It was at the Alex Musical Instruments store where Sam was hired to play the most unbelievable show of his career  -  The PIL (Public Image Ltd.) Ritz Riot Show at 1AM on May 15th, 1981.  A 64-year old drummer playing with Johnny Rotten! 

The Ritz was a 1980s East Village rock club that was one of the first clubs to incorporate video screens into the club experience. PIL was hired on a day’s notice to replace Bow Wow Wow, who backed out of the gig.  Keith Levene (formerly of The Clash) and PIL’s agent met Sam at Alex and hired him for the gig that night.   When they left, Sam sent a clerk to find a record of PIL so he could listen to it over and over to prepare for the gig; he had never heard of PIL or their music!

PIL was more interested in creating a “video performance piece” instead of a rock n’ roll gig, but the audience came expecting a concert.  The musicians planned to just play behind the screen while video of them was playing on the screen.  The audience didn’t go for that, and started throwing glass bottles of beer at them.  Taunted by Levene, the frustrated audience rioted, throwing garbage cans and tearing down the screen!.

The musicians ran from the stage to escape the melee, which garnered national attention.  Sam got out of there unharmed because a student of his who was there to see him play was a detective who was carrying two guns that night.  He grabbed Sam and a lady hit by a thrown 2x4 and held up one of his guns and yelled “Let us through!”

Wearing a tri-cornered hat and a white George Washington wig, Sam was hired by New York City’s Police Department to play a drum roll at the inauguration ceremony of a newly-trained horse graduating to the Mounted Unit. 

He once received a $100-bill-tip from Frank Sinatra while playing the drums.  Frank said “Take it, Sam, it’s good” (ie. not counterfeit).

He played for Judy Garland when she was only 14;  years later when she played her last show at The Palace Theatre in 1967, Sam taught her 12-year-old son Joey to play the drums in 4 weeks so Joey could play a drum solo in front of hundreds of people with her 60-piece orchestra.



Sam was listed in the 1958 Guinness Book of World Records for the Longest Drum Solo  -  67 hours, 44 minutes and 52 seconds.

 “It was a promo stunt for a Broadway show called "Safari" about a troop of American actors entertaining Africans.  I was an act in the show and I was dressed in a leopard skin like Tarzan.

“I was with my drum in the store window of Henry Adler’s Drum Shop in the heart of Times Square.  I was playing for 3 days non-stop.  The stunt attracted a lot of attention.  There were mobs of people in the street disturbing the traffic  -  even at 4AM!   Prostitutes were lifting their dresses up - and they were stark naked underneath!  It was crazy!

“Other drummers came by and joined me to drum with their pads.  They helped me to keep going.   For me to use the bathroom, they set up a row of drums from the store window to the bathroom, so I could keep going - they even put a drum in the bathroom!

“Every morning Bob & Ray (radio show announcers) called me to ask if was OK.  People were in the gutters dancing, and traffic couldn't move.  The police arrested me  Adler, and the show promoter and that’s when I had to stop.  In the end, the police decided to let us go.  (“Safari” ended up opening on a Monday,

and closing on Tuesday.”)

Sam’s positive attitude, gregariousness, outrageousness, willingness to always learn something new and his unique philosophy on life has led him into many interesting situations...


The Finns are crazy about jazz.  Sam was invited to teach and lead seminars at two music academies in Helsinki in 1991. 

This clip showcases Sam’s interactive teaching methods.


Throughout his long career, Sam always strived to bring drummers together to network and share ideas.  He wrote his own drum magazine, he held weekly drum seminars for years and knew everyone in the business.  Drummer Jimmy Chapin shares this story:



In 2005 Sam wrote the book “Keep Swinging!  Approach Your Senior Years Without Skipping A Beat”  sharing his practical wisdom and life philosophy.  The Senate Subcommittee on Aging was so impressed that they flew him to Washington D.C. in 2002 to testify about his secrets to staying young (in the hopes that they could learn how to motivate other seniors to stay healthy and cut Social Security costs).  They even filmed him performing some of his exercise routines for a senior exercise video.

Sam as Goldilocks