140 – Pat Torpey: Drummer for Mr. Big, Nashville Drummer Jam Honoree, Fighting Parkinson’s Disease
Pat Torpey was born in Cleveland, Ohio. At age 7, he first played the drums and in high school, Torpey immersed himself in all available music programs, concert, orchestra, marching and stage bands. In 1983, Torpey moved to Los Angeles and became a regular on the American Bandstand and Solid Gold TV shows performing with artists like Ben E. King, Mike + The Mechanics, Melissa Manchester and Bob Geldof. In 1985, Torpey auditioned for the British pop–rock singer John Parr, who was riding high on his #1 hit “St. Elmo’s Fire” and had landed the opening slot for Tina Turner on her Private Dancer tour. When that tour ended he became the drummer for Belinda Carlisle on her first solo tour, opening for Robert Palmer.
In 1987, Pat joined The Knack. Playing around Los Angeles with The Knack was the pathway to Mr. Big. Billy Sheehan and Paul Gilbert were starting a new band and were on the hunt for a drummer. They saw Pat playing with The Knack and were impressed with his energy and style.
Mr. Big secured a recording contract with Atlantic Records but before the band started work on the first CD Torpey was tapped to play drums with Robert Plant on his Now and Zen tour when Plant’s drummer Chris Blackwell was injured.
In 1992, Mr. Big’s international hit song “To Be With You” was no.1 in the U.S. and fifteen other countries and top five in many more. For fourteen years Mr. Big toured the world, headlining as well as opening for Aerosmith, Rush, Bryan Adams and The Scorpions to name a few, garnering a reputation for their world class musicianship and totally ‘live’ performances.
Pat has been noted as a great backing vocalist (with high vocal range) and he often sings some cover songs in the Mr. Big show during his encore. Also he sings some tunes from The Beatles during his drum solo. Because of Mr. Big’s popularity in Japan and Asia, Pat released two solo albums (as a singer) overseas, Odd Man Out and Y2K in 1998 and 1999.
He announced on July 25, 2014 that he had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and would be unable to perform all of his normal drumming duties on the band’s 2014-15 world tour in support of the album …The Stories We Could Tell. “I’ve been dealing with Parkinson’s symptoms for the past couple of years and only recently received a confirmed diagnosis as symptoms worsened,” Torpey said. “I intend to fight the disease with same intensity and tenacity that I drum and live my life by and will continue recording and performing, as always, to the best of my ability.”
Torpey recently acted as a “drum producer” on Mr. Big’s latest album, Defying Gravity, and still plays percussion on tour, though Matt Starr has taken over lead drummer duties
In this episode, Pat talks about:
Touring around the world over the years
The early days of Mr Big
Meeting Mitch Mitchell
Getting his start in L.A.
Mr Big questions from David Parks
Pat being honored at the Nashville Drummer Jam
His diagnosis of Parkinson’s Disease in 2014
Recording and touring with the help of drummer Matt Starr
Pat’s inspiration for his drum solo while singing
This episode is sponsored by Crush Drums