Bobby ‘Clarke’ Woodman

Deep Purple’s drummer for eight weeks or so – before they even had a name…

bobbie-clarkeWe have lost another link in the Deep Purple chain on August 31st with the death at 74 of Coventry born Bobby ‘Clarke’ Woodman after a long illness. It was Bobby Clarke (real name was Robert William Woodman) who arrived at Deeves Hall in February 1968 (with singer Dave Curtiss, who had toured with Woodman across France in 1967 on a package event called “L’épopée du rock”) to check out the embryonic Deep Purple project. Blackmore had seen Woodman at work (according to Jon Lord) with Johnny Hallyday, for who Bobby drummed in 1963/4 – and been impressed. Taylor was also responsible for giving Lord Sutch a career boost, when Sutch joined the band for a time and Bobby Woodman left a lasting impression on Sutch’s subsequent musicians.
Vic Clark (Savages Lead Guitarist in 1960): “We played the 2I’s very frequently. Vince Taylor and the Playboys was the main act at that time… When we played the 2I’s Tony Harvey and Bobby Woodman were in the Playboys. Bobby Woodman was an amazing rock drummer. He really worked his kick-drum, nearly everything was 8 beats to the bar. One night when we were watching, Sutch grabbed Carlo (Little) and said “Thats how I want you to play the drums”. Bobby was Carlo’s inspiration and Carlo responded well.”
Rick Brown (Savages Bassist in 1960-64): “In 1960/1, all the musicians who went to the 2I’s were strongly influenced by the sound of the Playboys, which really came from Bobby Woodman. It was a hard, punchy, aggressive style which has made any other British rock or pop music sound weak and flimsy by comparison. And Woodman had his hair bleached for visual impact.”
Dave Curtiss went back to France, while Clarke was with the rest of the Deep Purple guys in their country house getaway for some weeks, but it was clear to them that he wasn’t really into what was developing as a progressive rock band (or what Bobby called ‘circus music’!). So when the group advertised for a singer and Ian Paice came into the story through working with Rod Evans, Bobby’s time was up.
After the Deep Purple job fell through HEC funded an album for Bobby and Dave which became Bodast, with Steve Howe on guitar.
As well as his work with Taylor (which continued off and on for most of his life) Bobby did spells with Frank Zappa and Love (before being booted out of America for smoking dope.) He was also one of the first drummers to adopt the double bass drum set-up which of course became de rigeuer for many hard rock drummers, including Cozy Powell.
Bobby Clarke Woodman 1940 – 2014

A couple of amendments have been made since we first posted this.

7 Responses to “Bobby ‘Clarke’ Woodman”

  1. jollyroger2729 Says:

    I quite agree Simon Robinson. The link between Bobby and Petula does seem strange. I found the fact that Jimmy Page plays on Petula Clarke’s ‘Downtown’ even stranger though.

  2. Jean-Michel Esperet Says:

    Correct. But when the french equivalent of Elvis’ Colonel Parker, i.e. “Eddie Barclay” hired Vince Taylor, he demanded that Bobbie stopped being a band leader, name on his front skin included, to become one of Vince’s mere band members aka The Playboys” (Vince Taylor and …). Eddie, nobody else, also persuaded Bobbie to change his name from Woodman to Clarke on stage. Eddie thought that “Woodman” might sound a bit too proletarian to the few frenchies who understood english. And he also wanted to capitalize on Petula Clarke’s name who, at the time, enjoyed household popularity in France.

    Let’s rock ON.Jamie

  3. Jean-Michel Esperet Says:

    He was a truly outstanding drummer, pre “british beat” (goodness me!), beside being a personal friend of mine. Had his personality, an odd mixture of self-glorification and self-destruction, memories of both moments of glory, mostly in France (which, decades later, made him skeptical) and moments of poverty back home (which, a few years later, made him complacent) been more “correct”, he would be way higher on everyone’s r’n’r hall of fame. That’s where he is now. RIP, Bobbie.

  4. Timothy Says:

    Good point about the double bass drum set up – the face he’s pulling looks like he’s about to kick the whole thing across the stage – very Keith Moon! Was he also the first rock drummer to take the lead from the jazz drummers of having their name on the bass skin? Slight case of ego going on…

    • simon robinson Says:

      Probably fed up of not being introduced on stage! Also he was I think leading his own band, Bobby Woodman’s Noise, when that photo was taken…

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