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COLUMN: 2020 hit music industry hard

John Martin, right, with Eric Clapton Band drummer Jamie Oldaker at Merle Fest.
Courtesy John Martin

As many of you know, we lost a lot of our musical heroes in 2020: Neal Peart, Kenny Rogers, Bill Withers, John Prine, Little Richard, Eddie Van Halen, Charlie Pride and Leslie West — just to name a few.  

However, there are two that hit me harder than others because of my personal connection.  

In 2020, we also lost Jamie Oldaker of The Eric Clapton Band and Alto Reed of Bob Seger and The Silver Bullet Band. 

I wrote about my relationship with Jamie Oldaker for the Richmond Observer a while back that many of you enjoyed. Jamie was best known for his very long relationship with Clapton. He was the drummer in The Eric Clapton Band, toured the world with Clapton and was on several of his albums — and a good friend of mine for many years.  

Jamie called me back in 2006 and informed me he was going to be in North Carolina for an outdoor concert with Reed and The Rock and Roll All-Stars, and proceeded to tell me there would be an opener and there would be two drum sets on stage and asked if I would like to sit in on a few with them.

The opener was The Fabulous Thunderbirds and, along with Reed, there would be a list of rock stars participating. After the opener performed a great set, we all hit the stage and played a high-energy set of the music of Eric Clapton and Bob Seger. 

Of all of the great players on stage that night, the one who stands out on that list to me was George Terry. George also toured with Clapton for many years and this was just a who’s who of rock stars on that stage.  

The concert was held at Eagles Nest in Banner Elk. Along with it being a beautiful high-end residential development, it also has a natural amphitheater literally built on the side of a mountain slope. Looking off the back of the stage was a beautiful view as you could see for miles -but it was a long way down. There were several fire pits and rock seating perfectly arranged all around, just a wonderful place for a concert. 

I met everyone there the day of the show for sound check and Reed was the first one to greet me — aside from Jamie, of course. He came up to me, we shook hands and he said, “Great to meet you, Jamie has told me a lot about you, glad to have you join us.”


My immediate thought was: “I wonder what Jamie told him?”  

It didn’t matter, I was in and that is all that mattered to me. It was a night to remember for sure and Reed was so respectful to me and accommodating and just a pleasure to be around. I must say, he is one hell of a band leader. He knew his stuff, so to speak. That night I received the full “rock star” treatment as it was a most memorable night with that bunch.  

We lost Reed to colon cancer on Dec. 30, 2020.  

He was born in Detroit, Michigan, on May 16, 1948. His name was Tommy Cartmell before taking the name Alto Reed. Being a sax player, it seemed to fit him well.  

Here is something Bob Seger said about him after his death: “When Alto hit the first note on sax the crowd roared every time,” and that was a great way to honor his life and talent. He toured with Seger for 42 years and is best known for his contribution on “Turn the Page.” 

He will be missed by many, including me.    

John Martin, of Hamlet, is a drummer/percussionist for Idlewild South, an Allman Brothers tribute band, and for guitarist Jonathan Robinson.

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