And while I play this shuffle groove with much more feel and fluidity than this "vlogger," I appreciate his scholarship and he shared some things I had forgotten, like Jeff's start as Sonny & Cher's drummer.
Toto IV came out when I was in Junior High and Rosanna was the big radio hit from that album before Africa rose to #1 some months later. I loved the groove and Jeff's drum playing, the jazz piano break followed by scorching guitar solo. It was just a great song and rightly received "Record of the Year" honors at the Grammy's. But I couldn't play it. In fact, I didn't really get the Bernard Purdie shuffle feel until many years later.
Specifically, I remember being at worship band rehearsal one night at Christian Heritage Church in the early 2000's. Christie Cole, our leader, was out that week and one of her backup singers was leading. The singer's husband was a drummer and at rehearsal that night he sat down and rocked out the Rosanna shuffle. My jaw dropped. It was right then that I realized the power of ghost notes and how on that groove, in particular, they provide the undercurrent and fluid, forward motion of the "Purdie Shuffle." Later, I would learn that it was Purdie who influenced Jeff's use of shuffle in his early work, like on Steely Dan and Boz Scaggs' records. But I watched in awe that night as this drummer, unknown to me, sat down and nailed it like it was the easiest thing to play. I took notes.
Later on, as I relaxed into the shuffle and learned to play those ghost notes in time and with groove, I was able to play the Rosanna song with feel and without rushing it. Since then, I've played along with it many times, though the tom fills still give me fits! It's just one of the reasons I count Jeff among my heroes.
My first encounters of his groove and deep pocket playing were, unbeknownst to me, while listening to his songs on the radio, like Lido Shuffle and Lowdown, both childhood favorites by the incomparable Boz Scaggs. At the time, I didn't know he was the grooving force behind Michael McDonald's I Keep Forgettin', another classic and a childhood fave. My first cognizant realization of his prowess was while playing along with Toto's first album, released in 1978.
I was a 10-year-old in my grandmother's basement, listening to my uncle's record collection in his early version of a "man cave." This room, walls painted a rich blue with my uncle's custom album cover art, had a drum platform and a rag tag set of drums, where I first cut my teeth on the kit. His vinyl collection included the first three albums I ever played along with--Foreigner's Double Vision (1978), Journey's Evolution (1979) and Toto's self-titled first album (1978).
I played along with these albums over and over until I could hit all the parts in lock-step with the players, even if I wasn't playing them exactly right. To this day, Hold the Line from that first Toto album is one of my favorites. I didn't even realize I was playing a pretty basic blues groove on the chorus, but it seemed to come very naturally to me. In fact, I seemed to have a knack for picking up on syncopated kick and hi-hat patterns without too much trouble. It was playing with groove and feel that would take many more years of practice.
But that was my introduction to Jeff's playing. I would follow him for many years and would to my surprise find out that he played on many great songs I'd grown up on. As an adult, I fell in love with the body of Steely Dan's work. Found out he was a session drummer for them...and scads of other artists spanning the 70's and 80's. In fact, he even played on an album by Christian recording artist, Bryan Duncan, on a song I'd loved since childhood. On this track, as on every track he's ever played, he does it tastefully, with groove and feel, providing the band with a deep pocket. Jeff was never very showy; never tried to steal the spotlight.
Jeff was taken from us in the prime of his life in 1992. His drumming, along with Neil Peart and Steve Smith, were my earliest influences. Had I known all the great tracks he had recorded in the 1970's, I would have called him my first, but I really discovered him in 1978-79 and followed his short-lived career over the next fourteen years. I purchased the only instructional video he ever did and have watched nearly every YouTube I could find, from his performances in '76 with Boz Scaggs on Japanese TV to his later concerts with Toto, where he never even took a drum solo. His selflessness and modesty was on display in this rare interview that I just recently discovered (from the late 80's?):
I listed Jeff among my Top 5 Modern Drummers back in 2009 and even included the clip from his instructional video where he breaks down and explains the roots of his Rosanna shuffle. After that, I immediately had to go work on Led Zeppelin's Fool in the Rain.
Well, that's my tribute to one of my all-time favorites and a huge influence on my playing style--the one and only Jeff Porcaro. Rest in peace, brother.