||Rich Fawcett: The Paradiddling Professor May 2005
||several bands in NE Ohio. You may know him as ‘The Voice’
of the EARLYJAS Festival, introducing bands. He’s known for
teaching at the University of Akron. He is also a father,
grandfather, and a devoted husband to Lois, his bride of 52
years! In all these roles, Rich continues to be a a respected
member of the jazz community.
Rich started drumming in grade school. He had a strict
teacher who preached the fundamentals. Rich can still do
double and triple paradiddles. (Look that up on the Internet!)
Those fundamental skills served him well as he played a
variety of styles of music before settling on New Orleans jazz
as his favorite genre.
||Rich grew up and went to school in Bridgeport, OH. There he met a young man from Wilmington,
OH. This young man, Vic Tooker, turned out to be a significant influence in Rich’s musical life. Victor
Hugo Tooker also was a product of a musical family. His mother and father met at the Palace Theater
in New York city where they both were playing vaudeville shows. Vic’s mother sang with the
Magnificent Moore Sisters. His dad was billed as Frederick the Great and was a tap dancer as well as
musician. The three Tookers established a traveling tent vaudeville show they called Victor’s Variety
Shows. Vic, who played many instruments, was also the head showman and emcee. Later, the
Tookers played together on the Delta Queen showboat
The Tooker family hired Rich to be the percussionist with their traveling show. They opened with a
Dixieland number or two. Then, for the rest of the acts, Rich was required to be there and do all the
percussion fills and accents during the acrobat’s pratfalls, the juggler’s routines, as well as provide
accompaniment for the singers and dancers.
Prior to his touring, Rich was in school at Kent State where he played in the marching band. Also, he
played with a trio at the Kent Moose headed by the musician and magician, Don McCarthy.
In 1952, Rich’s family and work responsibilities trumped his musical career and he stopped playing.
Rich had been in ROTC in college. Upon graduation, he was commissioned as an Army officer. He
sold his drum kit and used the money to buy an engagement ring. He and Lois were married and
then the two of them spent two years living in various parts of the US, courtesy of the US Army.
After that, he spent some years teaching high school and then finished his educational career teaching
at the University of Akron.
In 1982, after being a closet drummer for all those years, Rich re-engaged with the music. He acquired
another set of traps and spent a lot of time woodshedding. He said he wore out the last few grooves
of old 78s learning 4 bar drum tags. He started attending the jam sessions at Stow Library and then
the Peninsula sessions.
Rich credits Al Kinney and Moe Klippert for encouraging him to re-enter the music scene. Moe
conducted listening sessions and jam sessions at the Peninsula library and loaned Rich jazz records.
Dave Marshall invited Rich to play with the Red Cardinal Jazz Band. That led to a long standing gig
with Ralph Grugel’s Eagle JB. Since then, Rich has played a lot with the Earlville JB and is the regular
drummer for Ted Witt’s New Orleans Jazz Ensemble.
For contemporary influences, Rich admires Wayne Jones, drummer with the Salty Dogs, as well as Don
“Doggie” Berg, drummer with Norrie Cox's New Orleans Stompers. He also likes a young drummer,
Herlin Riley, who plays with Winton Marsalis.
Rich is a very humble person who is quick to praise many of the musicians with whom he has played.
Rich: We are delighted to be part of your musical family. Keep up the good work!