TCB Band : Larrie Londin : (Drums)
Larrie Londin was born in October 1943 in Norfolk, Virginia. He grew up in Florida and returned to Norfolk in the 50's. He started his drumming Career by accident, an accident which incidentally turned him in to one of the greatest drummers in the world, up there with Ronnie Tutt to name but a few. In Norfolk, he began to play in groups and got his kicks from listening to Gene Vincent and The Blue Caps. He was surrounded 24/7 by rock 'n' roll music, inspiring him throughout his career. His first record contract was with Atlantic Records as a singer doing a very poor impersonation of Elvis Presley. It is said that his mother has the only surviving copy of this recording. It was also the decision maker in helping Larrie decide to 'keep his mouth shut' and stick to drums! He eventually went from Norfolk night clubs to hanging about the studios of Motown at the height of the Motor City sound. Larrie's involvement with Motown started when he and the band he was with at the time, got signed up to Motown. At that stage they would just hang around waiting for something to happen. They would hang around at the studios all day and still do night club gigs at night. In the Motown days, Bennie Benjamin, a great soul drummer, would play drums on all of the Motown sessions and records. One day when Larrie was sitting in the Motown offices, the door flew open and Berry Gordon came flying in, telling Larrie that Bennie had just had a heart attack. Berry told Larrie to get his ass down to the studio and to play the drums, rather than the session be cancelled. From there it was working sixteen hours a day and making anything up to five or six records with various Motown artists.
In 1965, Larrie was part of a 'White Garage' band called The Headliners and released a single on the V.I.P Motown label called We Call It Fun. Larrie eventually left Motown and worked for thirteen weeks on Tennessee Ernie Ford's TV show. From there it was to Nashville, where he went from being one of Nashville's only drummers to that of Nashville's Country Music top studio drummer. He was moving from Motor City to Music City! Larrie got the chance to work on a number of TV shows in Nashville and spent some time on Porter Wagner's show as well as working on the Grand Ol' Opry and Hee-Haw.
Larry Londin, Elvis Presley and James Burton - 20th March 1976 Evening show in Charlotte.
In was in Nashville that Larrie started to record with Merle Haggard, Waylon Jennings, Charlie Pride and Hank Snow. This was when Larrie also got the chance to work with Elvis. He started to record with Elvis and The Memphis Rhythm Section in 1968. He claims that this was the biggest and most thrilling time of his musical career. He spent nine years recording and often touring with Elvis. Larrie replaced Ronnie Tutt on drums in March 1976 and the last couple of shows in June 1977. After his time with Elvis he got a call from Steve Perry to come and play drums on the Journey's album 'Raised On Radio', replacing Steve Smith who had taken over from Aynsly Dunbar. Steve Perry approached Larrie again at a later date to play drums and percussion on his solo album, Street Talk. His achievements and accomplishments throughout his career, none of us forgetting that it all started by accident, range from touring with Elvis Presley, Andrew Belew and The Everly Brothers, from TV shows with Tennessee Ernie Ford, The 1992 Command Performance for the President, to recording with Elvis Presley, The Supremes, The Temptations, The Four Tops, Martha Reeves And The Vandellas, Smokey Robinson, Wilson Pickett, Lionel Ritchie, Jerry Lee Lewis, Boots Randolph and more. In April of 1992, Larry collapsed following a performance and remained in a coma for some months after.
Sadly, Larrie died August 24, 1992 at the age of forty eight.
Interview With Larrie Londin
By James Byron (Fox: 1991)
Larrie Londin, who filled in for regular Presley drummer Ronnie Tutt on Elvis' final concert tour, had to throw his normal working methods out the window. 'His people sent me tapes two weeks in advance of everything he might do', the drummer remembers. 'It was like 400 songs! So I sat down at the house and listened to them and wrote out charts for all the ones they said he was most likely to do. Then they flew me to his mansion in Memphis to rehearse. He came down and sang a few bars of this song, a few bars of that song, and had me play along. Then he said. 'Great, it's gonna be all right', and went back upstairs to bed.
'We went out onstage cold, and I was worried. He started the first number and it didn't go like the tape. He stopped the band and said, 'Larrie, watch me', Well, it turned out I couldn't read the charts, I just had to watch him. He was liable to stop our song in the middle and start another one. I must have sweated off 20 pounds the first two weeks of that tour, but he sweated as hard as I did. He really worked, and he expected his people to work too. And for what he was paying us, he was right to expect that'.
JF: In Nashville you've recorded with Merle Haggard, Waylon Jennings, Charlie Pride, Hank Snow, and Elvis to name a few. What was the most memorable?
LL: Definitely Elvis. I started recording with him and the Memphis Rhythm Section in 1968 and it was one of the biggest thrills of my life. He was just real special.
JF: You went to Vegas with him?
LL: Yeah, those were wild times. You expected Elvis to be this God-like condescending kind of Rock'n'roll legend...and he wasn't like that at all. He was a good 'ol country boy - kind'a shy. Moody. Yeah, shy. He was very polite and quiet spoken most of the time. He loved jokes and he liked to fool around on the bus and stuff like that, but he was nothing like some of the crap that's been written about him. At least I never saw it. He had problems but he wasn't a wild man except on stage. He was basically good, I guess.
He had a big heart, always giving gifts. He treated his friends real good. He even treated strangers good.
I remember one show we played in the mid-west somewhere Nebraska maybe - and Elvis had spotted this old couple in the audience. They looked like farmers. The old man wore faded overalls. They couldn't get close to him because of the crowd and he was giving out the scarves so everyone was pushing and shoving trying to get one. Elvis had one of his security guys escort these old folks up close to the edge of the stage, past the photographers and the police. Elvis wadded up one of his scarves and placed it very carefully in the old woman's hands. We all noticed because we had to vamp through the bows several times while he was doing it. After the show he came on the bus and he was real excited. He said he bet that couple would be surprised when they unwrapped that scarf. You see he had slipped a diamond ring worth about ten grand into that scarf. He thought they were poor, or maybe their farm was being foreclosed or something like that and that ring would help them survive. What Elvis didn't understand was that, those folks will never sell that ring no matter how bad things get. He just didn't realize what something like that means to a fan.
Those folks probably never had any idea how much money that ring was worth, and even if they did, they wouldn't sell it at any price. Elvis loved doing stuff like that and he loved people. I never heard him speak an unkind word. He was always giving people gifts - Cars and furs and rings. He was very generous.
JF: There has been a lot written about Elvis over the years.
Have you ever considered putting your experiences with him down on paper?
LL: I've had offers to write a book about Elvis, but you know, they really didn't want to publish the stories I had to tell. They only wanted the dirt - the scandal. I never saw him use drugs and I never saw him being mean to people. He had problems, everybody does, but he was a sweet guy - real religious, and he was patriotic, he really loved America. The publishers said nobody wants to read about that stuff. I just couldn't be a part of another book trashing him, he was a real good guy and he was always nice to me. The writers who badmouth him didn't know the real Elvis and some of the stuff they write about him makes me mad.
JF: In all the photos and films I've seen, you are always very close to Elvis onstage.
LL: That's funny.
Elvis hated drum risers. He wanted the drums on the floor right next to him, as close as possible. He wanted to feel the bass drum kicking him in the ass. He roamed around stage, but at critical moments in the show - tempo changes and endings - he was always right there close - so that I could see him give signals.