A tribute to and scrapbook of Joe Amato, world-class drummer and respected teacher header image 2

A Musical History of Joe Amato (as told to, and documented by Jim Mattila in 1975.)

June 16th, 2008 by Jim Mattila · 7 Comments

Joe Amato STUDIED with the following teachers.

Rudy Schultz: snare drummer with John Phillip Sousa’sBand, the American Symphony, and instructor of field music at West Point.

George Hamilton Greene: world famous xylophonist.

Otto Kristufek: Tympanist with the Chicago Civic Opera, the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, and the American Opera Company.

Portland Symphony

Percussion Section 1919-1925

Tympanist 1925-1957

Played under the following conductor’s
Carl Denton, James Sample, David Rose, Frank Black, Boris Sirpo, Igor Stravinsky, Werner Janssen, Theodore Bloomfield, J. Gershkovitch, W. Vanhoogstraten, Carmen Dragon, O. Klemperer, Paul Lemay, Eugene Fuerst, Jacque Singer, Charles Lautrup.

Performed with the following Guest Artists (Portland Symphony)

Singers: Jan Peerce, Jane Powell, Jan Padereskwi, Marian Anderson, Rose Colombi.

Arthur Rubenstein, Vlhadimer Horowitz,
Elena Gerhardt, Ignas Friedman, Alex
Templeton, Harold Bauer, Hans Kindler,
Efrem Kindler, Mishel Piastro, Yehdudi
Menuhim, Joseph Szijati, Spaulding, Mieha
Elman, Osipp Gabrilowitsch, Rudolf Serkin,
Kochanski, Lewis Persinger, Sophia
Braslore, Charles Thomas.


Ballet Russe, Portland Concert Band, Fox Theatre Orchestra, People Theatre Orchestra, De Monte Carlo, Stadium Phil. Orchestra, Harry
Linden’s All-star Orchestra. Ice Capades.

Stage Shows:
R.K.O Theatre, Capital Theatre, Liberty

Vaudeville Acts & Silent Movies:
Rivoli Theatre, Orpheum Theatre

Dance Bands:
Monte Brooks, Jackie Sounders,
Archie Loveland, Charles Lantrups
Staff musician for radio station KOIN and
KGW for the famous “Hoot Owl Orchestra
featuring Mel Blanc.

Broadway Shows:
Hello Dolly, My Fair Lady, Oklahoma,
Sound of Music.


Jack Benny (5 weeks), Bob Hope, Mickey Roonie, George Burns and Gracie Allen, Jimmie Durante, Sammy Davis Jr. Buddy “Little Traps”
Rich, Diana Shore, Ben Blue, Sophia Tucker, and Edger Bergman.

Joe DIRECTED the following:

The Portland Drum and Bugle Corp.
Joe Amato Orchestra (for the Portland Ice Arena, and the Portland Dog Races.)

Joe was also suppose to be in the original picture of the N.A.R.D. teachers in Chicago. He was ask to be in the picture, and was to demonstrate the Flam, which he could put into a “roll”. When the “historic” picture was taken, Joe was across town working with a Drum a Bugle Corp. and missed being in the picture. I still have a copy of his original NARD certificate, and he is one of the first 25 members in the organization.

Joe was born in 1902, which means he became a member of the Portland Symphony at age 17.

Joe was truly unique. He developed his technical facilities to a level of near perfection.

He was fascinated with Swiss Snare Drumming, and loved working on “crushing” his 5 stroke rolls, and mastering his Swiss Triplets.

I was lucky enough to hear many times his ability to produce a flam “roll”, which I still haven’t heard anyone else master.

He was a very demanding teacher, who had no time for you, if you didn’t practice, but on the other hand would spend hours with you if you had.

I took lessons from him for 7 years, and during that time he charged me $5.00 an hour.
Many, many times on Saturday I would stay for 3 or 4 hours, and he never charged me for the extra time.

The other remarkable skills he had were on Tympani (what a beautiful tone he could get out of the drums), and mallets (unbelievable chops).

When I first studied with him he had recently retired from the Portland Symphony, and had moved to a home off of Niagra Street in Astoria.

He would “gig” on Friday night at the Astoria Legion, and on Saturday at the Elks Club, also in Astoria. He played with his dear friend Lank Koskela (trumpet). The two of them had other musicians in their band, who came and went, but those two were the regulars for years.

When I was 11 or 12 years old my folks would drop me off at the Elks club, and Joe would let me sit in a very small chair next to him on the band stand, so I could listen to him play with other musicians. I loved that, and hated when my parents would come pick me up after the first set and make me go home to bed. Joe always had a cigar stashed somewhere in the Elk Club for him to smoke during the break. Sometimes they were hidden behind picture frames, or in the kitchen, or in the back room where the gambling took place.

I was also lucky enough to know both of Joe’s wives. His first wife fed me lunch many times when I studied with Joe on Saturday. After she passed away, Joe was in mourning, and
didn’t teach for quite a few months. Eventually lessons resumed and he met a retired librarian from Seaside named Peggy. They were later
married. Peggy owned a home in Seaside, on
the prom, and a place in Gearhardt, so they would spent Monday-Thursday in Seaside, and Saturday and Sunday in Astoria at Joe’s home so Joe could play his gigs, teach his students, and work in his garden.
I also have very fond memories of Joe’s dog. It was a Welsh Corgy. He was completely deaf, and would sometime sit by the bass drum, while we practiced the drum set. He also had his “favorite” chair in the basement that he wouldn’t let anyone sit in. If you did, he would jump up on the chair and nuzzle behind your back and squeeze in and literally push you out of the chair.

Joe and I both enjoyed digging and eating clams, and I have very fond memories of eating fried razor clams at his home in Seaside, and washing them down with one of his homemade wines (Dandelion, Blackberry were my favorites).
He also made a mean spaghetti sauce with his own picked and dried mushroom. He made a mean home-made horseradish sauce too.

I attended graduate school in music at Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana. I studied with George Gaber, the professor of percussion.
He told me he had played with Joe in Portland when he was traveling with the Ballet Rouge Orchestra. George played tympani, and Joe was hired on to read the percussion parts.
George told me that Joe was unbelievably good.
He said “he not only played the parts flawlessly, on the first reading, but he did it while smiling and smoking a cigar at the same time.” George said he begged him to play tympani with the Cleveland Orchestra, when an opening came up, but Joe didn’t want to leave Oregon, and so declined the job.

Pierce, thank you so much for starting this website. It was long overdue, and a great tribute to a man who is so deserving.

If I can be of any help to you in this undertaking, please feel free to send me an email.

Tags: general · history

7 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Pierce // Jun 16, 2008 at 4:48 pm

    Just got back from a busy grads & Dads weekend on the coast. What a nice surprise to find on return. Fantastic Jim, nice authoritative, comprehensive piece detailing Joe’s percussion career and some nice personnel insights as well. Wow!

  • 2 "Fuey" Herring // Aug 2, 2009 at 9:05 pm

    Tonight I found your site by searching “Amato Supper Club”. My purpose was to look for the night club in Astoria where my husband remembers many happy evenings in 1943 or ‘45 while he was in the Navy, training for the missions he flew in a carrier based torpedo bomber.

    F. Herring
    Portland, OR
    We are planning to visit Astoria soon, and would like to know if you have any information about where the club was located. We must assume that Joe owned or operated this club, and would like to have any information you can furnish us. We have a picture of a group of sailors and ladies that was taken in the club.

  • 3 Terry of Astoria // Aug 3, 2009 at 9:39 am

    The Supper Club I believe was in what is now J.P. Plumbing on 11th St near the river. Anyone please correct me if I’m wrong.

  • 4 Pierce // Aug 3, 2009 at 5:45 pm

    Terry is 100% correct about this. The old art deco style band shell still graces one corner of JP Plumbings back store room and the balcony booths are still there as well. Apparently no one had the heart to disturb such a colorful piece of Astoria’s rich history. It would be great if Fuey’s husband had some memories to share about the place. We’d love to hear them.

  • 5 jeffrey // May 11, 2010 at 11:20 am

    JP Plumbing still has an excellent large framed photo of the Supper Club installed in the shop- I think we took a photo of the framed piece and put it here somewhere…

  • 6 Jim Rennier // Mar 17, 2011 at 2:46 pm

    I was an undergrad at IU while Jim was a grad student. On a whim, I “googled” his name and found this article. I remember Jim as a very good guy and great to be around. After 30+ years I wonder how his career has gone and how life has treated him.

  • 7 Pierce // Apr 4, 2011 at 10:56 am

    You can find Jim on Facebook these days, it’s easy sign up and send him a message.

Leave a Comment