The Drummer’s Son meets Sterling Campbell, Bowie’s Last Touring Drummer

When Sterling Campbell  was a little older than Hikaru Davis, son of Dennis Davis (1974-1981 drummer for Bowie), the young drummer met Dennis Davis, who invited him to a David Bowie concert at Madison Square Garden. Thus began Sterling Campbell’s path to becoming Bowie’s drummer the for the last times Bowie toured with Heathen and Reality.

Less than a year after his father died, Hikaru Davis started interviewing folks who had known his dad, and he began with Sterling Campbell, who met him some 40 years ago. Campbell credits Davis with not only having an enormous impact on his music and career, but also on how he came to understand the importance of being generous, of paying it forward, that is, to give of one’s self without expecting an immediate — or any personal — return.

When Hikaru asks about what playing with Bowie was like for his dad, I come away with a sense that having an inquisitve mind was of prime importance. David was a futurist with a Eurocentric curiosity, who assembles a New York City based rhythm section, and then drops in other elements, like Adrian Belew, a Kentuckyian raised where bluegrass is the most accessible live music, or Eno, the self-proclaimed non-musician, and many, many others. Then he just lets the band go, giving minimal orders, to see what happens.

A highly prized characteristic was a curiosity, in other words.

There are other videos in the HD Project, “Tracing My Dad,” but to stay on task, that is for this blog to be primarily about Bowie, I have decided to end these posts here because otherwise we’re getting into multi-levels of separation.

But if ypu are a percussionist or music historian, you need to find the rest.

These include conversations with Donald Nicks and John Pressley, and Roy Ayers, as well as drum technician Jan Michael Alejandro , who worked on Isolar 2, and is another big fan of  Davis’s work on “Blackout.” He tells Hikaru how grateful he was that Davis, unlike other drummers whose instruments he set up, was a gentleman who treated him as an equal.

Finally, though, if you are among those whose favorite words are “Once Upon A Time,” then seek out all these videos. Hikaru Davis is a gifted interviewer because he realizes that people, if not interrupted but given space instead, are eager and happy to tell us stories.

Many thanks to Hikaru Davis for letting me use his picture — and everything else.

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