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Bermuda’s 'father of drums' Clarence 'Tootsie' Bean dies

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Clarence “Tootsie” Bean (File photograph)
Clarence “Tootsie” Bean (File photograph)

Clarence “Tootsie” Bean 1930-2021

A top Bermudian jazz drummer, an international performer who was integral to the island’s music heydays, has died at 90.

Clarence “Tootsie” Bean was revered among Bermuda’s musicians, many of whom he mentored.

His son, Sheldon Bean, also a drummer, said: “Everybody loved Tootsie. He always had a big smile on his face – and Tootsie never missed a beat.”

Mr Bean got trained on the vibraphone as well as drums when he went to New York to study in 1950.

But he was synonymous with drumming, earning a place in Bermuda’s music hall of fame in 2009, followed by the Queen’s Certificate and Badge of Honour last year.

Dale Butler, a former Progressive Labour Party minister and music historian, called him “the father of the drums in Bermuda who used his talents to teach and perform here and abroad”.

Mr Butler added: “He was another giant in our music history who established a sterling reputation beyond question. My condolences are extended to his family.”

Mr Bean’s journey, described in the 2020 memoir Tootsie Never Missed A Beat, took him from tapping out a beat on pots and pans as a child, to performing at the 1993 inauguration of US President Bill Clinton, and taking the stage at Carnegie Hall in New York.

Growing up emulating the Gombeys in the Government Gate neighbourhood in Pembroke, Mr Bean got schooled by the drummer and saxophonist Ernie Leader.

His debut, at 13, was with Mr Leader’s band at a gig in the old North Shore Bandroom. He balanced studies at Central School with shows at the US bases.

“The Americans would send a big bus to pick me up, and they’d throw the drums in with me behind them,” Mr Bean recalled in 2001.

“It wasn’t easy because I missed a lot of child’s play. My mates would say, ’Tootsie, here comes your bus’, and off I’d go.”

His nickname, courtesy of his sister, came from Tootsie Roll sweets.

Mr Bean studied music theory with the Berkeley Institute music teacher Joseph Richards, and took piano lessons with Olivette Morris.

In New York, he studied the drums with jazz drummer Bay Perry, and the vibraphones with Fred Albright, a leading percussion teacher.

Back in Bermuda, Mr Bean took to the stage as a professional drummer in the Lance Hayward Quartet.

With a commanding spot in Bermuda’s nightlife, the group enjoyed a winter residency at the Half Moon Hotel in Montego Bay, Jamaica from 1957 to 1961.

Their music got recorded by the fledgeling Island Records for a live album, Lance Hayward at the Half Moon.

In Bermuda, Mr Bean played with virtually every musician of note, over decades.

In 2001, he listed off the roster of artists for The Royal Gazette

“Freddy Matthews, Al Davis, Winslow Fox, Hubert Smith, Kingsley Smith, Sidney Bean, the Talbots, the Four Deuces, Milt Robinson, Winkie Tatem – I played alongside all those guys.

“In fact, I owe a lot to all of them because they gave me different ideas on how I should do this and not do that. I just sopped it all up and used it.”

He toured the Caribbean in a calypso band with Mr Robinson and Maxwell Smith. Mr Bean’s lifetime of performances ranged from hotels and dance halls to the spring break fixture of College Weeks.

He headed for New York in 1979 and lived there for decades.

His touring worldwide took him alongside musicians of international renown. Venues included Madison Square Garden and the Lincoln Centre.

But one of his daughters, Donna Raynor, said “his dream was always to play at Carnegie Hall”.

Speaking after the publication of her father’s memoir, Ms Raynor added: “When he finally did it, it was the peak of his career.

“If you play at Carnegie Hall, it means you are among the best.”

The jazz legend was highly regarded for his openness to teaching young musicians.

Musician Nathan “Nate” Lucas told the Gazette: “Tootsie always had time for me. He was extremely kind and encouraging and I learnt a lot from him.”

Another artist, Dwight Hart, remembered in 2016: “I would just go over to his house, let myself in and start playing his drums. He never refused me.”

⋅ Clarence Adolphus Bean, a top Bermudian drummer, was born on August 14, 1930. He died on April 16, 2021. Mr Bean was 90.

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Published April 19, 2021 at 7:28 pm (Updated April 20, 2021 at 3:41 am)

Bermuda’s 'father of drums' Clarence 'Tootsie' Bean dies

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