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Jay Dittamo

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About

Jay began his journey into the world of music at the age of three and began performing at the age of five. “I noticed at such a young age how much fun and enjoyment I had playing as well as anyone listening were enjoying it” He also knew if he was going to be doing this for a living ...He was going to have to study. “My Uncle Fred was an accomplished Drummer and Percussionist he played with Louie Prima , Leonard Bernstein and Toscanini as well as being the teacher for Sonny Igoe , Joey Cass to name a few”.
“My Family has been in the music business for over a hundred plus years there teachers as well as performers I’m just keeping the family business going”.
Jay studied composition and arranging with Andy Lesko which lead to writing and producing commercials for Radio and TV “You have to be versatile, playing the drums is my Instrument, but it doesn’t hurt to know what the other instruments can or can’t do.”
At 11 years old He was introduced to the music of Frank Zappa “I new I wanted to play in his band and when I got done with high school I set that as my goal”.
“Before I went to school I would practice for an hour then after school rush home to practice some more I did this for most of my years in school”
There was a TV show out of New York called the Bill Boggs Show in Dec 1979 Frank Zappa was on the show promoting the Baby Snakes movie this gave Jay the opportunity to ask Frank right there on TV to join his band.

But it would still take sometime...

“I remember that summer sneaking in on a Music band camp that my friends went to Woody Herman and his Band were there. My friends told me that the drummer was leaving and I should ask Woody if I could try out ...But I chickened out... I told myself I would never let that happen again so when the opportunity with Frank came up I went for it .... and asked Frank if I could be in his band ....”

Fast forward 1981 Jay had written an Albums worth of music that sounded like Zappa and the Mothers “I Figure why should I play stuff the other guys did such a great job playing on. Why don’t I show Frank I could write my own stuff but also let him know that if he hired me he would be getting someone that wasn’t just a Drummer” (mind you I just turned 22) Needless to say Jay got an audition that summer but two weeks to late ...... “I was going to leave for LA in july but previous commitments with the band I was playing with prevented me from going until August” ......... “They say timing is everything and I guess there right.”. “At the audition Frank was tossing up charts having me play it with no band just Frank sitting next to me”.
“The first chart was of course “The Black Page” I was prepared and (it didn’t hurt having the chart in front of me) ..... I played it ....... Frank got a little pissed... I guess he wanted to stump me,
“I took my teacher Andy’s advise “always be prepared”. “I can’t profess in being the best sight reader but I could play most any chart and make it sound and feel good.” at this point Frank went and got The Drowning Witch interlude and Alien Orifice”.

Frank: “Play this bar here”(Drowning Witch) it’s dotted thirty second notes between the Hihat and the Kik drum it was like morse code with epilepsy. This was not a site reading tune it was one of those let me go over this and see you tomorrow tunes any who I played it ..on like the third or forth try... Frank gave me that look like .... “I got you”.
I looked at Frank and said “this isn’t like doing a Dog food jingle” which in turn got him to laugh ...... I think that line made it to the Yo Cats song (Dog Food yum yum)...

It still wasn’t my time.

Frank thought about it and already had put two weeks in the drummer he had. “He didn’t know anyone that knew me so the odds were stacked ageist me. I ended up hanging at the house for three hours.... Frank had gotten a phone call from Bill Graham. Bill was telling Frank he should have talked to him before he got Van Morison to sing on El Shankar’s album .... Oh the Music Business you gotta love it”....

Frank goes in the next room (over by Bosendorfer piano) to finish his discussion with Bill ....Mark Pinske Frank’s engineer had the “lacquer master” of “You are What You is” ..... Mark starts making Cassette dupes up (this is 1981...remember) as were listing back I took out a pair of Drumsticks and started playing one tune after the other on the sole of my shoe ...Mark looks at me and says how do I know these tunes? the albums not even out!! ..my answer.... I went to Bleaker Bobs in New York ...Frank did a tour in Germany and played all these tunes over the radio and someone made a bootleg ...so I bought the album and learned the show .... Mark says we’ve been looking for someone that could learn all this stuff why didn’t Frank hire you ...... I looked at Mark and said he doesn’t know me .....and I guess he’s in a bad mood.
Upon leaving Franks place I said one day we’ll be playing together Frank looked at me and said ............you never know.
The Drummer was Chad Wackerman who played with Frank till the end.

But was it really the End...

I was doing a session and found out months before it was announced that Frank had cancer this was to be a long battle for him...... I found out of Franks passing a few hours after he left us Dec 4 1993 Frank was only 52 just a few weeks short of his 53 birthday.

“I guess I’ll never get to play with Frank now” .....But little did He know his yearly pilgrimage to the Anaheim NAMM convention would lead him to meeting Tommy Mars the over the top wonder Keyboardist that played some of Franks pyrotechnical Keyboard challenges.
“When I got back east I called Tommy to see how he was and to say what a pleasure it was to see him”.
Tommy told Jay how this German promoter was putting a show together and assembling a group of Zappa musicians to play some concerts in Germany.
“I was thrilled to here that Vinnie Colaiuta was going to be the drummer.
Little did I know a few weeks later I got a phone call from Tommy telling me if I could fly myself out I could try out for the band ....they needed a drummer!”....... This was May of 1994 so getting a plane ticket last minute was a little easer and less expensive as it is today.
“I flew out with in the next two days and got the gig on my 35th Birthday ........what a Birthday present”!

It turned out that Vinnie was working on his solo CD the week of the concerts and couldn’t do it.
I got to play with a lot of the players I would have played with if I had gotten with Frank in 81 and then some.... We were called “The Band from Utopia” a Tribute to the music of Frank Zappa theres some Video floating around out there and a CD that came out of that experience.
I guess Arthur Barrow was right when he said come out and see us because we may never have this line up again..... We never did.

I’m sharing this story to say always be prepared and to always have the best attitude and bring the best you can be to any and all situations.
I got to experience a childhood dream and thats a great thing ...the only thing missing was Frank .....I felt he was there... bigger then life because in order to play his Music you have to Live his music .....and you also have to have fun!........ Peace.

Discography

  • Band From Utopia-Tribute to the Music of Frank Zappa
  • Willie Colon - Top Secret
  • Willie Colon - Color Americana
  • Fania All Stars
  • Junoon - Dewaar
  • Salman Ahmed - Infiniti
  • Jimmy Webb - Twilight of the Renegades
  • Mike Cates - Did you Ever
  • Darryl Kubian - String Theory
  • SoundTrack for Wig Stock The Movie
  • Gene Pitt - Steppin’ out in Front I Love Beach Music

Drumhead Setup

Snare - Texture Coated
Toms - Texture Coated on top, Classic Clears on bottom
Bass Drum - Superkick I on the batter, Regulator on the Reso side

Artist Media

"Humpty Dumpty"

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"Blessed Relief"

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"Alpha Male"

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"Zombie Woof"

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Video coming soon...