If you’re a drummer, then you’ve probably heard of Freddie Gruber. You see, whether he liked it or not, Freddie was a legend. He had a long history with Zildjian, going back to his days as Buddy Rich’s roommate and close friend, to enduring friendships with Armand, Craigie, and Debbie Zildjian, and many of us at Zildjian. It was Buddy who encouraged Freddie to teach and his list of students reads like a “who’s who” in the drumming community. There’s simply no doubt that he made his mark in the world...
You only had to meet Freddie once to know that he was a “no BS” kind of guy. He told it straight, unvarnished, and sometimes with a few expletives thrown in for good measure. He was astute at discussing politics, philosophy, history, you name it. I loved Freddie – he was a great friend and mentor to me for over 25 years, and he will be sorely missed by all of us at Zildjian.
Zildjian honored Freddie at this year's Winter NAMM show when we presented him with our Lifetime Achievement Award for Education. He was very proud of the award and took education seriously. He often told me (and others I’m sure) that teaching wasn’t something he set out to do, but through encouragement from friends like Buddy and Roy Haynes, he realized he could impart their style and technique to other players, which isn’t something everyone can do.
When we learned that Freddie’s health had taken a turn, Craigie and Debbie Zildjian and I called him and in typical Freddie Gruber fashion, he gave us these words of wisdom: “Have it, get it, do it, and take it while you can.”
Amen, Freddie – we’re all still learning from you...
- John DeChristopher
For more on Freddie and those who miss him, visit HudsonMusic.com and Jazztimes.com.