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A Chat With Jim Bonfanti


marvin

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He's everyone's favourite drummer. Well at least everyone on this Message Board. Without a doubt, one element that made the 'berries songs so powerful, was Jim's rock-in-a-hard-place beat, setting the tone and the groove of every 'berries song. Here's the results of a recent chat.

1. What first attracted you to the drums and made you want to learn to play?

Jim: Growing up in Pennsylvania, I was exposed to drums through my older brother, Premo, and my Uncle Willie. My Uncle played drums with my Dad's band and they would rehearse in our basement. My brother played snare drum with the high school marching band and while I was still in 6th grade, I was recruited to play snare drum with the marching band as well. It was during that time I realized that I was different from all the rest of the drummers because they were right handed and I was a lefty.

2. Were drums your first instrument?

Jim: No. Actually while I still lived in Pennsylvania, my Dad, who was an accordion teacher, began teaching me accordion. I surprised Barb and many friends later in life with my accordion talent. After a while my Dad realized that my heart was not in the squeeze box and one day he asked me what I wanted to play. I quickly said, "I want to be a drummer Dad", and the rest is history.

3. When you were first learning to play, was there another drummer whose style you tried to emulate or that you idolized?

Jim: Well, I didn't try to emulate anyone but I admired Ringo and Keith. I like to think that my style of drumming is Jim Bonfanti's style, not trying to copy anyone.

4. Do you remember the first song you ever learned to play on the drums?

Jim: No, but it was probably something from the 50's r&r or a polka my Dad's band played.

5. I imagine that the Cleveland music scene in the 1960's was just bustling with energy and bands vying for the spotlight. What was it like being part of that scene and in one of the most popular bands, like the Choir?

Jim: It was a fantastic time to be in a band in Cleveland. Being a member of The Mods and gigging in Lake County and the surrounding areas was very cool. I loved the band and all the members. We had a great time, recorded 'It's Cold Outside' and got a taste of what I wanted to pursue life as a musician. I always wished we weren't tricked into changing our name to the Choir.

6. Regarding Raspberries songs, and regardless of whether you like the drumming on the song, or whether your played on it or not, what's your favourite Raspberries song?

Jim: I Can Remember

7. What is your favourite Raspberries song that you did play on?

Jim: All of them. I feel so lucky to have been a part of that band, it will always be my favorite. I am so glad I had a change of heart (no play on words) when I quit r&r late in 1969. It made me realize I still wanted it and prompted me to call Eric and say, "Let's make a band".

8. When you played on a song that had elements of the Who, like "Ecstasy", did you purposely try to play like Keith Moon? Did this kind of 'copying' apply to any other Raspberries songs?

Jim: Like I said earlier, I didn't copy Keith Moon, I just played it the way I play and that goes for all of the tunes.

9. Speaking for myself, when I got the chance to meet you and the other band members, it was a very surreal experience. I had 30+ years of questions to ask, but had a hard time saying anything that was coherent. Have you ever met someone that left you tongue-tied?

Jim: Not really

10. I recall it being mentioned that you and Barb were (are) big fans of John Denver. Did you ever get the chance to meet him, and what was that like?

Jim: Yes, Barb and I met John Denver in Cleveland at Blossom. We have a great picture of Barb looking like a toothpaste commercial. He and I talked about music and touring. He was a very nice person and Barb and I still enjoy his music.

11. During the first years of the band, what was a musical highlight or an achievement that you are proud of? Something that gives you a sense of satisfaction.

Jim: Headlining Carnegie Hall and just blowing the roof of the place.

12. After the 'berries broke up, you 'retired' from the music business and got involved with other ventures. Did it take a long time to work out the kinks and to get back into a routine when the reunion practices were getting underway?

Jim: Well that would have been the story but I had started playing again at home in 1992. Hooking up with my friend (and now band mate) Jeff Soukup pushed me back to playing. They were little baby steps, meeting Paul Sidoti along the way and staring to play out a little really helped me. I think the hardest thing was just getting used to my over-sized Ludwig kit again.

13. I know you've said that the first reunion show in November 2004 was the highlight of your career in Raspberries. Tell me what made that so special.

Jim: Sitting on my kit listening to the montage play, getting ready for the curtain to open was the most exciting moment of my musical career. But what eclipsed that was just knowing my daughters were about to see something I never thought would be possible. They heard all the stories, saw all the video and film but for the first time, they could live it with me.

14. What is the ultimate 'sing in the shower' song for Jim Bonfanti"

Jim: I guess I don't have a shower song, sorry.

15. What non-Raspberries song do you wish you had played on?

Jim: I guess I could pick any song I enjoy listening to...any early Beatle or Who song If I had to pick something.

16. Do you ever find yourself air-drumming or humming along to a Raspberries song when it comes on the radio?

Jim: No

17. When you just want to relax and 'get away from it all', what do you do?

Jim: Well it depends on the season. In the summer I really enjoy sitting on the back deck with Barb or at the boat. During the fall and early winter, hunting or just being out in the woods.

18. What is Jim Bonfanti's all-time favourite movie?

Jim: Any of the Pirates of the Caribbean - just good fun!

19. What is Jim Bonfanti's all-time favourite album - the one that he never gets tired of listening to?

Jim: I don't think I have an all time favorite, although I love Rubber Soul and The Who Sings My Generation

20. Putting your allegiances to the Steelers and Penguins aside, who wins the Super Bowl and Stanley Cup this year?

Jim: I guess we know who wins the Super Bowl but I really have not been in tune wit the NHL this year to make a prediction but I hope it is the Pens

__________

Thanks for reading.

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bahoodore said:

cool interview marv...but how could you pass over his comment about being "tricked" into the band-name change?

Did you leave that for another interview, another time?

Andy, here's Jim's reply to the question:

"The producer told us that there was another band called The Modernaires and our name The Mods was too close. I think it was all a ploy since they also misspelled Danny's name as the writer, the producer used a different name that was not his etc. End result, we never received one dime for It's Cold Outside."

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marvin said:

2. Were drums your first instrument?

Jim: No. Actually while I still lived in Pennsylvania, my Dad, who was an accordion teacher, began teaching me accordion. I surprised Barb and many friends later in life with my accordion talent. After a while my Dad realized that my heart was not in the squeeze box and one day he asked me what I wanted to play. I quickly said, "I want to be a drummer Dad", and the rest is history.

I LOVE THE ACCORDION!!!!!!!!!! Well, being Lithuanian it's a given. We even had the Beer Barrel Polka played at my Daddy's funeral. And when I hear an accordion, watch out...this gal will polka like nobody's business!

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Wendy-Ann said:

I LOVE THE ACCORDION!!!!!!!!!! Well, being Lithuanian it's a given. We even had the Beer Barrel Polka played at my Daddy's funeral. And when I hear an accordion, watch out...this gal will polka like nobody's business!

I know from experience...The best way to get a girl in the mood for love...POLKA MUSIC! :)

If only Barry White had played the accordion...

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