Bruce Klauber has two gifts: He can keep time, and he can write.
Growing up in Overbrook Park, he decided at age 8 he wanted to become a drummer, maybe because his parents were taking him to that era's nightclubs, including the Latin Casino (1309 Walnut) and Lillian Reis' Celebrity Room (254 S. Juniper). "My father said, 'The boy likes the lights,' " says Klauber.
All his parents asked was that he have something to fall back on. That was writing.
Throughout his life, the drumming and the writing were in symbiotic rhythm. Now 66, he still rides those two ponies, with PR, managing and booking talent thrown in.
"I wanted to figure out a way where I could combine my love for jazz and show business with the more 'respectful' profession of writing," he says. The answer? He would write about show biz, music, and jazz.
"Writing was always a means to an end," says the drummer, who lives in a Center City high-rise. The end he achieved was hobnobbing with everyone from his drum hero, Buddy Rich, to Dick Clark and Frank Sinatra.
Over the decades his articles have appeared in many magazines, print and online — Icon, Modern Drummer, Jazz Times, Broad Street Review, Backstage — and he recently published a collection of his work called Reminiscing in Tempo: Farewells and Recollections of Showbiz, Jazz, and Drums (Centerstream Publishing, $24.99).
The drummer's writing goal was to marry insights about music with the business of music, although there wasn't much of that in his first byline — a 1973 interview with Moe Howard of the Three Stooges for the Temple News. (He's a 1975 Temple alum.)
His book opens with a section on "Philly Cats," starting with Clark, whose "onstage persona was exactly the way Clark was in real life," Klauber says — and I second that emotion.
Klauber writes about pianist Peter Nero, who headed the Philly Pops until he was unceremoniously deposed, plus South Philly singer Al Martino, pianist "Father" John D'Amico, and saxophonist Charlie Ventura, among others. "When I first heard Charlie Ventura, this guy does something to me. I was like 12, and I know someday I am going to play drums with the guy," Klauber says. And he did — at age 16 at the Saxony East (1227 Walnut).
Also drawing Klauber's applause are Jerry Blavat and Bobby Rydell.
"Before I was into jazz, I listened to Jerry on WCAM in Camden," says Klauber. "This guy mesmerized me." The drummer got to meet the Geator and says, "He was always there when I had a question or needed a tape. His book [You Only Rock Once: My Life in Music] is the finest chronicle of Philadelphia show business that was ever written."
Rydell was "saddled with that teen idol thing, but I consider Bobby to be one of the most underrated performers in show biz, period," the drummer says.
Klauber leveraged his early clips into interviews with greats including Mel Torme, Tony Bennett, Lou Rawls, Harry Connick Jr., Natalie Cole, Sinatra, and Rich, with whom he became fast friends.
Journalists aren't supposed to use their access to further their personal agendas, but Klauber gets a pass because he is first and foremost a musician. His base was always Philly, although he regularly haunted Atlantic City. For a time, a long-running romance had the drummer in Naples, Fla., but that flame burned out and Klauber never married. "Woody Allen said marriage is the death of hope," he says with a laugh.