Call Tommy Aldridge a rock star and he would probably just laugh and shake his head. “I’m a blue collar worker. I enjoy drums and drumming and I just put up with all the other crap.” By that he means all the drama the comes with his rock ‘n’ roll profession - the heavy partying, the ego trips, the groupies, the in-fighting. Aldridge said he never really got into all that stuff, which is no doubt why the 57-year-old looks and acts 20 years younger today.
Aldridge is an avid bicyclist, gets up early and eats a healthy diet. He likes worship and praise music and said he thanks God every day for all the blessings bestowed upon him. And he’s still a wildman at the drum kit too - that will never change - with that fierce look on his face fans have come to know and love.
As a freelance drummer Aldridge spends a lot of time traveling, providing the thunder for such hard rock greats as Thin Lizzy, Ozzy Osbourne, Ted Nugent and more. This summer Aldridge will go on an American tour with George Lynch and that rad 80’s glam metal band Cinderella.
He travels the world giving drumming clinics as well. On May 8, Aldridge will be in Tacoma giving a drum clinic at Ted Brown Music. It certainly won’t be a formal classroom setting by any means. “‘Clinic’ is too sophisticated a word for what I do,” Aldridge said. “It’s somewhat educational, but more of a show and tell kind of thing, entertaining and informative.” Basically, Aldridge shares equal time with the drum kit, letting the instrument do an important part of the “talking.”
While Aldridge is aggressive on the skins, he’s really a down-to-earth, personable man, very friendly and easy to talk to. He welcomes questions from his clinic “students” and sincerely enjoys visiting with them. “The more the merrier,” he stated.
Aldridge is a big proponent of mastering technique, but he has always deferred to the creative aspect of drumming. In other words, once a player understands the foundations of technique, he can adapt his own unique playing style from there. “I always try to have enough technique to get out what I hear in my head.”
Aldridge has remained a freelance drummer throughout his long and lustrous career, never settling down with one particular band for very long. He taught himself to play when he was teenager by mimicking his heroes in Cream, the Beatles and The Jimi Hendrix Experience. It was during this time that he developed his signature sound, a rare combination of power and technique centered on a double bass style he developed that would quickly become adapted by countless other drummers, from hard rock to thrash metal.
Ozzy fans know Aldridge as the powerhouse stick-wielder who completed Osbourne’s band during their “Diary of a Madman” tour, which included the late, great guitarist Randy Rhodes who died tragically in 1982. Aldridge also played on Osbourne’s “Speak of the Devil” and “Bark at the Moon” albums.
His next major project was to join up with the revamped Whitesnake for a tour that included Rudy Sarzo on bass, Vivian Campbell and Adrian Vandenberg on guitar and the band’s original founder, David Coverdale, on vocals. Aldridge toured with the band then moved on to more freelance gigs.
As far as advice for fledgling drummers out there just starting out, Aldridge says to seize every opportunity to play in front of as many people as you can. “When you do that, the more hooks you’ll have in the water and more likelihood that you’ll catch something that’s in keeping with your heart’s desire.
“Word of mouth is the best advertisement there is. If you can get your foot in a couple of doors, when one closes God always opens another one.”
He also said to remember that a musician can go through a lot of different bands before he finds one that fits him and vice-versa. “Your life’s band doesn’t always come along at 17 years old. It may not happen until you’re 27.”
Above all, he advises, “Don’t get hung up in the lifestyle. Get involved on the positive side. You don’t have to be a drug-addled [expletive]. Be someone who has something to say with integrity.”
Meet Aldridge at Ted Brown Music, 6228 Tacoma Mall Blvd., May 8 from 7-8 p.m. Cost of the clinic is $10. To learn more about him, visit www.tommyaldridge.com.
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