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The Lefsetz Letter: The Kenny Aronoff Book

He's the drummer you always see on TV, with the bald head and the sunglasses, hitting 'em hard and having the time of his life, smiling all the while.

Why did I read his book?

Because he reached out and was so personable. That's the essence of making it. Making the effort and continuing to make the effort and being nice about it in the process. And the fact that he studied at Tanglewood, that was the story that sealed our bond.

And he was the Jewish drummer in John Mellencamp's band.

Usually Jews change their name, figuring they'll pull one over on the heartland. Hell, George Costanza was supposed to be Jewish but they gave him that last name to combat the rest of the Members of the Tribe on the show. You think of Jews as loudmouthed and pushy, but the truth is most are scared of the attention, they don't want to be singled out, because they've experienced anti-Semitism from a very young age and their parents keep telling them they're lucky to survive, truly.

Bob Lefsetz, Santa Monica-based industry legend, is the author of the e-mail newsletter, "The Lefsetz Letter". Famous for being beholden to no one, and speaking the truth, Lefsetz addresses the issues that are at the core of the music business: downloading, copy protection, pricing and the music itself.

His intense brilliance captivates readers from Steven Tyler to Rick Nielsen to Bryan Adams to Quincy Jones to music business honchos like Michael Rapino, Randy Phillips, Don Ienner, Cliff Burnstein, Irving Azoff and Tom Freston.

Never boring, always entertaining, Mr. Lefsetz's insights are fueled by his stint as an entertainment business attorney, majordomo of Sanctuary Music's American division and consultancies to major labels.

Bob has been a weekly contributor to CelebrityAccess and Encore since 2001, and we plan many more years of partnership with him. While we here at CelebrityAccess and Encore do not necessarily agree with all of Bob's opinions, we are proud to help share them with you.

So to have a guy in a heartland band with the name of "Aronoff"?

Oh, that's another thing about Jews, we're proud of every member of our religion who makes it. And if a Member of the Tribe does something heinous, we feel the shame, worried about the stain upon our heritage. And never forget, it's not about believing, you're born this way and you can't deny it, whether you go to shul or not.

So Kenny grows up in Western Mass. and sees the Beatles on TV.

Without the Beatles on Ed Sullivan there's no American music business, nada, all those bands you loved listening to in the seventies and eighties, never mind the late sixties, they don't exist. It was kind of like the iPhone. A cool gateway into a new land. That same mania that had people lining up at Apple Stores to buy the product? That was us back in '64, with the Beatles. Talk about a revolution, it's like the curtain was pulled back and overnight the generations cleaved, right there, in February, when 72 million Americans saw the power of a band which did not look like everybody else and did not sound like everybody else but got everybody to pay attention.

So he starts banging… Hell, the start of any career is convincing your parents, which Kenny did, you need their support, and taking lessons, that's something else we did back then, we didn't figure it out on our own, this was back before teachers got a bad name, and then Kenny decided to go to music school at UMass.

And this is where his history separated from mine. When I was in college classes were just the reason I was there, they were time-wasters I had to experience before I could get down to my real business, listening to records and getting high, truly. And I don't regret it. Because they didn't teach anything I was interested in. Academics, schmacademics. But when you're truly interested in something, you'll devote umpteen hours. Kenny spent even Friday nights rehearsing at UMass. Believe me, I don't remember once studying on a Friday night in college.

And then, enamored of a girl going to Aspen for the music school there, he applies, gets in, and falls on his face, makes a mistake… Everybody gives the illusion they emerged fully-formed. But if you don't blow it, if you don't wince, if you aren't the object of derision, you haven't played. The key is to accept your faults and the abuse and soldier on.

Which Kenny did, with four years at Indiana University, which has a renowned music program, how do I know this, from talking to the players in Steely Dan!

Anyway, he gets an offer upon graduation to play with the symphony, but he has a dream, and if you're not pursuing your dream your life is gonna be empty.

So he's playing in a prog rock band, his hero is Billy Cobham, it's the era of the Mahavishnu Orchestra, but it's not working, so he auditions to play in John Cougar Mellencamp's band, shows up with a car full of drums and the midwest rocker winces, but Kenny gets the gig.

And there starts an adventure.

John Mellencamp has got the reputation of being a prick. And if you read this book, you'll see it's true. But you'll also see you've got to be a prick to make it. Nice guys do finish last. Unless they've got a bastard behind the scenes working on their behalf, but it was only John in charge of his career, he battled managers and label people, his success was gonna be on his back, so he had better get it right!

All the time in rehearsal, in studios, writing, rewriting, trying to get it right. Opening for other bands and trying to close an audience that didn't care. This was long before one hit album put you on an arena tour. You could have multiple hits and be lucky to sell out theatres at best, you had to prove yourself. And Mellencamp did, but then he burned out, said he was taking three years off, and…

Kenny scarfed up studio gigs. Make no mistake, he pursued them. The drummer is always the businessman, you learn this. And Kenny's schedule is nuts. On a day off he'll fly across international borders just for a session, and this ultimately becomes a problem, because he's got to leave the Polygram convention in Hong Kong, backing up Mellencamp, and end up in Detroit drumming for Seger with only a couple of hours to spare. Polygram won't let the band go on early, because the suits don't care. But the customs people recognize him in the Motor City airport and he's whisked through and makes it in time for soundcheck, but not before paying $3400 to Lloyds of London for insurance in case he didn't. It's taken out of his pay. But Kenny ponders the fact…he never saw the bill!

That's rock and roll for you, a rip-off world.

But it comes to an end with Mellencamp. Who has the band on salary, he said he was gonna take three years off but really it was a matter of weeks, artists get inspired and have to create, but the band members didn't share in the recording royalties or the songwriting royalties, they did not get rich.

But Kenny did. As Mellencamp says in the book, he's the only one whoever worked for him who went on his own and survived.

A lot of it is personality, Billy Corgan marvels that D'arcy felt comfortable around Kenny, but not him. You've got to get along.

And a lot of it is education. Formally trained, Kenny writes charts for every song for every gig, he can read music, never pooh-pooh the building blocks.

But most of it is drive. The drive to succeed.

And the fear. That's what made Mellencamp break through, the fear of the factory, like the British musicians before him, the fear of a stiff, you think it's hard to make it, it's even harder to stay on top!

So Kenny backs up Melissa Etheridge and John Fogerty, plays with Celine Dion and seemingly every famous act you've ever heard of and then…

It all dries up.

That's the story of our rock and roll music business. How it evaporated into thin air. Was it the internet, with Napster, or hip-hop…but suddenly Kenny is detailing sessions with people you've never heard of. And he's dong victory lap gigs, sure, it's with the remaining Beatles and the Kennedy Center Honors, but getting paid all that money to make hit records that dominate the chart…those days are THROUGH!

That's what we all can't get over. How it was here, and now it's gone. And sure, you can go see the has-beens, and I enjoy it sometimes, but it's creepy. Because they were riding the crest of the zeitgeist once and now it's pure nostalgia.

Not that I wouldn't pinch myself if I was playing with them, or even talking to them, but things have changed.

But Kenny was there when it was all still working. When there was money and cocaine and women and…

That's not the heart of the book, it's not a tell-all about backstage shenanigans, although there are some of those, but this was a guy who was there, and we all wanted to be there, once. But some of us buckle down and get the work done, and some of us do not.

And the highlight of the book for me is when Kenny gets scammed, ripped-off for so much money. He spends nearly an equal amount of cash trying to get it back, ultimately a complete waste. Because, as someone told him at the outset of his legal adventure, it's not worth it, you've got to swallow your losses and move on.

That's right. You can't be vindictive. There's only a limited amount of time. There's an opportunity cost in trying to fix the past, forget about it.

And you can probably forget about this book, unless…

You know who Kenny Aronoff is and you want to know his story.

Or you want some insider tales of famous musicians.

Or you want to know what it was like to be a working musician, not the star, not someone surviving on royalties, but someone who had to fight for every gig, perform, and then fight for more gigs. Because despite all the emphasis on stardom, it's all built upon the backs of talented people who do the grunt work, usually faceless, but skilled and experienced nonetheless.

Like Kenny Aronoff. He played the rock and roll sweepstakes and won.

But that game doesn't exist anymore. Musicianship is not treasured. There are better ways to make big money. And with cellphone cameras and social media your backstage antics, your hotel room trysts, might as well be broadcast on television, privacy has been eroded and so much of what you used to live for, to desire in this game, has evaporated, pfftt!

It was a golden era. Floated upon inspiration and musicianship. Never underestimate Mellencamp's ability to come up with this stuff, never mind Aronoff and the band's ability to play it.

And there's not too much about drumming in this book.

And occasionally you roll your eyes with the repetition of famous names who Kenny has played with.

But he did. And he's thrilled.

And you can credit him.

But he credits Mellencamp for giving him a chance and Don Was for giving him work. Because if you've got nobody to rely on, you've got nothing happening.

You can make the record in your living room, but…

Not only do you need a team to promote it…

You need a team to play it live.

And that's what gets Kenny off most. Playing to the throngs.

After all, he's a musician.

"Sex, Drums, Rock 'n' Roll!: The Hardest Hitting Man in Show Business":

I go back to engineering for John Mellencamp at Belmont Mall in Indiana in the 80’s and I have recorded Kenny on more projects then any other drummer I’ve ever recorded.

Kenny is class act. The best of the best and a one of a kind unique energy and force to be reckoned with. His spirit comes through every take and his finesse and expertise is a thing of beauty.

He does chart every song he has ever done and keeps a file cabinet with them archived. When you hire Kenny you get all of Kenny and this is why he is still so busy.

I love him like a brother and he makes me smile every time I see his head do the Kenny bobble head pivot while he is grooving.

Thanks for giving him the props and the shout out. He deserves every bit of the accolades that he is getting now.

Self promotion is not a bad thing if you work hard for it and Kenny is the hardest traveling , hardest hitting and hardest working drummer I know ..

The only musician pal of mine that can rival Kenny for his work ethic now is Steve Lukedaddy Lukather.

Great musicians bring their personalities into the room and into their music.

I only hope that the younger upcoming pups take note of the timeless energy that is generated like alchemy by these guys twice their age.

Success is the good fortune that comes from aspiration, perspiration, desperation, and inspiration.

Thanks again Bob for giving Kenny the much deserved shout out.

Ross Hogarth


From: Steve Lukather

I LOVE Kenny.

We have done a lot of records and live shows together over the years and he is a joyful man… funny as hell and a great drummer.

The 2 of us together are trouble.

He is a bad ass pro that rarely if ever makes a mistake… but he writes out every note he plays!

He is THAT good of a schooled musician but he still plays like a punk.

His parts are well thought out and creative but if you wanna fuck Kenny up.. steal his music.

Or better yet.. what I did was I RE-wrote some impossible odd time drum fills on his chart for a pop record we did a millions years ago.. might have been Belinda Carlisle in the 80's.

(Some record producers did not find us as funny as we thought we were haha) He was reading his part and I looked up and he fell apart laughing and stopped playing cause it was an impossible drum fill. I was curious if he just read all that music for show cause lets face it.. we were NOT playing ' The Black Page' by Zappa. haha But always a pro, a rocker and one of the really good guys in this business. I love him, love working with him, and he plays his ass off EVERY time!



Love the Aronoff book and love Kenny. Pure energy. He and I have connected and interconnected over the years and are working on one or two things now. Excellent insight into our business.

Ken Kragen


Thanks for writing about Kenny,hes the hardest working man I ever met and as you said such a great,nice guy. Joe Cocker was co headlining but going on first for The American Woman tour 2001 with the reunited original Guess Who band. Joe insisted on a full 90 minute rehearsal every showday, Kenny would sometimes do a drum clinic for 75 minutes at noon before his soundcheck at 4 pm and show at 7 pm..and always a smile or time to say hello to crew guys etc was a gruelling 9 months considering we spent 9/11 in NYC and wondered if we should all just go home or finish the remaining 6 months tour.

On our final month together I was there when Joe's people had added a few casino shows on the end of the tour and Kenny was explaining he couldn't do the dates because 3 days post Joe's tour he was doing a Sheryl Crow record and a TV show with Willy Nelson…man's a machine!

Sam Boyd


Great story. Kenny is a gentleman. And a pro. Needed someone to fill in for a show with The Tearaways. He learned ten songs in a day and played them perfectly. Sweetheart.

John Ferriter


What a guy. He came through the town I live in about 10 years ago (or maybe more, time flies) doing a gig at our local mom n pop music store (Make N Music in Frederick, MD). Was absolutely professional, courteous, kind, and thorough. I'd followed his career a bit and knew of the big names he'd played for so it was a tad shocking years later to see him at a local spot in my town-but he treated it with the same level of respect as if it was a gig at MSG. All this time later, I've never forgotten that. MUCH respect.

-Justin Gosnell


Kenny's a great guy and helluva drummer. He has a groove you can sit on for ages. Beautifully written and thanks for saluting a genuine musician.


Fuzzbee Morse


Kenny just outworks everyone and says YES to everything! I mean everything! He's always 100% engaged in every session I've ever used him on.

I was at United producing Echosmith's record and we ran into him and he had just come from an 8 hr session at Capitol and was doing an 8 hour at United then flying out at midnight for a show in NYC the next day. This is his life 365 days a year!

He's a lot of fun and and always positive. He never complains and can eat a full jar of peanut butter in 10 minutes. Lol

A true pro and great friend!

Jeffery David


Kenny Aronoff is a fucking music God.

Blessings and Gratitude~
Cathy Goodman


Hi Bob – no mention of Kenny having an identical TWIN? I thought that was pretty interesting, that his twin brother is also a very driven & successful person (& also as hyper as Kenny).

My first concert was Heart in 1981 or '82 – I was 9 or 10 – and John "Cougar" opened. American Fool had just dropped (Kenny describes the tour in the book) and actually Kenny Aronoff was the first rock musician I ever saw hit the stage in concert EVER because he came out first and starts playing a killer beat, the lights are going, it's LOUD (I still remember the crazy beat he played today (and it's still hard to replicate!) and the rest of the band comes out one by one & finally John.

I was completely hooked and became a nut for John Cougar/ Mellencamp (until The Police, Men At Work, Van Halen etc. the next year) after that show, and ultimately I became a drummer, too. I guess I owe a debt of gratitude to Mom's questionable parenting for bringing me to rock concert at that tender age (she really wanted to see Heart & dad was called out of town on business) but my life definitely changed that night, and Kenny was a part of it.

I have huge respect for Kenny (though I don't listen to any of the stuff he's working on anymore & haven't for 30+ years) I heard him on a podcast a couple months before his book came out & was so surprised listening to him speak. His accent, his stories, his humor, his confidence – impressed me all over again. So I got his book & devoured it.

I'm not going to pick it apart, but it wasn't my favorite auto/bio by a long shot. (I was really hoping he'd talk about that killer beat he played when the lights went down on the American Fool tour.. alas) but I've got to hand it to him for being so driven, so focused, so competent and so SUCCESSFUL. Glad you gave us the book report.

Justin Gray


You would have enjoyed last night's performance of Kenny with Phil X and Daniel Spriewald. Outstanding work.

I've been fortunate enough to know Kenny for a number of years now, and can verify that he is single minded, built like a freight train and in his realm, is without flaw.

His inspiration to those around him is astounding. He lifts you up while he talks to you like both a family member, and a friend. He care about everyone, regardless of knowing them, and does not have a negative thought in his skull. If we were all more like that, well, the world would be a better place.

The last thing about Kenny Aronoff that everyone should know … he did all that himself. He chose how the future was going to be and was told that it wouldn't be that way, and he proved them wrong. Mellencamp rejected Kenny, and Kenny wouldn't take no for an answer. He's been that way ever since. He knows what's right for him, and he proves it. I honestly want to be more like Kenny Aronoff, and you should too.

Here's the video from last night:

The DRILLS Hijack Set Three At Soundcheck Live – Take 41

Joe Dolan


I'm a big Smashing Pumpkins fan and I've always loved Jimmy Chamberlain, but when he got kicked out of the band, and the group went on tour for their Adore album, Kenny did a tour with the group. I only know this because I've seen some great live videos of the Smashing Pumpkins playing in Bilbao and I was like, "Man, I love Jimmy, but this bald guy is kicking ass and taking names behind the kit." I had to find out who he was and I've been a fan anytime I've seen him play. Definitely going to pick up this book now!

Regards from a longtime reader/fan,
Evan Sanchez


So you're right about Kenny…he's one of the nicest guys I've ever met. And I think that he actually disproves the theory that "nice guys finish last." If you are really good, and really driven, and really smart and have the X factor–that special charming personality–you can make it. You don't have to be a prick.

My story about meeting Kenny is a good example of his good natured ways… it's 1990…I'm the drummer in a band on A&M records called "Hearts & Minds." We are about to record our first album at Mellencamp's recording studio in Indiana. I've hit the big time! (Although–ha ha– we got dropped the following year)

Then my singer calls me–the record company wants to use another drummer—Kenny. After all, at the time he lived in Indiana, he was Mellencamp's drummer and the record company never heard of me. But my singer fights for me– I am a really good drummer after all, and the record company agrees to have Kenny play on half of the album and me play on the other half.

I figured I could learn a lot by being there when Kenny is recording. So I ask if that's OK….and it is. So I go and I meet Kenny, and he is one of those people–I know you've met them, Bob—he's got that charisma and warmth that immediately puts you at ease and you like him right away. He could have been a dick– but no, he answers all my questions during the sessions and we hang out and become friends. He takes an interest in me and encourages me!

Kenny has gotten me backstage at countless gigs since then, with so many artists. I also got some great auditions because he recommended me. He's genuine and open and warm and I believe that's a very big part of his success. I'm looking forward to reading the book.

Mark Feldman


Thanks for sharing with us your enthusiasm for one of the greatest drummers I've had the pleasure of working with in the studio. He would fit into any musical setting, whether it was in Melissa Etheridge's recording and touring band, working with newcomer Jaime Kyle on her debut record, or driving the beat behind Bob Seger.

It was during a Seger concert at the Forum, that I went backstage during the show, underneath the stage, and came up behind the drums. They were laying down "Hollywood Nights", a slamming up-tempo song that has the drummer pounding away on the hi-hat on 1/16th notes for seven minutes, interspersed with the crack of the snare! I'll never forget the image of that bald head, bobbing to the beat, the spotlight streaming past him, sweat flying off in every direction. Kenny leaves a circle of sawdust from the obliterated drum sticks around his throne, he plays SO fucking loud! He's a prize fighter of a drummer. When the band came off-stage, he passed me with a huge little kid smile and gave me a big wet hug. Talk about passion…

His musicianship, his chameleon-like adaptation, and his endless work ethic are keys to his success. But it's that smile and wicked sense of humor that seals the deal.

-David Cole


Thanks for the tip on this one. Ordered!!

Paige J. Mann


Bravo Bob givin the drummer some!
Kenny is a legend to all of us who know and love him. He is not only an amazing musician but he has the special ability to make you feel like your the most important person on the planet when talking to you.
When I was writing and Producing the Sass Jordan Rats record in the early 90s Sass and I copied one of Kenny's fills from a JCM single and used it as a hook for her song….Why?because his fills are like hooks!
Then when I saw him I told him to his face that I nicked his drum fill without an ounce of shame…That's how much I respect him.

Stevie Salas


I remember seeing Kenny on drums for the Jefferson Airplane reunion in 1989. At the start of the show, the stage was dark, and suddenly Kenny explodes with the drum into to "She Has Funny Cars" and the spotlight is on him only. Exciting way to start the show! I've never heard that song played with so much power. I gained a lot of respect for him at that moment, despite having seen him drum with Mellencamp previously.

Bob Helm


Good stuff Bob. All about competence, discipline, hard work. Then, like Hal Blaine, you lose everything. No bitterness. You go on. I would never have picked up this book but now I will.

David Murphy


Apparently Kenny was so good and worked so fast in the studio that his nickname was Kenny Whip 'Em Off.

Iain Taylor


Nice . Kenny is one of the few drummer I consider to have a signature sound . I guess mainly because as you point out he attacks his drum kit . Another who comes to mind is Fred Young of the Kentucky Headhunters . The kit takes on a different sound with the force these guys release on them . Thanks for the read on Craig Fuller "American Flyer " was short lived . The song that caught my attention was "Flyer " . Caught Little Feat in Houston and Telluride when they regrouped it was quit a treat to see him and Paul pull together to cover Lowell's position in the band . Thanks for the read .

Ross Tilbury


So great to read your e-mail about my “big brother" Kenny Aronoff.

In the early 90’s I was a 20 year-old aspiring singer, songwriter and producer working 52 hours a week at a local music store when Kenny stopped in for one of his famous drum clinics. I lived closest to the airport so I was offered up to drive him to his hotel afterward. We drove in my car and talked about music and touring and he asked to hear my stuff. After listening – he asked if he could have the cassette of my demos and I gave it to him. The next day at the music store, I was told I had a call waiting over the stores PA – it was Kenny. I thought it was a joke, but it was Kenny. He was very complimentary of my music and told me he wanted to work with me. Believe me, I found a way to make it happen with Kenny Aronoff playing drums on my songs – on a number of occasions. When I had a studio in my parents basement – Kenny came in and ROCKED their living room – without making me feel weird that we weren’t recording in one of the biggest studios on the planet. My 20+ year relationship with one of the worlds greatest drummers isn’t just professional. I was just some kid schmuck from bumble-fuck Wisconsin – and Kenny validated my choice and path. My career took me from a fledgeling artist, grammy-nominated engineer and mixer to now artist manager. Kenny has always offered up his experience and advice all along my journey – that is the purest support anyone could ask for. In a business that’s filled with ugly people and practices – very few stand out to the human being that is Kenny Aronoff.

Kevin Sucher


He was my second first favorite drummer (Peter Chris was my first). Thanks for bringing this to my attention.

Thad Steele


I’m a singer/songwriter/front man/performer. I always found it challenging to play other people’s music as a sideman. But, in 2012 through 2013 I was offered the gig of a lifetime that I actually struggled in accepting. It was to be a guitarist/sideman for John Fogerty. Hell yeah I was gonna take it, but I rarely played other people’s bands and I was going were very few have gone before. The big time. Arena tours. Private Jets. Late Night shows, etc. I learned over 40 songs in a few days and flew from my current home of Kansas City to Los Angeles to rehearse/try out with the band. It was one of the most do or die moments in my life, but I knew my skills as a guitarist and my ability to work diligently would come through.

And there I got to know Mr. Kenny Aronoff. As well as other members of John’s band. A few days into the tour while sitting in the van on a short 30 minute drive to the airport Kenny had a note pad, laptop and headphones out working on some material. When he took a few seconds break I managed to ask him what he’s doing. Now, remember, I was fairly new to this world and still had illusions of rockstar grandeur. He was taking notes on Levon Helm’s drumming style. What? Apparently after our three week tour across Canada he was going to play with Eric Clapton and others on a Levon Helm Tribute in Woodstock. This went on for days and days. He was constantly reading and writing charts for music that he was going to play in the near future. Led Zeppelin tribute with Kid Rock at the Kennedy Honors…on and on… All this in between quick moments at the hotel, on the van, or plane to the next gig.

I started to realize that others in the band were equally assertive in their craft. John Fogerty would spend hours playing scales and finger exercises on his carryon guitar. Our bassist Dave Santos (Billy Joel, CSN, Melissa Etheridge) told me the story about how he got the Billy Joel gig. He went out (before streaming) and bought every Billy Joel CD and charted and memorized his entire catalogue just on the chance that Billy might start up touring again!

Then I found out that on any given day off we had Kenny would find a local drum shop or music store and offer drum clinics! WHAT, ON YOUR DAY OFF?! This is when I realized there was something more to being just a musician hammering out rock and roll. I could tell he loved what he does and I never once considered him a prick. He knew everyone everywhere we went, whether he knew their name or not. He always had a smile and a handshake. He made me want to be a better player and always made me feel a part of the band!

David George


I love that you wrote about the guy who is behind the scenes/drums. One of the friendliest guys I have ever met in the business, and equally as talented.
I've ordered his book!

todd gallopo


Growing up in the Berkshires, I worked at Tanglewood for a few summers back in the early 90s. Kenny's mother had a season pass and was a frequent visitor – loved talking about her son the rock & roll drummer, and her other son the doctor (who might be a twin?), and she always gravitated to me because I knew who Kenny was from his gig w Mellencamp. As a young person who was passionate about contemporary music (and now works with hip hop artists more than anything else) but worked for a symphony orchestra at the time, I always appreciated how important it was to her that Kenny was classically trained, and how she viewed her children's successes equally. No way did my parents consider a life in rock & roll on a level with becoming a doctor! And that made me appreciate Kenny (and his mother!) even more.

Matthew Walt


Ah, yes. I remember the first year of marriage when my late wife and I had an apartment in an older Bloomington IN neighborhood. Kenny would come to a house across the street he used as a practice studio and I would enjoy hearing him rock. Friends at the IU music school hung with him on campus. It put him on my music radar from then on.

John Rowland


Thanks for letting us know about Aronoff's book.

Last I heard him play was with Fogerty. Kenny's the real deal.



In Ann and Nancy Wilson's autobiography they mention John Cougar being an asshole. In 1982 JC was opening up for Heart and he was gaining a lot of momentum with his "American Fool" album. He apparently told the Wilson sisters that they should be opening up for him since their album "…was a dud." Meanwhile the tour had nearly sold out before he had been announced as the opener (at least that's what the Wilsons said – I saw two shows on that tour and can't remember the deal, but I was there along with most of the fans to see Heart.)

I had the awkward pleasure of meeting Kenny Aronoff near the tour bus on the Jefferson Airplane reunion tour. I was with a crazy girl who wanted to go back by the tour bus. There are probably a dozen or more people like that in every city. Kenny came out and was super nice. I was embarrassed by my friend and made a sarcastic joke about her being a groupie. She slapped me in the face and Kenny said something to the effect that "I knew that was going to happen!" It was hilarious. I'm sure he had seen that kind of thing dozens of times. But he was a really nice guy. I asked him if he had fun doing the John Cougar videos like "Hurts So Good" and he said "…not really."

John Gaulke


Clearly Kenny is the man.

Great interview here, where you can hear HIM tell the tale (great podcast in general, if you're into learning about the great drummers)–source=phplist5710&utm–medium=email&utm–content=text&utm–campaign=Re-Kenny+Aronoff

Jesse Lundy


Excellent !

I lived in Bloomington when Kenny did, didn't know him.

My hippy jam band Cottonmouth opened for Mahavishnu at The Ritz in Indianapolis in 1972…we didn't belong on the same stage as them… but nobody else did either.
The upshot…when I moved to NYC in 76' I couldn't believe how bad most of The musicianship was, having been blessed to have played with all those Indiana U. Music School dropouts…

Keep it up !

Ps Mellencamp always hated my later Bloomington band

MX80 Sound…you can't please everybody, lol.

Kevin Teare


When the Jefferson Airplane did their one reunion tour in 1989, they didn’t call Spencer Dryden, which I thought kind of sucked. But anyway, I go to their show at the Greek Theatre in Berkeley, they open with She Has Funny Cars, the first song on Surrealistic Pillow, with its classic drum intro, and damn if it isn’t Kenny Arunoff up there. He was terrific, hitting hard but with Spencer’s trademark jazzy stuff, just excellent. That was actually a great show, with everyone in tune and better sound than you ever had back in the day. The album sucked, but at least they tried. I would go see a band I don’t know if Kenny is drumming in it.

Larry Fisher
Just a fan


Hi Bob,

Cool post. Aronoff also had a nice FB Live interview with Salon:

Salon Talks: Rock 'n' roll with Kenny Aronoff

What goes on behind the scenes of rock 'n' roll? Salon's Amanda Marcotte sits down with drummer Kenny Aronoff to discuss this, his new book and more.

Posted by Salon on Monday, December 19, 2016

Best from SF,
Michael Hardy


great interview–source=phplist5710&utm–medium=email&utm–content=text&utm–campaign=Re-Kenny+Aronoff

Frank Lewis


I met Kenny aronoff in the late 90's at a drum clinic at daddys junkie music in New England. this guy connected with all of us in between drumming his Ass off for about 90mins, and he was a very genuine, real, relatable guy. I remember watching him lug all his stuff in and out and thinking, wow, no roadies, entourage..he took the time to engage no Matter how Many were in attendance and thats what separates his kind from most. Amazing. That work ethic speaks for itself.

Glad he's still doing well!

Evan Kandilakis
Mainia Recordings


As a fan of Kenny Aronoff, I had to read his book, even though $20 for a Kindle book felt ridiculous. I was blown away by how good it was, and hearing the stories of his hard work as a perpetual student and constant push to work as much as possible (hence the "Can He Earnenough" nickname) perfectly explained his success. But the best part was when I emailed him to praise the book, and mentioned how much I loved his playing on Corey Hart's "Bang" album. The next morning I got a wonderful personal email back from him, and again, his success seemed obvious: He is engaged, plugged in, and turned on ALL THE TIME!

Jer Gervasi
InMusic Brands


Thanks for writing about Kenny Aronoff. In 1989 I worked at HK / Front Line Mgt and had the pleasure of serving as Tour Mgr for the Jefferson Airplane reunion tour, which included all of the original band members and Kenny Aronoff as drummer.

During that tour, my mother was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. Kenny Aronoff handed me a large folder that he had put together for my family containing information and materials related to this awful disease. His kind deed helped educate and comfort me and my family.

Aside from the fact that Kenny Aronoff is one of the world's greatest drummers, he should also be recognized as one of the world's finest human beings.

Thank you again for bringing attention to this gifted and beautiful person.

Ken Krasner


I've used Kenny Aronoff on a number of projects. He is always personable and positive whether the artists is a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame or an artist doing their first record. Kenny insists on getting the songs before hand and he charts them out before he goes in the studio. He always has a game plan for the material and gives 110% with one of the best pockets in the business. As a member of the Los Angeles record making community we are so lucky to have him here in the entertainment capitol of the world.

Peter A. Barker
Producer A&R


Years ago I was flying back from a gig in Korea and noticed at baggage claim that Kenny Aronoff had also been on the flight. He was lugging drums out of The Thomas Bradley terminal but I just didn't have the balls to talk to him. A few weeks later I stopped into a buddy's session and there he was recording tambourine and some shakers. On break he approached me with so much gusto and warmth that it was hard not to be charmed instantly. I mentioned our shared flight back from Korea and he thought it was neat that we played right the same night but different clubs at the W Hotel in Seoul. I told him that his drum break in Jack and Diane was one the most iconic sound in rock history. He was thankful but also explained that he tried to get songwriting credit out of John Melloncamp when recording because he felt the same, but was told no one would even notice the drums.

He's a work horse and while giving clinics to young aspiring drummers these days he has no problem telling them "when you get out there I'M your competition going for the same gigs, so look out!" I've never seen anyone work harder and he deserves Every ounce of respect. I guarantee this story is one of a million you will find in your inbox soon enough.

Tommy Cunningham


Kenny's a sweetheart. Played on my 1st record at a very reasonable rate cuz he dug the music. I played guitar on the PBS Waylon & Cash TV tributes w/ him & a lot of A listers & hes always easily the most fun to hang with. Great letter on him Bob. onward,

Jesse Dayton


Thanks Bob…you shine light on the soul of music once again!!

Very grateful for you talking about Kenny Aronoff.

That drum break in "Jack'n'Diane" is as iconic as Phil Collins break-in on "In the Air Tonight"!

I was a Jewish drummer in a gospel Rock band ..Mylon and Holy Smoke….early 70's.

We did Fillmore East with Mountain and Marc Bolen, and then nonstop arena tours with the Who's Next tour, Traffic Ten Years After, Humble Pie.. etc…

As a drummer you are not respected unless your band-mates KNOW that you are the catcher on the team, every hit, with the glue and spirit to move audiences from sitting in cold seats to standing encores.

I love to watch Aronoff in Kennedy Centers or Obama Inauguration bands.etc.. He is one of the greatest Surviving working drummers ever!

I can't write code, but I now run a hi-tech-royalty management company (only) for the top composers of Film scores… I'm as thrilled today as I was playing a back-beat to tens of thousands of people on Premier Talent tours…but Aronoff was able to do it longer, harder, better than almost anyone. Great that you noticed!

Marty Simon


Hi Bob,

Thank you soooooo much for a brilliant review, story, description, passionate, cool mention about my book in your blog…

I got a lot of emails and some were from ex label presidents, Lawyers, managers, business people, musicians etc etc… They loved what you wrote and your mazing approach… It was like a short story.. IT HAD FEELING!!


I sent it to Steve Bellamy, someone I went to Indiana University with who has 8 or 9 films he produced in the Academy Awards this year.. Started the Tennis Channel years ago, owns Kodak film now… I believe he is buying a famous studio in Northern California where the premise is to record all records on Tape and release on vinyl… amazing right… Thank god… He carries the flag as the Analogue guy… Very cool right?

He wants to team me up with a young up and coming director to do a documentary on me… I don’t want it to be about ME, the drummer guy. I want it to be like my book, how someone working hard, self disciplined, gets their ass kicked occasionally, never giving up… "fuck the lazy and entitled people' etc etc. Don’t get me started on those people.

I want the documentary to be emotional and touch all kinds of people trying to succeed and make it… Even the single mothers trying to raise a family… But drumming and rock n roll is hopefully more exciting than the news we see everyday…

Anyway… Thanks : )