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UPDATED: Pro Drum throws 50th anniversary party

SCV locals' business in Hollywood marks milestone

Posted: May 20, 2009 3:15 p.m.
Updated: June 6, 2009 10:47 a.m.

Jerry Keyawa (left) and his brother Stan (right) accept the golden drumhead plaque just presented them by Remo D. Belli, founder of Remo Inc., during the Professional Drum Shop's 50th birthday bash at the Avalon in Hollywood Saturday afternoon.

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HOLLYWOOD -- The Professional Drum Shop, co-owned by Jerry Keyawa of Stevenson Ranch and members of his family, celebrated its 50th anniversary with a party and concert at the Avalon Theatre in Hollywood Saturday afternoon, June 6.

Taking the stage in what was once the Hollywood Palace near Hollywood and Vine were jazz-fusion-rock drummer and CalArts alum Ronald Bruner Jr. with his three-member Bruner Brothers, and vibrophonist Emil Richards and his 16-piece all-star big band with Bernie Dressel on drums.

Famous drummers including Green Day's Tré Cool, Hal Blaine, Jake Hanna, Terry Bozzio, Joe Porcaro, Rick Latham, Freddie Gruber, Denny Seiwell, Bernie Dressel, Frank Wilson, Johnny "Vato" and more were in the house to show their support for Pro Drum, a fixture at 854 Vine St. several blocks south of the Avalon between Santa Monica Boulevard and Melrose Avenue.

Partying with them were a couple hundred more drummers and fans who paid $12 admission to help cover production costs.
  
"The shop serves drummers of all different specialties and levels of expertise and has seen some of the greatest drummers of the 20th and 21st centuries pass through its doors," Keyawa said.

Gene Krupa, Art Blakey, Max Roach, Buddy Rich, Elvin Jones, Shelly Manne, Keith Moon, Jeff Porcaro and John Guerin are just a handful of the legends who were regulars in their day.

Today, Pro Drum remains a favorite shop for working stage and studio musicians, students and amateurs alike, locally as well as out of town and abroad via the Internet.

"This event serves as a celebration of the business' success as well as a thank-you to all the people who have supported the shop for so many years," Keyawa said.

Several of those people reciprocated Saturday, including Remo D. Belli, founder of Valencia-based Remo Inc., who was getting his company off the ground in Hollywood around the same time Pro Drum opened its doors.

Before the Bruner Brothers' set, Belli joined Keyawa and his brother-partner Stan Keyawa onstage to present them a golden drumhead encased in a see-through plaque.

Noted drummer Ronald Bruner, a longtime Pro Drum customer who has performed and recorded with Diana Ross, The Temptations and Gladys Knight, proudly introduced the show's first band, led by his son Ronald.

The kid all but grew up in the Pro Drum Shop, starting at age 2, accompanying his father there on shopping trips for sticks, drums, cymbals and other gear.

"He was in diapers when his dad used to bring him," Keyawa said. 

Since then, the younger Bruner studied and played hard. He began his pro career at age 15 at the Thelonious Monk Institute.

Now 27, Bruner has a track record of session and/or roadwork with Stanley Clarke, Ron Carter, Marcus Miller, Lee Ritenour, Diane Reeves, Roy Hargrove, Kenny Garrett, Wayne Shorter, Larry Carlton, Robben Ford, Clark Terry, and even skate-punk rockers Suicidal Tendencies.

Along the way Bruner has mastered a hard-hitting style blending passion and precision, accented by bursts of inspired improvisation. His latest aggregation as a bandleader released its first album in 2008.

At the Avalon, the Brothers' intense 35-40-minute set included selections from it and what sounded like a cover of a track from either Jeff Beck's "Wired" or "Blow by Blow" album. Egged on by his band's equally skilled keyboardist, bassist and guitarist. Bruner found "the zone" quickly and stayed there. Only the keyboardist used charts.

After a couple songs, Bruner sat on a monitor at center stage, facing the audience, and recounted how excited he got about going to Pro Drum with his dad years ago, and how the owners had helped nuture his early interest. A couple more blazing numbers later,  Bruner's set wrapped.

A film documentary about the drum shop was slated to screen during intermission, but the show was running late and the Keyawa brothers opted to get right to Emil Richards' big band of musicians' musicians, saving the documentary for last.

With Richards leading his 16 players from behind the vibes, the band of L.A.-based studio and road aces played with precision and snap, sounding well-rehearsed but making it look easy.

"I can never get them together to rehearse," Richards cracked between songs. "They'd rather just show up at the gig and sight-read (the charts)."

Driving the band's rhythm section was Bernie Dressel, whose diverse credits include work with Maynard Ferguson, Chaka Khan, Brian Wilson, David Byrne and Andy Summers. Dresseel, sight-reading, could stop on a dime and give you nine cents change, to cop a line from Bill Cosby.

Among the special equipment on display in the Avalon lobby during the gig was the last set of drums played by the legendary Buddy Rich and the kit Tré Cool had customized to take on the road for Green Day's current world tour.

Pro Drum party-goers also had the opportunity to win a John Aldridge-engraved custom Ludwig Black Beauty snare drum as well as other valuable shop merchandise.

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