The history of top drummers has always come down the group they worked with and the musicians they played for. And Clifton James is one drummer who deserves respect for his contribution in the 1950s and 60s music.
One of Clifton James most outstanding performances came with the record ‘Bo Diddley,’ in 1955 by eponymous guitar slinger. It was said that Caucasian kids dropped Beethoven in the garbage bin to welcome this new music. It was so powerful it changed the way people approached music ideas the period.
One thing that made it stand out was the tom-heavy pattern that held the song together. It has been since dubbed as the “Bo Diddley beat,” and it all came from James. Hence, this iconic proto-rock rumble would not have been so popular, where it is not for the drummer. For this reason, it only fares that he is accorded with much credit for his contribution.
James was born in Chicago with 13 siblings. He did not have enough to train with, so he used chairs and tin cans to learn to play.
Since these objects don’t produce as much sound, he was compelled to use even much energy. When he held real drums; therefore, he was able to drum with so much energy, producing thunderous sounds with every landing of the stick.
He became very aggressive, following his passion for drums. When the time was right, he was able to play records for who’s who of Chicago blues legends. Groups like Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Koko Taylor, Buddy Guy, Willie Dixon, and Sonny Williamson were very instrumental in his career.
His biggest contrition, and perhaps what brought real meaning in his career was his role in the Diddley’s drummer that reigned between 1954 and 1970.
He was the man behind the incredible tom sounds and the hi-hats that rang the air. At the time, not very many people seemed to care about heavy metal drums until the innovations of drummers such as Clifton James came into effect.
James did not just play drums, as others did. Because he was self-taught, he used a lot of time and energy creating new approaches and styles of hitting the drums. Drumming was a passion that flowed with every beat of his heart, making him want to improve at any given a chance.
He may not have gone on many tours, recorded thousands of albums, or wrote drumming books, but he had a unique style of delivering music. That is all that matters because his contribution has been instrumental in shaping the industry.
Dixon claimed that its “James’ idea of a beat more than it was Bo Diddley’s at the time.” Bo Diddley had many drummers, but he was very proud of Clifton James.
His style always fascinated Bo, making him want more from the drummer. And so, when they worked together, they came out with an excellent thing that seemed as though one was not good without the other. “James was able to complement Bo’s work in a way the no one else could.” Said Dixon.