Click here to read excerpts
from a few of the many five-star reviews
DRIVES! has received on Amazon. (You can preview the Preface and two chapters of the
Kindle edition there.)
Drama, Love, Laughter, and a World of Music
EXCERPT from Chapter One, "Beginning Again"
I GOT MY FIRST GLIMPSE of how Harry operated as a jobbing musician the day we
went downtown to pick up our marriage license at City Hall. Afterward, Harry
stopped off to see Bill Walker, a music contractor he had gotten jobs from in
earlier years, just to let him know he was back in town and available for work.
The guy was so busy he practically shoved Harry out the door. We had no sooner
left his office than he hollered out, “What is it you play?”
"Got four timps?"
"Okay, be at Universal at nine on Monday."
Wham bam. Just like that. "But you don’t have one drum, let alone four," I said with pre-wifely concern.
"Yeah," he grinned, "but I know where to get them. If I’d been totally honest,
I’d have lost the job."
SO BEGINS BARBARA BRABEC’S MEMOIR of her unusual musical life with Harry Brabec,
an extraordinary musician and percussionist who was best known for his virtuoso
snare drumming, but could expertly play every percussion instrument and every
kind of music. As he put it in one of his letters, "Through the years I have
played every type of music imaginable, from burlesque to ballet, from circus to
THE DRUMMER DRIVES! Everybody Else Rides is the story of Harry’s musical life
and times, and much more. It’s the up-and-down life story of a man whose
accomplishments went well beyond the field of music; a remarkable man who got
knocked down many times but kept bouncing back time and time again.
Harry J. Brabec (1927-2005) was a Chicago percussionist and virtuoso snare
drummer greatly admired by his peers not only for his exceptional music talents, but for
his keen sense of humor and gutsy approach to life. Harry's reputation as a
drummer in high school was legend, but his name became legend among symphony
musicians and percussionists when, at the peak
of his career as Principal Percussionist of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in 1956—after five years of exemplary performance with the
Orchestra—Fritz Reiner dismissed him
for purely personal reasons.
This conductor’s selfish act literally destroyed
Harry’s professional life,
devastated his ego, shattered his personal life, and ultimately led to the
failure of his eight-year-old marriage and the loss of his six-year-old
daughter. So despondent at that point, Harry simply gave up and left music for
awhile to do menial work.
BARBARA MET HARRY IN 1961, two years after his divorce, and it took only three
days for them to realize they were soul mates. Always a man of action, Harry
proposed then and they were married two weeks later. Newly encouraged and ready
to take another chance on love and music, he began his career all over again.
Beat by beat in this autobiographic narrative and biography, Barbara tells
Harry’s comeback story as a freelance percussionist in Chicago in the sixties,
then flashes back to his highly successful music career in the forties and
fifties before going on to tell how her career path, and their marriage, changed
when life prompted Harry to move in new directions in the seventies and beyond.
THE DRUMMER DRIVES! Everybody Else Rides
offers a unique view of a colorful period of Chicago's musical entertainment
history that is spiced with romance, drama, and Harry's wit and humor. Its content revolves
around both the author’s lifetime of journals and Harry’s scrapbooks and
nostalgic letters, which were filled with historical "music biz" stories and
nostalgic remembrances of the days when he was playing with the big bands and
doing recordings in Chicago; his comments about many of the musicians,
entertainers, conductors, and band leaders he worked with; his thoughts on being
Czech; his love of good food, fine books, record collecting, band music and the
circus; and how he felt about getting old and being forced to lay down his
sticks because of ill health. The book also includes colorful anecdotes shared
by many musicians who knew and worked with Harry.
REVIEW by Rob Cook, Rebeats Publications:
"As a publisher specializing in percussion history, I regularly receive
drummer biography manuscripts. More often than not, they either do not have
much of a story to tell or do not tell it very well. It is very refreshing
to see one that made it to print that not only has something to say, but
says it well. For folks who knew either Harry or Barbara, are gigging
musicians, or are interested in the music business, this book is a must."
No Ordinary Joe
THERE IS MUCH TO ENJOY in this informative and humor-laden memoir, but you may
also find yourself tearing up at times as you read this honestly told story of
the author’s unusual life journey with a man who was “no ordinary Joe,” an
individual so complex that she was still trying to figure him out after nearly
44 years of marriage and five years as his widow.
As she says in the Preface of the book, “Harry remains the most complex,
frustrating, interesting, and amusing person I’ve ever known, and the
excitement, color, and drama he brought to my life cannot be conveyed in mere
As reviewer Sam Denov has written on Amazon:
"The love that this couple had for each other is evident throughout the book.
It is almost palpable. One can't help but be warmed by the relationship they
shared. This book will take you through the whirlwind life that was shared by
the author and her soul mate through more than four decades of the nostalgic
pinnacle of musical times in America. Every reader of this book will be as
entranced as I was."
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