PHOENIX — By the time he moved to Phoenix in the ’80s, Jerome Teasley had played drums for such iconic figures in the history of soul and R&B as Wilson Pickett, Al Green, Ike and Tina Turner and Junior Walker & the All-Stars, appearing on three Walker albums and Green’s first album, Back Up Train. He also played with bebop legend Sonny Stitt.
Bob Corritore recruited Teasley, who died June 16, to drum for a group he and Janiva Magness had just formed, the Mojomatics, when the drummer left Detroit for Phoenix.
“He was just unbelievable,” Corritore said. “For the soul show drumming, fantastic. There’s a whole bunch of videos on YouTube of him and Junior Walker & the All-Stars. He was that guy that provided the perfect power that you always needed. Very powerful. I mean, it took me a little while to get used to his handshake because it was so strong, it would pretty much crush your hand.
"Jerome was very cool and always came to play, always had a fantastic, very positive, ready-to-go, ready-to-sweat animal instinct to his playing. It was always refreshing. You could always feed off of that.”
Teasley had cancer in his lungs and liver. Diagnosed a year and a half ago, he was admitted to St. Joseph’s Hospital in Phoenix two days before his death. He was 67.
Teasley’s daughter, Charlie, said, “There were a lot of things that factored into my dad’s death."
The last time Corritore saw Teasley, he had no idea he’d been ill.
“Apparently, Jerome didn’t want anybody to know about his illness,” Corritore says. “He was getting out and playing. And he was hanging out, too. The last time I saw him was a couple weeks ago at one of our gigs at the Rhythm Room. I didn’t realize he was dealing with all that stuff. It was just good old Jerome. He looked great. He looked very on. I didn’t realize at the time that he was just making sure that everybody felt real connected to him. But we had some good smiles together.”
Charlie said, “My dad was up walking around and playing the drums, living an independent life, three days before he was admitted to the hospital.”
Charlie says her father was “a very optimistic” man who loved eating at Lo-Lo's Chicken & Waffles
“He always looked at the positive side of things,” the daughter he called Cha Cha said. “No matter how negative I was, he was always positive and uplifting. If you ever needed anything, he would help you any way he could. He just wanted everyone to be happy and everything to be OK. And he was really funny.”
Teasley drummed for a number of legendary artists through the years, but he's best remembered for his long association with the All-Stars. Although he signed on after Shotgun, he appears on 1969’s Home Cookin' album, which included three Top 40 entries on the Billboard Hot 100: Come See About Me, Hip City Pt. 2 and What Does It Take (To Win Your Love).
There are reviews online that mention Teasley playing drums for Walker gigs as recently as 1994, a year before the All-Star's death. And he never stopped playing in Phoenix.
"I mean, the guy was unbelievable," Corritore said. "He had a really pushy uptown shuffle so he could relate really well to the blues. But he could also, if we were doing a funky number or something that was an R&B groove, you weren’t gonna find anybody any better than that.”
Watching Teasley play was a special treat for Charlie.
“It was really magical and inspiring,” she said. “Whatever rough patch my dad came across in the music industry, whether he had jobs or he didn’t, he never gave up on his passion. And he always just made it happen.”
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