October 15, 1943|
Norfolk, Virginia, USA
August 24, 1992 (aged 48)|
Nashville, Tennessee, USA
|Drummer, session musician|
|Elvis Presley, Journey, many others|
Larrie Londin began playing drums at the age of 15, and was largely self-taught. Londin initially planned to be a singer, and had an early recording contract with Atlantic Records, but decided to stay loyal to the band The Headliners and signed with Motown under the VIP label.
Londin's first professional drumming engagement was in Norfolk, Virginia, in a club where he was a cook and dishwasher. One night, the engagement drummer did not show up, and Londin substituted.
As young men, Larrie Londin and his bassist brother Lonnie aka Eugene Bunten were members of The Headliners, the first white act to be signed to a Motown record label. In 1965, two singles were released by the Headliners.
During his time at Motown, Londin commenced his career as a session drummer, following a heart attack suffered by Funk Brothers session drummer Benny Benjamin. Motown owner Berry Gordy asked Londin to play at various sessions, rather than cancel them, due to Benjamin's health challenges. Londin played drums on recordings by The Supremes, Marvin Gaye, The Temptations and Jr. Walker & the All Stars. Though credited to Benny Benjamin, it is asserted that it was Londin who played drums on Jr. Walker's hit song "Shotgun".
Encouraged by guitarist Chet Atkins and singer-guitarist Jerry Reed, Londin moved to Nashville in 1969, and grew to be regarded as Nashville's top session drummer. In 1991, Atkins publicly introduced him as "the greatest drummer in the world". Londin was considered to be a "master class" drummer, and made appearances on the "drum clinic" circuit.
Londin was known to practice eight to twelve hours a day. He was also one of the first American drummers to record extensively with electronic drums. Commencing as of the 1970s, Londin was a contract session drummer for Columbia Records, playing on both country and rock recordings.
With his wife, Debbie Gallant, Londin established D.O.G. Percussion (named for Debbie's initials), the area's first dedicated drum shop, which was of interest to a wide range of musicians. For example, at the suggestion of Londin, Hee Haw banjo player Bobby Thompson went to D.O.G. Percussion to add a FiberSkyn head to his banjo. Always promoting innovation in the session business, Londin mentored younger musicians and proposed the first cartage services for Nashville session players. One notable drummer whom Londin mentored was Eddie Bayers, now a top Nashville session drummer in his own right.
While not being able to formally read music, Londin developed "stick charts", which he used to remind himself of approaches to certain songs for which he was contracted as a session drummer. According to Londin, such "stick charts" were common among Nashville session drummers, but not widely known or understood otherwise. Londin acknowledged that he had obtained a rudimentary knowledge of music charts from Master Chief Musician Kenny Malone, who had previously been head of the percussion department at the U.S. Navy School of Music at Little Creek, Virginia, and came to Nashville as a session musician.
Londin worked on a handful of Elvis Presley studio and live sessions, albeit in an overdubbing capacity at the behest of Elvis' producer, Felton Jarvis. One notable Elvis recording on which Londin appears is the 1980 remix version of "Guitar Man", which was the singer's final number one single on the country charts. He substituted for Elvis' long-time drummer Ronnie Tutt in the TCB Band briefly in 1976 and 1977, resulting in Londin playing at Presley's last two concerts, prior to Presley's death, in Cincinnati and Indianapolis. Londin can be heard prominently playing with Presley on A New Kind Of Rhythm! (Madison Records, 2007), a bootleg recording of a 1976 Presley concert at the Riverfront Coliseum in Cincinnati.
In the 1980s, Londin was a member of The Cherry Bombs, the backing band for Rodney Crowell. As a session musician, Londin played with a wide range of artists, including Emmylou Harris, Diana Ross, The Supremes, The Temptations, The Four Tops, Martha Reeves, The Vandellas, Smokey Robinson, Joe Tex, Wilson Pickett, Lionel Richie, Carpenters, Jerry Lee Lewis, Boots Randolph, Charlie Pride, Randy Travis, Porter Wagoner, Dolly Parton, B. B. King, Albert Lee, Larry Carlton, Lee Ritenour, England Dan & John Ford Coley, Bobby Bare, Merle Haggard, Hank Snow, Jerry Reed, Rosanne Cash, Al Green, Don Francisco, Dan Fogelberg, Reba McEntire, KT Oslin, Vince Gill, Ricky Skaggs, Hank Williams, Jr., Chet Atkins, Ronnie Milsap, Dan Hill, Fosterchild, Journey and Steve Perry. Londin demonstrated the diversity of his playing ability through playing jazz fusion with ex-King Crimson guitarist Adrian Belew. In the years prior to his death, Londin also recorded and toured with the Everly Brothers.
On April 24, 1992, Londin suffered a bout of myocardial infarction and collapsed, following a drum clinic at the University of North Texas. On August 24, 1992, after spending four months in a coma, Londin died in Nashville, Tennessee, at the age of 48.
In 1999, a benefit concert was held, co-sponsored by the Percussive Arts Society and Sabian, the cymbal manufacturer with which Londin had been associated, to raise money for musician scholarships. Drummers Dom Famularo, Terry Bozzio, Chester Thompson, and Will Calhoun and the percussion group Hip Pickles appeared. An audio and video cassette of the benefit concert were released in 1999. The scholarship program continues to offer scholarships as of 2012.
Street Talk (1984)
Raised on Radio (1986)