Sunday, June 5, 2016

Four Years with Mr. Stone

Paul Munier was 20 years old when he began studying with George Lawrence Stone in the early 1950s. Mr. Munier had previously studied drum majoring under E. Leonard Bayrd of the Redmen's Band in his native Wakefield, MA and while pursuing Education degrees at Boston University he sought out Stone's help to learn the art of drumming. Munier, now 87 years young, recounted stories from his more than 200 lessons with George Lawrence Stone in a recent telephone conversation. Excerpts from that phone call have been transcribed and edited for publication here.

Q: What was Stone's teaching studio like?

He had two locations on Hanover street. One was his studio, upstairs, second floor, and the other was a factory where they did the manufacturing. They had a store with a big glass window on the second floor that overlooked the street and in back of that was the storage room. Mr. Stone had a low wooden table with two rubber pads on it and two kitchen chairs in front of it. Fitted in the back of the table was a music stand, and that was it! Everything else was just packing stuff and there was a sink in there, a small white sink. It was, you know, as crude as it could get. It was unbelievable!

Q: How did you hear about George Lawrence Stone?

I had heard of Stone because I had used his books when I studied. I was going to Boston University at the time and I realized he was right on Hanover Street, so I went in there one day and I said "How do you go about getting lessons here?" And the secretary says "Well, he only takes serious students now. Are you interested in becoming a professional drummer?" I said "No, no. I'm perfectly happy being a drum major here, but I'm very much interested in drumming." "Well he really only takes more or less professional caliber students" said the secretary. So I could see I was getting no place with her!

He came out of the back room with a student and the the student took off. And I was standing there talking to her, and he came over. He said "Are you interested in studying?" and I said "I am but I'm not interested in being a professional drummer. I'm drum majoring now and I enjoy that but I'm really interested in drumming. And from what I've seen of your books, you'd be the person to go to to get information." So we talked for a few minutes and he said it was $3.00 per half an hour for lessons. I told him the money doesn't bother me and he said "You're willing to spend your money but you don't want to become a professional drummer?" He must have figured this guy is a little bit off!

He asked how I got interested and I told him. And he knew of the Redmen's band, of course he'd seen them in parades. And I said the drum major taught me four basic rudiments - single stroke roll, long roll, flam, and ruff - and he said "You're interested in learning more? You're willing to pay me to teach you about drumming, and you're not going to become a drummer?" I said "Sounds crazy but that's true!" He says "I'll take ya. Sounds interesting." So that's how I got in with him you know. And I started on half hour lessons and I was going to BU of course, I come in there once a week. And after a couple of years, some weeks I'd take a second half hour lesson. So in all when I finished up, I had 210 half hour lessons with him - four years.

Sometimes we would sit down and wouldn't even pick up a stick. We'd just get talking on some rudiment, or explaining, or working on something and he was unbelievable. I didn't know much about drumming as you know, but I knew that I had met a man that was the tops. Nothing could beat him.

He was the most unassuming man that you could imagine. He didn't come on strong yet he had everyone from Gene Krupa, you've heard of him, and all the rest of them came to him for lessons. Of course they were all famous before they got there really. But in those days those people were self taught and they'd get a few lessons and they were good, you know what I mean, naturally good. But after they became famous, they often took lessons to learn more - the technical side of drumming and everything. So he had symphony orchestra guys, the Boston Symphony drummers would come for him, rock and roll drummers came to him, jazz drummers. He ran a drum corps at one time and he was a drum instructor for a drum and bugle corps from the American Legion I think it was. And he really had a fantastic background. So I stuck with him for the four years. I spent the last three years of my bachelors degree and a year from my masters degree with him and I became a language teacher.

Q: Why was Stone willing to take you on as a student if you didn't want to be a professional drummer?

I don't think it's just because I was willing to pay. He really seemed to enjoy it because when we'd be doing something, I'd ask him questions or something and I remember several times especially towards the end of my four years there, he told me "You sent me back to the books plenty of times to find out, to get the background." He said "It was always good talking it over. You weren't just asking crazy questions, it was a good question and I had to figure out the exact answer." And after I got through with four years with him I still kept in touch with him all the time after I moved to Connecticut and when I went home I'd see him a lot if he wasn't busy at the time. We'd always have a good chat.

Q: What was a typical lesson like?

Well he'd start in, at first he used to have you close and open one of the rudiments but then he'd get right down to whatever he had assigned out of his book. And if something came up and I asked him about it then we'd get off the track. And we'd spend the rest of the half hour discussing that you know. That's why it took me so long - four years - but I enjoyed it! He never shut me down if I said I have a question.

Q: Did you cover other instruments with Stone?

No, rudimental drumming and I did have a drumset. I used to go out and play dances. I had a concert snare naturally from the set that I would use if I was playing with a military band in a concert or something. My main thing, I was still doing drum majoring and eventually I gave up drum majoring, but I'd still use the title because I didn't know what else to call myself! I didn't want to be called a drummer because I'm not a drummer.

Q: What was Stone like as a teacher:

None of them could top Mr. Stone because Stone knew every phase of it. In fact, if you were writing him up, you would have to say that he was the first drum instructor who covered all drumming. Because before that, there was no jazz drumming, you know, set drumming. It was either concert or parade. Then the set drumming came in - jazz came in - and that went into rock n roll or whatever they call it today. He bridged both of those from the time before jazz came in and then when jazz came in and once jazz went into what do they call it now? Rock 'n' roll or something? He covered everything. It was really interesting to see that he was in the era that covered the old style that first introduced jazz, and when they got into this syncopated jazz that we have today. I don't know what they call it, but it's a more advanced type of set drumming you know?

Mr. Stone said to me "Most people, when they come on here, they just want to finish their two year course and make some money on it you know?" So I dragged it out for four years, and he must have been sick of seeing me after four years. He was a really interesting go to and boy we had some great conversations. Sometimes we wouldn't even pick up a stick. You know, we just kept talking on something - the history of how a rudiment fit in with another one or something. And then he wrote articles on how many basic rudiments are there, are there two? or are there four? or are there six, you know what I mean? and then he'd write it up in his column for the international musician!I would read his column and I'd think, oh yeah, we discussed that three months ago. He was unbelievable. I couldn't say enough good about him.

Lee can be contacted any time by email at And for more on George Lawrence Stone, George B. Stone & Son Inc., and the other early 20th century drum makers of Boston, MA, please visit