Famous drummer shares tales of Mel Tormé, Hollywood Bowl before his Vancouver performance


Donny Osborne, who lives in Oregon, grateful for opportunity to perform again

Donny Osborne has played his drums in the greatest settings in the world.

“When you walk on the stage at the Hollywood Bowl, it’s the biggest rush you could possibly feel,” Osborne said.

On Monday night, Osborne will return to a much smaller venue, and for a worthy cause.

Drummer Donny Osborne, who toured with Mel Tormé for more than 20 years, and Jamie Goetz, a Frank Sinatra tribute performer, will play again at Goldies BBQ in Vancouver at 6 p.m. Monday as part of a week-long fundraiser for the families of fallen law enforcement officers. Photo by Paul Valencia
Drummer Donny Osborne, who toured with Mel Tormé for more than 20 years, and Jamie Goetz, a Frank Sinatra tribute performer, will play again at Goldies BBQ in Vancouver at 6 p.m. Monday as part of a week-long fundraiser for the families of fallen law enforcement officers. Photo by Paul Valencia

Osborne, who performed with Mel Tormé for 25 years, who was mentored earlier in his career by Buddy Rich, will be at Goldies BBQ in Vancouver. Osborne is going to be on the drums for Jamie Goetz, who will be singing many of Frank Sinatra’s classics. 

They are set to play from 6 to 8 p.m. Monday, kicking off another week of music at Goldies in a fundraiser for the families of two local law enforcement officers who recently lost their lives.

Osborn, who lives in Lake Oswego, said he wanted to do something nice for people who have endured tragedies. He also said he has always had appreciation for first responders.

“I don’t know why these guys become policemen,” he said, almost in awe. “You don’t know if you’re going to come home. So much nonsense going on in our world right now. These guys put their lives on the line.”

The first part of the fundraiser was all day Saturday at Goldies (15640 NE Fourth Plain Blvd., in Vancouver), with several musical acts.

This week, it’s one act a night, Monday through Friday, then two acts on Saturday. (The lineup is listed below.)

The Veterans and First Responders Board of Southwest Washington is putting on the fundraiser for the families of Sgt. Jeremy Brown of the Clark County Sheriff’s Office and officer Donald Sahota of the Vancouver Police Department. Retired Judge Darvin Zimmerman, who founded the board, is the master of ceremonies for the performances.

Osborne and Goetz also played Saturday night. 

For Osborne, any opportunity to perform is special, especially after the last couple of years.

“I’m so happy to be back doing anything,” Osborne said Saturday evening just before playing in front of a large gathering at Goldies. “Before the virus, we were pretty busy. I hadn’t sat behind a set of drums (to perform) in over two years.”

He jokingly wondered if he could still do it.

“Practicing at home, it ain’t the same,” he said. “You’ve got to have that feel.”

Osborne has had that feeling since he taught himself the drums beginning at the age of 4. Growing up in Illinois, the Chicago papers called him a drum wizard. By the time he was 13, he was touring the U.S. with Buddy Rich and his band.

When Osborne was in college, Mel Tormé heard his style and asked Osborne to work with him.

“In those days, there was no contract,” Osborne said. “You were just hired. No fanfare at all.”

The partnership lasted more than 20 years and a friendship that continued until Tormé’s death in 1999.

“He was a wonderful guy, a great guy,” Osborne said. “When I started with him, his career was in trouble. The rock incursion hurt a lot of jazz people. So we weren’t staying in hotels. It was motels. I was too young to notice.”

Soon enough, though, Tormé was in high demand again.

“It was the Hollywood Bowl once a year for 20 years. It was Carnegie Hall once a year for 20 years,” Osborne said. “He took off.”

Which meant Osborne took off, too.

“I was just following him around,” Osborne said. “Where he went, I went.”

That included the White House. Osborne joked that the White House had nothing on Hollywood Bowl, and the acoustics at the White House were not up to par. Still, it was the White House, and it is a memory he cherishes.

Wherever he is, as long as he is behind a set of drums, Osborne is happy. 

“It’s a language. It’s your soul,” he said. “I like a lot of different kinds of music. I grew up playing jazz. I think I’ve done everything, all you can do with jazz. Because I was with Mel, I was able to play with some of the greatest musicians in the world. And you can’t buy that. But I’m also a Van Halen fan. I met Alex and Eddie (Van Halen). What you see is what you get, sweet people.

“As a musician, you should know what’s going on in every genre, or you’ll limit yourself.”

Osborne also does not limit himself when it comes to where he plays. Performing and sharing his love for music can happen anywhere. Even at a barbecue restaurant in Vancouver.

He said he lives in a nice place in Oregon, but after two years of pretty much being stuck there, he is a bit sick of it.

“Get me out of this royal doghouse. Let me go out and do what I used to do,” Osborne said. “It’s the only thing I’m good at, man.”

Which made Saturday so special, and, he expects, Monday to be special, too, with his friend Jamie Goetz. The two “discovered” each other years ago and enjoy working together.

Osborne said Goetz is a great guy and is one of the best Frank Sinatra tribute artists he has ever heard.

The lineup of musicians this week at Goldies: All performances are scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. Monday through Friday. There are two shows on Saturday.

Monday: Jamie Goetz as Frank Sinatra, with special guest Donny Osborne on drums.

Tuesday: Tena Wildfang, a Patsy Cline tribute artist who has played at the Patsy Cline Museum.

Wednesday: Jazz guitarist/vocalist Tom Scanlan, with Mike Mikaele on piano.

Thursday: Saved by Grace/Gospel Trio, and King’s Way Christian Best Talent.

Friday: Classical guitarist Ernesto Quilban.

Saturday: 5-7 p.m.: True Vibez. 7-9 p.m.: Ricky Lee Jackson and Shawna Quade with their sounds of Nashville.

Note: Guests can order food (some of the proceeds are going to the fundraiser) and they can make donations at Goldies. For those who cannot attend, tax deductible donations can be made to “Veterans and First Responders Board of SW WA” at P.O. Box 61628, Vancouver, Wash, 98666.

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Andrew J Gregg
Andrew J Gregg
3 months ago

Greetings,

Around 1972, Don Osborne, then a member of Mt. Hood Community College’s well-known jazz ensemble, played a Saturday afternoon concert at Vancouver’s venerable American Music Company.

American Music was my first “real job,” and, as a high school student, the chance to see “The World’s Greatest Drummer,” Buddy Rich’s protege represented an exciting opportunity.

I vividly recall helping Mr. Osborne load in his equipment and remember that his Slingerland drum set was identical to the one Buddy Rich played.

Mr. Hood Community College’s jazz ensemble, under the direction of Vancouver’s Hal Malcom, my first drum teacher, put on a dynamic show to which American Music’s owner, Ken Golden, had invited band students from across Clark County.

Clearly a talented musician, Don Osborne patiently answered questions from aspiring young drummers following the performance, and subsequently embarked on a long professional career.

It is wonderful to read that Don Osborne remains active on the local music scene fifty years after he rocked the house at 1005 Main Street in downtown Vancouver.

With every best wish,

Andrew Gregg.