Drummer Tommy Ruskin Dies at 72

Kansas City mainstay played with Metheny, Clark Terry, others

Tommy Ruskin
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Tommy Ruskin, a Kansas City-based drummer who worked with Pat Metheny, Zoot Sims, Clark Terry and many others, died Jan. 1 following a long illness. He was 72. In an obituary published in the Kansas City Star, Metheny called Ruskin “the best Kansas City drummer of the past 50 years … Tommy was also one of the greatest musicians I have ever known.”

Born July 15, 1942, in Kansas City, Ruskin began playing drums in his teens and soon turned professional. In addition to the artists named above, he collaborated at various times with Jay McShann, Al Cohn, Scott Hamilton, Gene Harris, Bill Watrous, Carl Fontana, Mike Metheny and Billy Eckstine.

Among the Kansas City artists with whom he worked were Marilyn Maye, Sammy Tucker, Pete Eye, Milt Abel, John Elliott, Braham Wijnands, Mike Ning, Stan Kessler and Gary Foster.

Metheny, on his own website, fondly recalled playing guitar-drums duets with Ruskin in Kansas City.

Ruskin also led the rhythm section at the Topeka Jazz Workshop for many years.

Ruskin’s primary collaborator, however, was his wife of 51 years, vocalist Julie Turner. The couple had one son, Brian Ruskin, a guitarist and singer.