No one needed to call for a drum roll at Edge Entertainment on Bridge Street in Elkton Saturday evening for the R & B luminary, Bernard “Pretty” Purdie
. A host of talented percussionist from Cecil County Schools, as well as others, took care of that as they laid down some solid grooves of their own and warmed up the crowd for the 65-year-old. By the time the legendary hometown musician who has played with practically all the heavy hitters, including Steely Dan, Aretha Franklin, and James Brown, took the stage, this group of fine young musicians had everyone grooving to the rhythm.
When he took center stage, he flashed his trade mark grin as he started charming the crowd. After a few remarks he began pounding out the Purdie Shuffle, his signature technique. It was great to see the delight on the face of the highly respected musician who has played in giant concerts and performed in recording sessions for the major labels, as he performed for an appreciative hometown audience on the “welcome home tour.”
In a part of the program called Bernard “Up Close and Personal,” he talked about his formative years in Elkton. He had musical talent at an early age and Mr. Leonard Haywood, his music teacher at George Washington Carver School,
took an interest in helping him. Over time, Mr. Haywood, who played in the Clyde Bessick’s Orchestra, started taking the teen with him on gigs. Sometimes when the teacher needed a nap, Bernard joined the orchestra for the second-half of the show. In 1960, he moved to New York and his career really took off after that. As a delightful evening came to a close, “the worlds most recorded drummer” was surrounded by people seeking autographs, a chance for some conversation, and a handshake.
Over the past couple of years Ed Dennis, a writer, has been in touch with the Society as he researched and wrote a book about the performer. That book will be out soon and about one-third of it has to do with his life in Elkton, Bernard said. The Society is excited about this forthcoming biography and we eagerly look forward to its release.
At the show we ran into Rob Churnside, a local folk singer, who has written some great pieces about local personalities. He mentioned that he’s just written a song about Elkton’s famous musician and he showed us the lyrics. We’ll look forward to hearing that tune sometime in the near future.
It was a pleasure to see Bernard Pretty Purdie at this show and we thank Bobby D and Rhythmland Drum Center on Main Street in Elkton for making this coming home show possible.