Gary Chester
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Gary Chester

Gary Chester
Cesario Gurciullo
BornOctober 27, 1924
DiedAugust 17, 1987(1987-08-17) (aged 62)
GenresPop, rock
Musician, teacher, writer

Gary Chester (born Cesario Gurciullo; October 27, 1924 - August 17, 1987) was an American studio drummer, author, and teacher.[1] Beginning in the 1960s, he played on hundreds of records for bands such as The Coasters, The Monkees, and The Lovin' Spoonful.[2]


Born in Siracusa, Italy,[] Chester's first successful recording session was to replace a studio drummer.

As his reputation grew, Chester became a respected teacher, with drummers searching out his expertise and demanding techniques. His drumming systems have been used and endorsed by drummers such as Kenny Aronoff, Gary Gibbons, Douglas Oscard, Danny Gottlieb,[3]Max Weinberg, Chris Adams, Tico Torres, Lindy Morrison, and Dave Weckl, each having studied under Chester.[]

Instruction technique


Chester devised a system involving internalized patterns employing a drum 'melody' in an attempt to expand drummers' coordination and groove ability. His use of the ostinato[4][5] figure employed more than repetition; he created drum melodies for a song with variation and development of the drum phrase or motif using the entire drum kit. He advocated alternating an ostinato line to fit changing harmonies or keys to enhance the song. Chester's system also taught how to set up an ostinato with one limb or more and playing freely with the remaining limbs, allowing one drummer to sound like a small percussion section.[6]

Ambidexterity and rhythmic vocalization

Chester focused on teaching skills like creativity, improvisation, four-limb independence and ambidexterity, cross-dominance, playing solid time, alignment of limbs, and making an independent contribution to the song while playing to match the song rather than playing to show off. For example, his instructional techniques included learning to overcome their natural handedness (or laterality) by playing both right-handed and left-handed. This offered the studio pro greater flexibility, smoother groove transition, and a more complex, unbroken riff or fill. This ambidexterity also permitted the drummer to switch the ostinato from right-to-left or vice versa, thereby letting the free hand (or foot) develop a richer drum melody. One additional benefit was more open handed drumming which increases hand mobility around the set as the drummer does not need to cross and uncross his or her arms as often.[]

The core concept of Chester's New Breed instruction style was five-way independence. The student was given a system (three parts of a rhythm) and was required to play a written melody with the fourth limb. Chester also taught his students to "sing" each part that each limb played (rhythmic vocalization) while drumming to "train your ears to accept and understand what you're doing." While coordinating and reading, the student would also be required to sing the quarter note, back beat, up beat and the melody for each system. Once the student performed each two page written melody and sang four different parts, he/she was required to play the same exercise with a left hand lead. Here, countless new rhythms were played, read, coordinated in time to a metronome, while singing.[7] As a result of Chester's instructional techniques, the student would: (a) Develop independent four-way coordination; (b) Master sight reading ability and note recognition (c) Left hand would now be able to play ride patterns (d) Control time keeping through metronome and singing (by singing the quarter note, one could always play in time) (e) By gaining the ability to play and sing the melodies written, the student enhanced creativity and musicianship. If one could play what he/she sang, all playing situations became a breeze.[7]


Selected discography

Year Song title Artist Date US charts R&B charts British charts Producer Miscellaneous
1958 "Charlie Brown" The Coasters December 11 2 2 6 Leiber/Stoller
"16 Candles" The Crests 2 4
"A Lover's Question" Clyde McPhatter 6 1
1959 "Along Came Jones" The Coasters March 26 9 14 Leiber/Stoller
"Dream Lover" Bobby Darin April 6 2 4 1 Ahmet Ertegun, Jerry Wexler
"Poison Ivy" The Coasters July 16 7 1 13 Leiber/Stoller
"Lavender-Blue" Sammy Turner 1959 3 14 Leiber/Stoller[9]
1960 "Save The Last Dance For Me" The Drifters May 19 1 1 2 Leiber/Stoller
"Shoppin' for Clothes" The Coasters July 29 Leiber/Stoller
"Spanish Harlem" Ben E. King October 27 10 15 Leiber/Stoller
"Young Boy Blues" Ben E. King October 27
"Stand By Me" Ben E. King October 27 2 1 Leiber/Stoller
"Saved" LaVern Baker December 7 37 17
"Wild One" Bobby Rydell 2 10
"Calendar Girl" Neil Sedaka 4 22 8
1961 "Girls! Girls! Girls!" The Coasters February 9 Leiber/Stoller
"Little Egypt"[10] The Coasters February 9 23 16 Leiber/Stoller
"Amor" Ben E. King March 29 17 10 38
"Pretty Little Angel Eyes" Curtis Lee May/June 7 8 Phil Spector backing vocals by The Halos
"Cry to Me" Solomon Burke October 6 44 5 Bert Berns The session also included
drummer Panama Francis.
"There's No Other (Like My Baby)" The Crystals September or
20 5 Phil Spector
"Crying in the Rain" The Everly Brothers November 14 6 6 Don Kirshner
"Please Stay" The Drifters 14 13
"Some Kind of Wonderful" The Drifters 32 6 Leiber/Stoller
"What Now My Love" Jane Morgan
"The Lone Twister" Murray the K
"Bless You" Tony Orlando 15 5
"Every Breath I Take" Gene Pitney Phil Spector
"Happy Birthday Sweet Sixteen" Neil Sedaka 6 3
"Will You Love Me Tomorrow" The Shirelles 1 2 Luther Dixon
1962 "Don't Play That Song (You Lied)" Ben E. King March 3 11 2
"Twist and Shout" The Isley Brothers March 17 2 Bert Russell (a.k.a. Bert Berns)
"Up On The Roof" The Drifters June 28 5 4 Leiber/Stoller Ranked #114 in
Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Songs of All Time
"Don't Make Me Over" Dionne Warwick August Burt Bacharach, Hal David initially released as the B side of
"I Smiled Yesterday"
"Tell Him" The Exciters October 15 4 5 46 Leiber/Stoller
"Bossa Nova Baby" Tippie and the Clovers November Leiber/Stoller
"She Cried" Jay and the Americans 5
"What Kind of Fool Am I?" Anthony Newley from the musical
Stop The World - I Want To Get Off
"(The Man Who Shot) Liberty Valance" Gene Pitney 3
"I'll Never Dance Again" Bobby Rydell 14
"Breaking Up Is Hard to Do" Neil Sedaka 1 12 7 back up vocals by
The Cookies
"Johnny Get Angry" Joanie Sommers 7 3
"Hush, Little Baby" June Valli Eddie Mathews Theme from the movie
The Miracle Worker[13]
"Mr. Lonely" Bobby Vinton 1 Robert Morgan Became a hit in 1964
after being rereleased
"Roses Are Red (My Love)" Bobby Vinton 1 5 15 Robert Morgan
1963 "On Broadway" The Drifters January 22 9 7
"Chains" The Cookies February 11 7 17 50
"It's My Party" Lesley Gore March 30 1 1 9 Quincy Jones
"Anyone Who Had a Heart" Dionne Warwick November 6 Burt Bacharach, Hal David "the song shuttled between 5/4 and 4/4"
with "a bar of 7/4 for good measure"
"My Boyfriend's Back" The Angels 2 Bob Feldman, Jerry Goldstein,
Richard Gottehrer
"He's So Fine" The Chiffons 1 1 16 Phil Margo, Mitch Margo,
Jay Siegal, Hank Medress
"Mr. Bass Man" Johnny Cymbal 16 24 Alan Lorber The bass part was sung by
Ronnie Bright, who sang with The Cadillacs,
The Valentines and The Coasters
"Our Day Will Come" Ruby and the Romantics 1 Allen Stanton
"Hey Girl" Freddy Scott 10 10
"Blue on Blue" Bobby Vinton 3 Robert Morgan
1964 "Walk On By" Dionne Warwick April 1 Bacharach, David Ranked #70 in
Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Songs of All Time
"Under the Boardwalk" The Drifters May 21, 4 1 45 Bert Berns
"Come a Little Bit Closer" Jay and the Americans 4 Artie Ripp
"Goin' Out of My Head" Little Anthony and the Imperials 6 8
"It Hurts to Be in Love" Gene Pitney 4 Aaron Schroeder, Wally Gold
"Remember (Walking in the Sand)" The Shangri-Las 5 9 George "Shadow" Morton
1965 "Baby I'm Yours" Barbara Lewis January 8 11 5 Bert Berns, Ollie McLaughlin
"What the World Needs Now Is Love" Jackie DeShannon March 23 7 40
"Cara Mia" Jay and the Americans 4 Artie Ripp
"Do You Believe in Magic" The Lovin' Spoonful 9 Erik Jacobsen
1966 "Over the Rainbow" Patti LaBelle and the Bluebelles
"What the World Needs Now Is Love" Dionne Warwick Burt Bacharach From the album
Here Where There Is Love
1967 "Brown Eyed Girl" Van Morrison 28 March 10 Bert Berns ranked No. 110 on the Rolling Stone
500 Greatest Songs of All Time
"I Say a Little Prayer" Dionne Warwick October 8 Bacharach, David
1968 "Do You Know the Way to San Jose" Dionne Warwick April 9 23 Bacharach, David
1969 "I'll Never Fall in Love Again" Dionne Warwick December 5 17 Bacharach, David
"Sugar, Sugar" The Archies 1 Jeff Barry
"Theme from Midnight Cowboy" Ferrante & Teicher 10
"And Now We Come To Distances" Gloria Loring Al Gorgoni
1972 "Rocky Mountain High" John Denver August 9 Milt Okun
"You Don't Mess Around with Jim" Jim Croce Terry Cashman, Tommy West
"Time in a Bottle" Jim Croce 1 Cashman, West Recorded in 1972, the song was
a hit a year later following Croce's death
"Daddy Don't You Walk So Fast" Wayne Newton 4 Wes Farrell
1973 "Bad, Bad Leroy Brown" Jim Croce 1 Cashman, West



  1. ^ "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Playing Drums, 2nd edition". Archived from the original on October 10, 2007. Retrieved 2007.
  2. ^ a b Chadbourne, Eugene. "Gary Chester". AllMusic. Retrieved 2018.
  3. ^ "Danny Gottlieb: Teaching". Danny Gottlieb website. Retrieved 2007.
  4. ^ "Glossary & Dictionary". Drummer Cafe. Retrieved 2011.
  5. ^ "Improvisation and the Classical Musician: Groovy, Baby . . . (Ostinatos, Part I)". April 20, 2006. Retrieved 2011.
  6. ^ "What is an ostinato?". Retrieved 2011.
  7. ^ a b "RhythmTech School of Drums - About". Archived from the original on June 20, 2008. Retrieved 2017.
  8. ^ "Books and Library Index List Details: Modern Drummer 13 February 2008". Retrieved 2011.
  9. ^ "Sammy Turner". March 23, 2015. Retrieved 2020.
  10. ^ "The Coasters - Session Discography". Retrieved 2017.
  11. ^ "Atlantic Records Catalog: 8100 series". Retrieved 2020.
  12. ^ Phil Spector: Back To Mono 1958 - 1969, 4 CD box set, All Mother Bertha Music, 1991, liner note
  13. ^ Special Merit Singles. Billboard. May 5, 1962. pp. 34-. Retrieved 2018.
  14. ^ Emerson, Ken, Always Magic in the Air: The Bomp and Brilliance of the Brill Building Era, Viking Penguin, New York, 2005 p. 176
  15. ^ "Rolling Stone Magazine's Top 500 Songs". Archived from the original on 24 May 2013. Retrieved 2010.

External links

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