OBIT: Lance Dickerson

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Steve Edmonson

Nov 21, 2003, 2:47:19 PM11/21/03
I've had so many requests for Lance's obit that I thought I would just send a copy to the list.

The Marin Independent Journal

November 20, 2003


Lance Dickerson played the drums instead of pounding them, performing as a stylist noted for a gentle, swinging percussion approach that blended perfectly with the roots musicians that he loved to work with.

There were too many performances to count in a career that spanned four decades, including stellar work in hit bands such as Commander Cody and his Lost Planet Airmen, where he appeared on eight albums and played in venues ranging from beer halls to stadiums across the globe.

Mr. Dickerson's work included stints with Charlie Musselwhite, David Bromberg, Mitch Woods, and Maria Muldaur, among many others, but he encountered the largest crowds playing with Commander Cody during the band's spirited "Lost in the Ozone," heyday in the early 1970's.

"He had a beautiful swing touch," said George "Commander Cody" Frayne, a former Stinson Beach resident now based ion Saratoga Springs, N.Y. "He had one of the lightest touches, he really had that swing drum thing down."

"When we were at our peak, he was one of the best drummers in the world. Lance was the swingingest drummer of the last part of the twentieth century-and a very close friend, all our hearts are broken."

"Buffalo" Bruce Barlow of Muir Beach, who played bass for Commander Cody, was Mr. Dickerson's roommate during the band's glory days and remembers many good times, including the weekend when the two and Peter Rowan worked as backups for John Lee Hooker at the old Mandrake's in Berkeley.

"Lance was a great intuitive musician," Barlow said. "He had more chops than a hog farm.He had a wealth of musical styles and riffs." Barlow added. "Lance could swing like a banshee."

Colleagues said Mr. Dickerson tired of long tours on the road, quitting a latter day version of Commander Cody in 1994 to remain home in Marin.

He was born in Michigan, the son of drummer, Robert Dickerson, who played with swing and big bands including Billy Butterfield, Jimmy Dorsey and Glen Gray.

"That's where Lance inherited a lot of his talent," said Kelly Slattery, Mr. Dickerson's partner for 20 years. Although Mr. Dickerson worked for the past several years at City Hall Records in San Rafael, "his main thing was life was as a musician," Slattery said. "He played with so many people."

Mr. Dickerson played on more than two dozen albums or CDs with various bands. Last year, he played drums and washboard and sang on "Uncorked," the latest album by Mill Valley's Christmas Jug Band, a group with which he was associated for six or seven years.

Tim Eschilman, of Petaluma, "straw boss" of the Christmas Jug Band, said Mr. Dickerson was one of a kind.

"Most drumming today is about being loud, but Lance had this natural, softer style that works better for roots and rhythm and blues kind of stuff," Eschilman said. He took a classic blues approach. He was an old-school guy."

In addition to his partner, he is survived by two children from previous marriages, -- a son, Tyler Bond, of Corte Madera, and a daughter, Melissa Reiner of San Francisco.

His ashes will be scattered at locations that resonated in his life - including Torch Lake in Michigan, where he had fond memories of fishing with his father.

Nels Johnson

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