West to record “Shanghai’d and Marooned in Key West (things could be worse)”

 photo GEDC0577_zpsa4574450.jpg

(Richard on the brushes… and loving it! Hear this song above "Raise my Glass To The Upper 48")

Here’s an amazing thing about Richard Crooks. When we were finished with the rhythm tracks, (Bubba Low Notes, played the bass at the San Carlos Institute sessions along with Richard, by the way!), we went back to the studio to prepare for the other instruments, that would be added to the rhythm tracks. As it appears on the grid on the computer, there are the sound waves and every few inches there are vertical lines. These are the exact points of where the beat lies. As humans, no one is perfect. Inevitably, a musician is either a touch in front of the beat, or a touch behind the beat here and there on occasion. The engineer will move it digitally to compensate for the error. I’m talking about drums, however this can happen with all instruments.

Well, on all of Richard’s tracks, there was not one piece that Dan had to move. Not one. Ten tracks, all perfect, to a “T”! Engineer/Producer Dan Simpson said “This is the way it always is with Richard. It’s unbelievable. He’s like this all the time. That's why I call him 'Father Time'!”.

My life long friend, Vintz McKeon, came to Key West a few years back. Vintz and I had been in bands together until I left New Jersey and moved to Florida when I was twenty one. Vincent is an extraordinary drummer, based in New Jersey, not too far from NYC and is in the city very often catching music shows of all sorts of genres over the years. From the Allman Brothers, to Charles Mingus, to The Band, to Tower of Power, to James Taylor, to Miles Davis. He’s also active, playing with a band named “The Harmony Brothers” for the last several years. When Vintz heard Richard, he was in awe.

(Richard on "Mile Zero" off "Shanghai'd and Marooned in Key West (things could be worse") 

I had never played with Richard, up to the point of recording, but playing with him on the rhythm tracks was just a natural. It was like riding on a magic carpet. It was just, flat out perfect.

 photo GEDC0603_zpsf71e1823.jpg

We’re all going to miss Richard immensely and anyone who either heard him play, or played with him, is truly blessed. Every player he ever played with, and even those who didn’t, learned so much from Richard Crooks, we’ll be forever in debt.

("Island Blue" featuring Richard Crooks on drums)

Guitarist Larry Baeder mentioned to me the day after Richard's passing that the entire music fraternity in New York City was mourning. I can tell you that so is the one in Key West.

Godspeed Richard. Thank you so much for sharing, not just your talent and knowledge, but even more so, your marvelous life itself with all of us.

Key West is so grateful you chose to be part of this island.

My most sincere condolences go out to his wonderful wife Nina and his entire family.

 photo GEDC0446_zpsc094709f.jpg
( Richard enjoying life, playing and recording naturally)

to view some of what Richard has recorded over the years check this link;

To obtain my music:

My CD is available on iTunes, CD Baby, CD Universe, Rhapsody, and Beachfront Radio.
Search: Key West Chris

Thank you everyone!!


No comments:

Post a Comment