Pat Torpey, Mr. Big Drummer, Dies
Pat Torpey, who drummed with Mr. Big from 1988-2002, and from 2009-14, passed away yesterday. He was 64.
We received a press release that said that the cause of death was complications from Parkinson's disease, with which he was diagnosed in 2014. After that, he remained with the band. serving as their "drum producer" on last year's Defying Gravity and contributing background vocals and percussion on tour.
Born in Cleveland on Dec. 14, 1953, Torpey began playing drums when he was seven years old and saw a polka band at a picnic. He moved out to Los Angeles in 1983, where he was able to network himself and quickly wound up drumming behind singers on American Bandstand and Solid Gold. From there, he spent some time on tour with Tina Turner and Belinda Carlisle and joined the Knack.
That caught the attention of Paul Gilbert and Billy Sheehan, who were looking to form a new group with singer Eric Martin. But before they could record their debut, Torpey was back out on the road, this time with Robert Plant after Chris Blackwell, Plant's regular drummer, broke his arm.
Mr. Big was released in 1989, but their second, 1991's Lean Into It, was their breakthrough, reaching No. 15 on the Billboard 200 Albums chart and going platinum on the strength of the No. 1 single "To Be With You." But their success didn't last -- except in Japan, where they've had a huge following -- and Gilbert was replaced by Richie Kotzen in 1997. They broke up after touring behind 2001's Actual Size.
The original lineup reunited in 2009, resulting in 2011's What If... and 2014's The Stories We Could Tell, which came out after Torpey's diagnosis had been made public. Torpey was replaced by Matt Starr, but he worked with the band in the studio for last year's Defying Gravity and was credited as the "drum producer." Torpey remained with the band on tour, contributing background vocals and percussion, and getting behind the kit for "Just Take My Heart."
"This record, Pat was running out of the control room into the drum room about every five or 10 minutes to talk with Matt about some idea that he had for how the thing would be treated," Sheehan told us. "So as much as it’s Matt playing on the record, it’s all completely and wholly directed by Pat. Some of that direction includes Pat saying to Matt, 'Do your thing here, don’t worry about how you think I might want to do it.' Which is good too. It really gave Matt a chance to do his thing, but still do a lot of things in the Pat Torpey style. Pat’s got a lot of little moves that he does that are really finessed. When other drummers try to do his stuff, they’re always frustrated. I’ve gotten a lot of emails from guys that were singing Pat’s praises, because they had such a hard time figuring out this little stick pattern or the high hat thing that Pat did in the middle of a regular old rock beat."
"It’s a great back and forth that they have and I thought Matt just did a stellar job on the drumming on the record in general," he continued. "But the fact that he really took the Pat Torpey stylings and advice and did it selflessly and without ego and was just there to help a brother drummer, was really touching and really a great experience."