SF-born legend Terry Bozzio on UK’s reunion, his dad’s accordion, and the importance of drum lessons

Pub date May 18, 2012
WriterSean McCourt

Bay Area-born and raised drummer extraordinaire Terry Bozzio (who plays the Regency Ballroom Fri/18 with reunited band UK) has performed with Frank Zappa, Missing Persons, Jeff Beck, Fantomas, and a host of other musicians over the years. Recognized as one of the best modern drummers, he has recorded a variety of instructional videos, been honored by Guitar Center’s RockWalk in Hollywood, and has created some of the most insane custom drum sets ever seen on stage.

Bozzio’s amazing talents will be on display live tonight as he performs with the reunited prog rock super group UK — with whom he originally played from 1978 through 1980 — which also features John Wetton (King Crimson, Asia) and Eddie Jobson (Frank Zappa, Roxy Music).

Born in San Francisco, Bozzio’s family moved to Marin County when he was in third grade. His father had been a child musical prodigy, playing the accordion on stage in San Francisco when he was only four years old, and continued to occasionally play when he was older and had a family.

“People would come over for a Sunday dinner, and they’d beg him to play the accordion — he would begrudgingly pull it out, but within a few chords he would silence the room, he could just hold them in the palm of his hand,” says Bozzio over the phone during a recent tour stop in Portland. “To witness that power was something I was very jealous of at an early age, and now having experienced being able to do that — so I’m told — I credit him with having inspired it.”

When Bozzio started playing a musical instrument himself a few years later — the drums — his father would often give advice to him and his band mates when practicing in one of his first groups, Blue Glass Radio, a combo comprised of friends from middle school. “I was pretty much a rock’n’roll, play by ear kind of guy until I took six months of drum lessons which were very, very key and important for me, when I was 15 or so,” says Bozzio.

“My last year at Drake High School I started to study music seriously, and continued to study jazz and classical at College of Marin; I graduated from there with a commercial music degree — just an A.A. degree — but that was enough to prepare me for what was going to happen within a very short time.”

Bozzio soon began playing a wide variety of musicians, in many different styles, and after some time found himself with a reputation as being one of the best drummers in the Bay Area, which eventually led him to being asked to join Frank Zappa’s band. From there, Bozzio has gone on to perform with an incredible amount of world-class musicians over a nearly four decade long career.

With this UK reunion, Bozzio says he is having fun looking back and re-examining that particular portion of his musical legacy.
“I’ve always been proud of that music, and I think both John and Eddie are tremendous musicians with a great history in rock’n’ roll, making great contributions. When you listen back to some of this stuff, it impresses you because you kind of listen with fresh ears.”

Performing at the Regency Ballroom in San Francisco will have a special hometown meaning for Bozzio — he saw his first rock concert at the Avalon Ballroom, which was what the venue was called in its first incarnation back in the ’60s.

“My dad and my uncle took me down, I remember clearly, we saw It’s A Beautiful Day, Canned Heat, and Vanilla Fudge. I’ve never been back, so this will be the first the first time since 1965 that I’ll be there!”

With UK set to play in Europe and Japan after the U.S. leg of the tour is finished, Bozzio’s schedule shows no signs of slowing down, and the talented musician is grateful for the opportunities he’s been given.

“The power of music is a very spiritual and amazing thing—I’m 61, and for almost 40 years I’ve been making a living as a musician, without having to get a day job—I consider myself very lucky, the stars have been lined up for me.”

Terry Bozzio with UK
Fri/18, 8pm, $65-$99
Regency Ballroom
1290 Sutter, SF