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Farewell: Idris Muhammad


Idris Muhammad
Idris Muhammad

I was in New Orleans in the ’60s, and my guitar player told me there was a good drummer in town: It was Idris. So I told him to come sit in, he played and that did it. I hired him right there. I liked him right from the start. What I liked about him was his steadiness in the groove-the groove was there, and the rhythm control was there. He worked with me off and on for about three or four years. He brought me some money [laughs]: We had two or three hit records with him-“Alligator Bogaloo,” “Midnight Creeper.” He did about 10 recordings with me, all of them good sellers.

It was at the right time because Blue Note was sold to Liberty Records, so it wasn’t Blue Note anymore. The A&R men were suggesting that we cover a lotta tunes, like “Who’s Making Love” and all that kinda stuff which normally we wouldn’t have played. When we recorded it we were laughing about it, but the damn records sold! And Idris was pushing that beat on there. We laughed right on into the bank. I still get a lotta requests for “Alligator Bogaloo” and “Midnight Creeper.”

You know what it is about records? It’s a matter of timing. You could make a record this month and you won’t sell two copies. Same record two months later … you sell 100,000 records. So it’s a matter of how the audience is reacting to the records. But Idris had that beat, that rhythm which was undeniable when you’re making a record. New Orleans or New York-wherever he’d have been he had talent. I don’t look for anything special in a drummer, I just want him to play my music. Idris had that rhythm and I’m telling you, you don’t find that in everybody, I don’t care where they’re from. When he first came I felt that right away, and I hired him immediately. And he never left until he went with Roberta Flack, who paid him a lotta money. [As told to Willard Jenkins]

Originally Published