Kenny Aronoff: The Drummer’s Drummer plays the Bowl

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billbentley1101BY BILL BENTLEY

At this stage of his storied career, it would be easier to list the people Kenny Aronoff hasn’t performed with. The Massachusetts native (and North Hollywood resident) received his first national attention in John Mellencamp’s band during the early ’80s, and was an integral part of that group for the next 17 years. He also developed into an in-demand studio drummer during that time, and worked with Rod Stewart, Avril Lavigne, Puddle of Mudd, Melissa Etheridge and John Fogerty, among dozens. Recently Kenny Aronoff joined Fogerty’s band, who begins a three-night stand on July 2nd at the Hollywood Bowl, appearing with the Los Angeles Symphony. The man is in a party of one now for drummers who can rise to any musical challenge.

Kenny Aronoff

Kenny Aronoff says he had one year of formal drums lessons, but seven years of classical percussion training.

Q: What is the most surprising situation you’ve gotten yourself into?

A: The heaviest thing is to first recognize you’re in a tough situation. You better see it before anyone else notices so you can get yourself out of it. Everything can be going along fine, and then all of sudden it’s like, “May day, May day…this is going to get nasty.” It’s a matter of realizing something needs to change, and fast. You have to be a problem solver. I’m a fighter, a little guy who comes up ready to go in there and take care of things.

Q: Does that come from your childhood?

A: Oh yeah. I was a competitive athlete, a runner and all kinds of things. My twin brother is a psychiatrist. Our parents now are like, “We wanted you to be successful, but not workaholics.” We’re both over the top. But you know what, I’m not the most talented guy in the world but I can stay in the ballgame, and I don’t mind hard work. I put in the time. I still do. I’m hungry.

Q: What first attracted you to the drums?

A: I was born with a lot of energy. I’m wired hyper. I was a jock. I didn’t find out until later that I’m not ADD; not at all. I got tested. But my brain is flying all over the place-too fast. The drums settle me down. Then when I was young I saw a marching band, maybe I was eight, ten years old, around second grade. I was riding on my little bike in the Western Massachusetts town where I grew up, and saw the drummer. And being in sports, I gravitated toward the physical instrument: drums. It had action. So when you put me on a set of drums, even when I didn’t know how to play, I always had that spirit. Then I went to see “Hard Day’s Night” and, bam, I was off to the races. I started a band the next day.


"I was born with a lot of energy. I'm wired hyper. I was a jock...the drums settle me down" says Aronoff.

Q: Did you take drum lessons?

A: I had one year of formal drums lessons, but seven years of classical percussion training. I worked with Leonard Bernstein. I worked with Aaron Copland, the Boston Symphony Orchestra, all kinds of classical situations.  I studied tympani five hours a day, on and on. I was totally in that world.

Q: Did it feel odd to go into rock & roll?

A: No, because that’s really where I started on drums. By the time I was 18 I had gotten into music school at U Mass, but I was behind because I didn’t play in the high school marching band or orchestra. I didn’t have time. I was a jock. I was studying with the percussionist with the Boston Symphony Orchestra my last year.

Q: What was the first drum set you bought?

A: Ludwig. I bought it piece by piece and I still have every one of them. It was black lacquer and I stripped the wood and put on a new finish.

Q: Were your parents supportive?

A: Very. Every room in our house had some instrument. They totally supported me. But I was behind in playing. The fact I had a good career in rock & roll is from hard work. I have the energy and the spirit for rock & roll, but I wasn’t taking drum lessons. It wasn’t until I was 23 and got out of college and taking lessons and practicing 8 hours a day that I realized that’s where I really wanted to go all along. When I got offered a job in a classical orchestra and said no, that was the moment where I went, “Oh my God.”


"I'm a fighter, a little guy who comes up ready to go in there and take care of things,"says Aronoff.

Q: How did you start playing rock & roll professionally after college?

A: Some of my friends worked on me and worked on me and got me to come to Bloomington, Indiana. We had a band there and had the whole thing: lights, sound, stage, everything. I was living in the band house on the porch, even in the winter. It had windows but it was freezing cold. We had one of the worst snows in years, and it went over my entire room. I was buried in snow. At 27 I was thinking of moving to New York. Then before that I was going to L.A. to audition for Lou Rawls, of all people, but I was nervous and stayed in Bloomington a little longer. But this girl I met said Johnny Cougar had just fired his drummer the night before and needed one. His music was different from what I was doing. We were playing more fusion and more tripped out stuff. The most normal was Steely Dan. I called Johnny’s guitar player and he said that weren’t going to audition for two weeks. So I learned all his songs. My playing was more-is-more. I had to learn less-is-more. I got the job and everything started from that.

For more on Kenny Aronoff, go to   For Hollywood Bowl tickets to see Kenny Aronoff with John Fogerty  July 2-4, go to

Bill Bentley is a writer, musician, publicist, record producer and A&R director. He once played drums with Lightnin’ Hopkins. For more reviews and music news, go to

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Karen Young is the founder of My Daily Find.