Drummer Joe Porcaro Dies at 90
Joe Porcaro, a veteran jazz drummer and educator whose three sons co-founded Toto, has died at the age of 90.
"The Porcaro family is heartbroken to announce the passing of our beloved patriarch, Joe Porcaro," Steve Porcaro wrote on Facebook. "Surrounded by his wife Eileen and his family, Joe passed peacefully in his sleep on July 6 at 11:37 PM."
Steve also addressed the difficulty in responding directly to all those who would be reaching out to the family. "Please know that we so appreciate your love, thoughts, friendship and can’t wait to celebrate his amazing life with all of you."
Born April 29, 1930 in New Britain, Ct., Joe Porcaro began playing drums at the age of five. By the mid-'60s, he was gigging around nearby Hartford -- in jazz clubs and concert halls, even doing a stint on the road with the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra -- when his childhood friend and fellow percussionist Emil Richards, told him there were better opportunities in Los Angeles.
He and his family made the move in 1966 and, within a few months he was playing with Chet Baker. Porcaro's versatility with various percussion instruments led to a prolific stint as a session musician, often working as part of orchestras contracted for TV shows like Mission Impossible, Hawaii Five-0 and Daktari. He also worked with jazz musicians and vocalists like Sarah Vaughan, Frank Sinatra, Quincy Jones and Stan Getz, he earned plenty of credits on pop and rock albums, including those by the Rolling Stones, the Monkees, Glen Campbell, Boz Scaggs, Joe Cocker and Bonnie Raitt. His snare drum work can be heard on "Bring the Boys Back Home" from Pink Floyd's The Wall.
His sons followed his career path, with Jeff also taking up the drums, Steve on keyboards and Mike on bass. In 1977, having established themselves as first-call session musicians in Los Angeles, they formed Toto with three other studio pros. The Porcaro children often brought their father into the studio to contribute to their records, including "Africa," where he played the bass marimba part and found himself having one of his children criticize his work.
“After 60 seconds or so, Jeff would stop and say, ‘Dad, hold back, you’re rushing,’” Joe recalled. “Can you imagine? He’s telling his father to lay back. He put me through the grind. I had to be right on.”
The night Toto won six trophies at the 1983 Grammys for IV, Joe was part of the ceremony, playing in the orchestra.
Joe outlived two of his sons. Jeff died in 1992 and Mike passed away in 2015.
In addition to his recorded output, Joe also helped found the Percussion Institute of Technology in Hollywood in 1980 and began teaching. Sixteen years later, he left them to form Los Angeles Music Academy, now called the Los Angeles College of Music.
Bassist Lee Sklar uploaded a video tribute to Joe, fighting through tears as he played a clip from 2015 of Porcaro's quartet with Richards on vibraphone. "I have nothing to say," Sklar said upon the song's completion. "It's a beautiful, beautiful, beautiful cat gone, father of a dynastic family."
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