Zyne (left) shares a toast with Todd Rundgren.EXPAND
Zyne (left) shares a toast with Todd Rundgren.
Photo courtesy of Eddie Zyne

Local Drummer Eddie Zyne Reflects on a Life Rubbing Elbows With Rock Legends

Drummer Eddie Zyne’s a South Florida boy who’s played with some of the best in the biz – Hall & Oates, Todd Rundgren, and the Monkees among them. Ironically, his original career choice was the priesthood. He even went so far as to enroll in a seminary. But fate had other ideas. It was 1964, and Beatlemania was sweeping the world. Consequently, when Zyne toured the school where he would receive his training as a priest, he happened to spot a set of drums in the rec room. From that point on, his aspirations immediately shifted.

“During my very first trip home, my mom drove me to the music store so I could buy my first set of drums. After a year and a half, I left as a drummer instead of a priest.”

These days, Zyne and his drum kit are involved with various local ensembles, among them the Livesays and Dreaming in Stereo. Yet ask him to share his musical memories and Zyne eagerly accommodates the request by offering up dozens of photos as well as a host of YouTube clips showing him in action with rock icons. These are mementos of a career well-spent in the upper echelons of the music machine.

We asked Zyne to explain in his own words how these mighty musical contacts came about. Here are a few of his more entertaining anecdotes. 

New Times: How did you get to tour with Hall & Oates?

Eddie Zyne: Coral Gables High became the place I joined my first band. The bass player was Will Lee, who went on to a 33-year run with Paul Shaffer on Late Night With David Letterman. The guitar player was Stephen Dees, who later switched to bass. Stephen and I moved to New Jersey to put a band together, but unfortunately the place we picked to live was devoid of musicians. Fortunately we got word that Daryl Hall and John Oates were looking for a bass player and a drummer. At the time, Hall & Oates were known only for the song “She’s Gone." The interesting thing for me was that their newest album, War Babies, was produced by my favorite artist of all time, Todd Rundgren. Stephen and I rehearsed in our basement day and night, and when we drove to New York City for the audition, we blew them away. Weeks went by and then we got a call to come back to S.I.R. studios and play for them again. What we had was energy, complete knowledge of the songs, and the advantage of having played together as a rhythm section since we were 13.

They told us that they would call us when they made their decision. Then I heard Stephen tell them that they’ve heard us twice and if they didn’t realize by now that we were the best candidates, it should have been obvious and we were not going to wait for the phone to ring. I have to tell you, I was in a little bit of shock, but he was right. So Daryl and John stepped out of the rehearsal room into the hall. They returned in short order, and John put out his hand and said that we are going to have a great tour. That was December 1974.

After that, you started playing with the Monkees. What was that like?

In 1986, I got a call from Chris Apostle. He asked if I was interested in playing drums for the Monkees for their 20th Anniversary Tour. As a kid, I would watch every episode of their television show, so how could I say no? The tour was the idea of David Fishof, a very big sports agent. So I went to meet with David in Manhattan, and I remember the interview being interrupted many times when some of the most famous names in football walked into the office. I found myself mostly eating peanut M&Ms that were in a bowl sitting next to me. After a few weeks, I got a call that said it was down to me and one other drummer. Then I asked about another audition and I was told that there was no need for further auditions and a decision would be made in a couple of days. I immediately went out and bought the largest bag of peanut M&Ms I could find and shipped them to Fishof’s office by overnight mail. I got the gig the next day.

The Monkees tour was better than anyone had hoped. Micky, Peter, and Davy were funny as you would imagine they would be. Even though he didn’t take part, Mike joined us for a historic show at the Greek Theatre in L.A. For his part, Davy really cared about the guys in our band and would often hang with us and take us into the studio to record with him while we were on the road. The crowds were made up of really young fans that had been recently introduced to the Monkees via Nickelodeon, and they were accompanied by their parents who had been fans when they were kids themselves. The thing I remember most is that they made a cheering sound that I had never heard before or since. It was that sound I remember hearing when I watched film of the Beatles in concert. If I hadn’t videotaped the entire tour, I don’t think I would have believed it.

How did you finally get to meet your hero, Todd Rundgren?

In 2012, a year after my 60th birthday, concert promoter Doug Ford sent me a text message asking if I could read music. I thought, no way could this be connected to Todd Rundgren's upcoming show with the Rockford Symphony Orchestra. But that’s exactly what it was for, and once again my college music degree was about to pay off. They emailed me the charts of the arrangements and I sat down behind my drums and studied them intensely. There would be no rehearsal, just a run-through right before the first performance. The orchestra conductor, Steven Larsen, thought I was with Todd, and Todd thought I was with the orchestra. 

Nobody was told I was going to be the drummer until I was on the stage the first night. The drums were set up dead center, directly in front of the conductor. And the rush of that moment when Todd walked out onstage during the first song was indescribable. I had waited for this opportunity for over 40 years and it was happening while I was surrounded by a full symphony orchestra. I was actually able to lay down a solid groove in the middle of all those musicians and even find my way through all those charts — even a piece that was five pages long.

After the final curtain, a group of Todd fans started chanting “Eddie!” You can’t make this stuff up! The icing on the cake was getting to go to the opening of Todd’s wife’s Tiki Iniki restaurant in Hawaii in 2013. And then going to a barbecue the next night at Todd’s house. Sitting in his living room and clinking martini glasses with my hero was a bit unreal.

And what have you been up to lately? 

For me, that could have been the best ending yet, but I’m still playing with the Livesays, Slow Ride, and Dreaming in Stereo. I found that I’ve been pretty fortunate. It might all be just luck, but a lot of it has to do with being prepared, having the support of my wife, Susan, for over 40 years, and believing that anything is possible. I don’t think I saw or predicted a single one of these major musical turns in my life, which is why I live every day with no expectations but rather with the belief that good things are still coming.

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