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Frank Carlson

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Coming from a background in the big band and swing jazz of the '30s, Frank Carlson became a busy studio-session drummer who played on a huge stack of hit records, including sides by Doris Day, Bing Crosby, and Elvis Presley. His cache with hipsters comes mostly from getting the studio call to back up the brilliant actor, hell-raiser, and occasional recording artist Robert Mitchum, while Carlson's most prominent jazz job was holding down the drum throne in the Woody Herman band from 1937-1942. He came out of a family that encouraged music and has a brother who played bass, Anthony Carlson. There were occasional early rhythm sections that featured the brothers together, a form of sibling musical rivalry that some bandleaders swear produces the tightest-possible timekeeping. Drummer Carlson also collaborated early on with leaders such as Gene Kardos and Clyde McCoy. Finally tiring of the pounding required for his drums to be heard above the roaring stampede of the Woody Herman aggregation, referred to as a "herd" and not just because there were lots of players, Carlson headed for the West Coast and a freelance career. His phone would ring with a variety of offers, from the aforementioned studio activity to percussion responsibilities with the Los Angeles Philharmonic. He also played on film soundtracks, and supposedly pointed out the chariot race in Ben Hur as one of the few experiences playing behind something that was louder than the Herman band. The height of the drummer's busy years were the '50s and early '60s. By the time pop groups began playing drums on their own records, he had safely retired to Hawaii. ~ Eugene Chadbourne