Well....I have been putting this off for a week now and I guess I need to get these emotions moving forward. No need to stay stuck in the sadness with life all around me.
I lost a friend last week, Yonrico Scott.
For those of you who do not know of whom I am speaking, Yonrico was a world famous drummer
who hailed from Detroit. He lived in Atlanta the latter part of his life and travelled the world with many musical giants. He had drummed for Whitney Houston, Ray Charles, Peabo Bryson, Earl Klugh and countless others. I first became aware of Yonrico with the Derek Trucks Band.
I was invited by a bass player friend in St. Louis to come to a show at Cicero's in the West End.
It was the Derek Trucks Band, just a trio at the time, performing on a Tuesday night for maybe
40 people. Everyone was talking about the new young man from Florida and is incredible slide playing, and it was incredible. Todd Smallie was on bass guitar and Yonrico was the drummer,
and man was he drumming. I couldn't believe how much power they had in this trio.
He would yell behind the drums sometimes and was really over the top. Derek was more reserved
so Yonrico really stood out onstage. I kept up with this band for years, seeing them play another time or two with more musicians and on videos and the Eric Clapton Crossroads Festivals.
Yonrico always stood out as a leader and a passionate musician.
Fast forward a few years later and my manager at the time, Rueben Williams, and I were talking about putting a band together with Cyril Neville and Devon Allman. We had met Charlie Wooton who filled the bass player spot wonderfully but still needed a full time drummer.
Thats when Devon called me and told me he had spoken to Yonrico Scott and that Yonrico was interested in joining the band. Thats when I was over the moon for the project.
I was wowed by the idea that I might get to work with that man I saw over a decade ago.
I always loved the idea of being a musician, but I don't think I ever considered myself on that level before and it was inspiring and intimidating at the same time.
I met Yonrico Scott in December of 2011 at Dockside Studios in Maurice, Louisiana.
We were all getting together to record our first Royal Southern Brotherhood album.
I only live a few hours from the studio so I arrived the night before everyone else and was working with our engineer, David Farrell, setting up the studio. We had the drums up, mics up and I was playing some guitar for David to get sounds at the mixing board.
Thats when Yonrico entered my life. He walked in the big room and filled it immediately with his presence and personality. He had the biggest smile on his face and we hugged and said hello.
He asked me what I was just playing and I told him a song I had written for the new album.
He jumped on the drums and said let's go, let's play it. So we began playing this song, just the two of us and David at the mixing board. Within minutes we had the groove and the arrangement feeling so good, David pressed record and we cut that track right there. The song was "Hurts My Heart".
It was so good and powerful, that it is the exact track that is on the album today. The band showed up the next morning and we had already recorded two of the songs that would be on the record.
We just hit it off, right from the start. Like old friends who hadn't seen each other in years.
We laughed and joked and had an instant chemistry - which is not always so for older men.
We make most of our close friendships when we are young, we don't normally go making new close friends in our 40's and 50's. But there was something about Yonrico, we just clicked from the start and it never stopped.
The Royal Southern Brotherhood was my life for the next 3 plus years and I spent a LOT of time with the band and Yonrico. We became very close touring the world. It was exciting and crazy and tiring all at once. The band started and it never stopped. I have so many funny stories about Yonrico.
He was always the highlight of my day. His words, his phrases, he had such a large personality.
He would stop traffic in the middle of a busy street in Germany. He would block the aisle of the airplane passengers to let and old woman out. He would yell words loud, and usually just ONE word,
at restaurants or airports or hotel lobbies. But most of all, he played the drums.
Man, I have NEVER played with a drummer, let alone musician, that was as good as Yonrico Scott.
When he "played" the drums....I mean he PLAYED the drums. He WAS the drum beat.
I don't mean just loud, because he wasn't always loud or overbearing, he was just full body, mind and spirit playing the drums. He led the band, but he listened to everybody. He taught me how the "groove" works. It's big, the groove is huge. It's not just the drum beat, we are all playing the "groove", and it moves. It's not a click track or programmed beat that is the same, it rocks and sways and speeds up and slows down and the whole group moves together, pushing and pulling like an orchestra. Yonrico was educated and knew classical music, jazz, rock, blues, African and world music. He would educate the band and mostly me, because I was listening. I didn't know these things and I knew this was my chance at an education in music. I learned more about music from Yonrico Scott, than I have ever learned before in my life. I knew about playing guitar, but this was music.
We had a good run with RSB and in a few years, I hung my hat and took a bow.
I had so much music of my own that I wanted to record and write, I went on to pursuing my solo career. Yonrico was not happy. We had many talks about life and where we were going and I think he felt like I was breaking camp, walking away. I was. There was too much tension in the band and I had just lost my mother and I wasn't interested in continuing a road that seemed endless and not fulfilling. In the end there, he and the band understood and they continued on for many more years making great music with great new additions.
We stayed in touch though and spoke every other week usually.
Yonrico was a big part of my family as well. My wife and children loved him.
He taught my daughters how to play drums, he encouraged my son Zach on the guitar.
We had dinners and breakfasts and spent a lot of time together.
Yonrico was a VERY likable man. He was charismatic and very spiritual.
Kids were drawn to Rico and his charm and big smile.
Yonrico and I made 6 records together over the years.
We made records for RSB, Samantha Fish, Laurence Jones, The Blues Caravan, and Vanja Sky.
Once RSB had kind of stopped, Rico became available again and we found work to do together.
Yonrico was always about staying healthy and eating right and going to the gym, thats the Yonrico I knew. He had suffered a heart attack and bypass surgery years before and it put him on a path of
to the point of it being hilarious sometimes.
We planned for Yonrico to join the 2018 Blues Caravan tour with Bernard Allison, Vanja Sky and myself. He had played on the recordings and we were excited to get to play together some more and spend time traveling. Rico called me just after the new year and explained to me that he was not feeling good and needed to stay home from the tour to have another surgery and recuperate.
I was worried for my friend, but he assured me he would be fine, and he was for the most part.
He took the year to rest and write music and paint. He spent time with family and Jesus, whom he loved so much. We talked on the phone and texted and stayed close, always saying we would find another project to do in the future.
By the end of 2018 he was feeling good again, so I called on him to join a new group.
It was a Tribute to the Allman Brothers based in St. Louis called "Allman Anthology".
It would be a full 7 piece group with some heavy hitters and Danny Liston singing from the famed "Mama's Pride". I told him it would be fun and it wouldn't be full time or heavy touring, just rehearsing some and then playing a big show maybe 4-5 times a year. He thought this was a good project for him to get back on his feet and start playing again with is health. We were both excited to get to play music together again.
We had a blast this year. We played 4 very big, successful Allman Anthology shows. Two in St. Louis and two in Texas. Yonrico was able to see my family again in Texas and we had some wonderful meals and spent some quality time. I would "handle" Rico when he flew in, pick him up at the airport. Bring him to the hotel, take care of everything so he could just play and relax. He was very happy and really feeling good about life. We were having so much fun, we talked about recording this band and writing original music. The Allman Anthology group is special and Yonrico fit right in, he was our leader yet again and we all looked up to him for direction in the "groove".
Three weeks ago, I picked Rico up in St. Louis at Lambert Airport.
I rented a really cool Dodge Challenger in Sparkle Maroon. He LOVED it when I showed up at the terminal, he yelled "OKAYYY"!! We had a great rehearsal with the band and afterward we went for a late dinner at Courtesy Diner on Hampton Ave in St. Louis....a southside tradition :)
We had decided that Yonrico would sign a recording contract with my record label "Gulf Coast Records" and I would come to Atlanta in November to produce the recording. He was very excited about making this record - he wanted to finally make his own Blues record. He was going to educate us all by going through all of the African drumbeats that later became the shuffles and stomps in our western Blues culture. It was going to be a fantastic record, and I was so excited to be working with my friend again. The next day we had soundcheck and I could not get a hold of Rico. He was not answering his phone or his door at the hotel, for hours. I was getting worried and when he finally got back to me I jokingly asked if he was going to die on me at the hotel.......he laughed hard and said
"But I'm not afraid to die."
The show was momentous and Yonrico made sure everyone saw him
He wore a lime green/lemon shirt with lemon pants - Green tennis shoes and he ran upfront during the show to strike a pose in front the crowd, they went wild!
We laughed and he played so good, the band put on the best show yet.
The next morning I had breakfast with Rico and we signed the recording contract and really
enjoyed our time....I dropped him off at his terminal and we hugged and said goodbye.
We would see each other in November in Atlanta to make his new record.
Last Thursday, September 19th, I was arriving at Dockside Studios where it all began to produce a new album with The Proven Ones for our record label.
I walked in the door and Charlie Wooton texted me......he told me that Yonrico had passed.
I was gutted. I just looked around the room and couldn't believe this is where we met and now he is gone. It was shocking and very upsetting. I spoke to his son, Rico jr., and he verified the passing to me. He told me how happy his father was to be working with me again and excited to make the new record.
I didn't cry when my Father died, I didn't know how. I was still learning to feel again after years of drug addiction. I cried years later after my Mother passed. I didn't know how to grieve, but losing both parents and working the program taught me how to feel and embrace the grieving.
I cried the night I heard that my friend was gone. It hurt and it still hurts, but it's getting better.
Life is for the living and I am alive, so I must continue forward and keep his spirit alive.
The guys in the old band, RSB, began texting and communicating together for the first time in years as a group and we told every silly funny Yonrico story we could think of...it was great.
I could not make it to his service this week and I was pretty sad about that, but I was there in spirit.
Rico jr. asked me to give remarks at his service and since I was unable, I have been wanting to share with you here, my tribute to a friend.
Yonrico was one of the kindest, wonderful, intelligent, gifted and talented people I have ever known.
He was special and full of love. He made me laugh so hard and taught me so much.
I will miss my friend, but I know he passed peaceful and with family around him.
God Bless you Rico, we will do our best to keep the Groove alive.
LONG LIVE THE BIG DRUM!!!