Q&A with veteran British drummer Chris Hunt, an amazing musician who has played with many legendary artists

"Music does so many things it's a form of communication that brings people together, evokes emotions and memories. We use it to relax, and it has been proven to improve physical health."

Chris Hunt: Dr. Feelgood of Rhythm

Chris Hunt is an amazing British drummer, hugely respected. Professional drummer since 1966 has played with many name artists including Cat Stevens, Leo Sayer, Thunderclap Newman, Lonnie Donegan, Van Morrison. Bruvvers, Roger Daltrey, Joe Cocker, Mark Knopfler, Meal Ticket, Dr John, Chris Barber, Ronnie Wood and many more. Chris says: "I am self-taught I learned by listening and watching other drummers. I learned what worked from the good players and what not to do from the not so good. I got a tutor book and learned the rudiments etc. I am naturally left-handed but play a right-handed kit, the reason being is that I boarded at a Catholic Convent at a very young age and basically forced to write right-handed. When I first started drumming at 16 yrs. I realised those Nuns had done me a huge favour as I had strength in both hands. Fate sure is a strange thing."

(Photo: Chris Hunt)

Chris Hunt born 15 November 1945 in Hillingdon, England. Chris says: "The moment that changed my life? That would be seeing Screaming Lord Sutch and The Savages at The Top Hat Club in Littlehampton in 1962. The drummer was Carlo Little in a band with lead guitarist Ritchie Blackmore, Carlo was so loud and powerful and exciting I was hooked, I got to know Carlo in later years, and found out he had been influenced by my favourite drummer Earl Palmer."

Interview by Michael Limnios

How has the music influenced your views of the world? What moment changed your life the most?

Music does so many things it's a form of communication that brings people together, evokes emotions and memories. We use it to relax, and it has been proven to improve physical health. How has it influenced my views of the world? Well, if you reach a certain level of success you will be offered work abroad. I have travelled to many different countries, and been exposed to their cultures and seen how music can and does bring people together.

The moment that changed my life?

That would be seeing Screaming Lord Sutch and The Savages at The Top Hat Club in Littlehampton in 1962. The drummer was Carlo Little in a band with lead guitarist Ritchie Blackmore, Carlo was so loud and powerful and exciting, I was hooked, I got to know Carlo in later years, and found out he had been influenced by my favourite drummer, Earl Palmer.

How do you describe your sound and music philosophy? Where does your creative drive come from?

I am self-taught I learned by listening and watching other drummers. I learned what worked from the good players and what not to do from the not so good. I got a tutor book and learned the rudiments etc. I am naturally left-handed but play a right-handed kit, the reason being is that I boarded at a Catholic Convent at a very young age and basically forced to write right-handed. When I first started drumming at 16 yrs. I realised those Nuns had done me a huge favour, as I had strength in both hands. Fate sure is a strange thing.

I believe a good feel is key to being a good drummer I like to provide a foundation on which the music is built on. And always listen and be aware of what is going on around you.                                (Photo: Chris Hunt with Dave And The Diamonds, c. 1965)

"So much has changed from my era growing up in the 1950s. I could only hear music from the radio and my family only got a TV in 1960. If you wanted music you had to go out and buy it, it was exciting to save up for an album, bring it home read all the sleeve notes and it was something to be valued."

Which meetings have been the most important experiences for you? What was the best advice anyone ever gave you?

My first professional band was Dave And The Diamonds from Bognor Regis in 1965. We recorded a single called I Walk The Lonely Night for Columbia label. The session was at studio 2 At EMI Recording Studios as it was then. Nowadays of course Abbey Rd. As we were packing up our gear at the end of the session.

Mal Evan's the Beatles road manager started bringing in their equipment in to set up for a session I asked when are the band coming but he was non-committal but at least I got to lay a finger on Ringo's iconic Ludwig Oyster Black pearl Downbeat drumkit.

There have been many other important meetings over the years notably: Cat Steven's, Leo Sayer, Peter Green, Joe Cocker, Roger Daltrey, Keith Moon, Lonnie Donegan, Bob Dylan, Elton John, Ronnie Wood and many more.

Best advice?

Always read the contract and practice quality not quantity.

Are there any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?

Recording sessions with Cat Steven's at Regent Sound Studio in University St. off Tottenham court Rd. I was paid £5 a session, not a lot but I could eat for a week on that. A single Lovely City (When do you Laugh) was released on Deram in Feb. 1968 a d was a hit Touring Scandinavia with Thunderclap Newman supporting Deep Purple in 1971 was special and playing for The Queen at the 1981 Royal Variety Performance with Lonnie Donegan. Supporting Bob Dylan on a UK tour in 1997, I was playing with Blues singer Dana Gillespie. Recording The Skiffle Sessions Live In Belfast with Van Morrison, Lonnie Donegan, Chris Barber, over 2 nights at Witham Hall Belfast released in 2000 on Virgin Records. This led to Van and Lonnie touring together for 2 years up until Lonnie’s death in 2002. In 2004, a special tribute concert was held at The Royal Albert Hall we in the Lonnie Donegan band got to back all the artists that had come to honour Lonnie they included Van Morrison, Joe Cocker, Billy Bragg, Mark Knopfler, Joe Brown, Roger Daltrey, Chris Barber and others.

"Research has shown that listening to music releases the chemical Dopamine to the brain which gives us a feeling happiness and well-being so if I can as part of a band help create this that is more than good enough for me." (Photo: Chris Hunt with Van Morrison and Chris Barber, Royal Albert Hall 2004)

What do you miss most nowadays from the music of the past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of?

So much has changed from my era growing up in the 1950s. I could only hear music from the radio and my family only got a TV in 1960. If you wanted music you had to go out and buy it, it was exciting to save up for an album, bring it home read all the sleeve notes and it was something to be valued. It seems to me that music these days has become devalued. Paying £10 a month to stream as many tracks as you like or getting it free even by liking a track and adding to a playlist. All of us who play music are also fans after all. The current situation regarding streaming rights and royalties is grossly unfair and needs to be reformed urgently.

So that would be a hope for the future, my fear? Is A.I. who knows where that is going to lead.

What were the reasons that made the UK in the 60s to be the center of Skiffle/Blues/Rock researches and experiments?

Skiffle came from the jazz clubs in the early 50s, a mixture of American folk and blues Kids could buy a guitar learn 3 chords and you were good to go. In fact, at the height of the skiffle craze the sales of guitars leapt from 5000 a year to 250. 000 and skiffle groups were everywhere. It made a huge star of Lonnie Donegan who burst on the scene in 1956 cracking up 26 top 20 singles the first of which Rock Island Line reorder with Chris Barbers Jazz Band was the first record certified gold in the UK and reached number 8 in the USA chart. Van Morrison is quoted as saying, “Without Lonnie Donegan, there wouldn't have been a British music scene at all”

Chris Barber was also very important by bringing over Blues performers from the USA to tour with his band such as Muddy Waters, Champion Jack Dupree, Sonny Terry and Brownie McGee.

So, we have The Beatles, The Stones, Van Morrison, Roger Daltrey, and countless others all starting out in Skiffle groups. Of course, they all became major stars, but all roads lead to Lonnie.

"As a professional musician you will spend many thousands of hours travelling to and from shows in cars Van's tour buses trains planes so it's very important to be able to get on with your bandmates and road crew. Most bands will have a camaraderie and sense of humour, necessary when you are I close proximity with others sharing hotel rooms on a daily basis." (Photos: Chris Huntan, an amazing British drummer)

What is the impact of music on the socio-cultural implications? How do you want the music to affect people?

All over the world music has been used in social change, to bring communities together promote human rights etc. Freedom songs like "We shall overcome " is a good example. I was first exposed to this via Bob Dylan in the early 60s known as protest songs "Blowing in the wind" Masters of War Eve of Destruction by Barry McGuire. The Vietnam war resulted in many marches where protest songs were sung "People get ready" was the anthem of the Civil Rights movement.

Currently Hip-Hop artists like Lamar are popular at Black Lives Matter protests.

Research has shown that listening to music releases the chemical Dopamine to the brain which gives us a feeling happiness and well-being so if I can as part of a band help create this that is more than good enough for me.

What are some of the most important lessons you have learned from your experience in the music paths?

As a professional musician you will spend many thousands of hours travelling to and from shows in cars Van's tour buses trains planes so it's very important to be able to get on with your bandmates and road crew. Most bands will have a camaraderie and sense of humour, necessary when you are, I close proximity with others sharing hotel rooms on a daily basis. Avoid conflicts as much as possible as they can spiral out of control and inevitably cause a band to split up. The playing is the easy part it's the long road trips setting up packing down and sometimes getting home at 5am takes its toll. That said it is wonderful to make a living from something you love and are passionate about.

(Photos: Chris Hunt with Roger Daltrey & Van Morrison, Royal Albert Hall, London 2004)

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