John Dittrich Interview
You don't always hear about Syracuse musicians who go on to greater fame
and fortune. This time you will.
Former Eastwood resident John Dittrich now plays drums for R.C.A /B.M.G.
recording artists "Restless Heart."
How did John Dittrich do it? That's what we wanted to know.
Q. John, where did you live in Syracuse?
A.Teall Ave. Then my family moved to Batavia, N.Y. Then we moved back to
Q. What did your parents do that caused you to move around a lot?
A. My father was a doctor. The reason for the move to Syracuse was that he
relocated in Syracuse at the VA Hospital. Then my mom got a job in Batavia.
She was a school teacher. She taught at Eastwood Jr. High School. Then she
got a job in Batavia. So, we moved to Batavia which also had a VA Hospital.
Then, after graduation we went back to Syracuse, because both my parents got
jobs in Syracuse again.
Q. Give us some names of bands you played in here in
A. O.K. Back
in the early 70's while I was attending O.C.C. there was a group of music students
from O.C.C. that got a band together called "Madhatter." We played
Uncle Sam's, the Yellow Balloon, which is now the Lost Horizon, the Brookside.
The Brookside was a hot place in the 60's, and I was living on Teall Ave. from
'64 to '66. Then we moved to Batavia from '67 to '70. The Brookside was where
all the hot local bands played then. Then it closed for a while, and re-opened
again in the early 70's. We played there along with a bunch of other local
bands. I was also in a brass group in 1970 called "Channel One." It
was just a weekend thing we did around town. I don't think there's any big
local stars that came out of that band. I guess it's just enough to mention
it. Somebody might remember it.
Q. Did you always play drums?
A. Yes, although I did have some experience playing trumpet and violin. I never
really enjoyed it the way I enjoyed playing a snare drum or drum set.
So, that's what I settled on. That's what I really wanted to do.
Q. How did you settle into country?
A. It was quite by accident. I moved back to Syracuse. It was my summer between
high school and college. I needed a job and I wanted to play. So, I went
down to the (musicians) Union, and I just ran into some guy who said somebody
was looking for a drummer. I sat in with the band, and as luck would have
it, the drummer that they had was in the process of leaving, and they liked
the way I played. They said, "Do you wanna job?" I said, "Yeah,
but I don't know anything about country music." They said, "You
play pretty well. You can learn."
Q. I never thought there was a big country scene in
A. Well, you know, I didn't either. I don't know how big it was, but there
were a lot of places in the outlying areas of Syracuse. Your little taverns,
like out in Elbridge. There was a place called Sables. Fuocos in Syracuse,
LaCantaina. When I was with the "Memphis Beat," they never had any
problems working three n
ights a week. I don't know how big it was, because
in those days I was mostly into jazz, big-band, and rock 'n roll.
Q. So, how did you make your way from Syracuse to Nashville?
A. I really had never considered Nashville. Of course, you have to understand
I was 19, 20 years old. I was going to be Buddy Rich and I was going to have
my own Big Band. That's what I really wanted to do. After I got out of school,
the realities of the world and the music business, and how things work, set
in. After you go out and start working in the world for a little while, you
start to figure out that some of the things you think you want to do are not
really that practical. There are very few Big Band jobs. The greatest opportunity
for me to play and earn a living was in popular music, country, rock show type
bands, top 40 that type of thing. And, I did that for about five years on the
road, playing Holiday Inns, places like that.
Q. How did you get into "Restless Heart?"
A. The bass player in the first band that I got into in Nashville was Paul
Gregg who was Restless Heart's bass player. So I have to say at this point,
never, ever, underestimate anybody that you are working with in a local
situation, because everybody is connected to somebody else. If a break
happens, you never know where it's gonna come from.
Q. In your official record co. bio. it states clearly
that you're from Syracuse. Did anyone try to convince you to say Nashville instead, because Syracuse
might be regarded as a hick town?
A. No, not at all. I've traveled all over the United States and I've been
everywhere just about three times, and believe me, Syracuse is not a hick
town. I really like Syracuse. Syracuse is not too big, and it's not too
small. When I was growing up there and playing music, there was a lot of places
to play. There was really a great musical community there. Everybody knew
each other and there was a lot of good friendly, healthy, competition. We all
learned from each other. I don't know what the situation is now. It was great
to be coming up at that time, because there weren't discos. Disco hadn't hit.
DJ's weren't spinning records in place. Most everybody had 'live' entertainment.
Q. Speaking of 'live' entertainment, do you mind the road work you have to
A. We do about 150 shows a year which keeps us on the road for about 220
days a year. Well, I mean, it's my life, and what I'm used to. I think you
have to have a very, very understanding family in order to really be successful
Q. What's going on with country music these days anyway — why
do the songs and the appearances of the musicians have a rock feel and look?
A. The country music format to me is very similar I think to what Top 40
was in the 60's and early 70's. You've got a lot of different styles of music
that are lumped together under the heading of country, existing in the same
format. You've got everything from traditional country being played on
country radio to groups like Restless Heart that I guess would be considered
more pop and rock than anything else. And then, you've got people like Garth
Brooks. What we like to say is you have your hat acts, and you have your hair
acts. And, some of the hats have the hair, too.
Q. How important is touring for a country act?
A. The country market is radically different from the pop side of things.
See, in pop, they don't expect everybody to tour all year. The big rock “n” roll
bands might do one 60 or 90 day tour, a year. They have everything spread out,
and they go from one side of the country to another. In country, and this has
a lot to do with what country artists can make on record sales, country only
has about 11 percent of the market, in record sales. So, you have a much
smaller percentage of people who are buying the product. So, you don't have
the luxury of doing one, three or a four month tour, a year. Country artists
and groups work a lot more closely with radio stations and the retailers. We
stay in touch with these people. So, it's a whole different scene from rock “n” roll.
Official Website: RestlessHeartBand.com
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