Jake Hanna

Jake Hanna, born on April 4, 1931 in Dorchester, Massachusetts, was an American jazz/big band drummer and studio musician, best known for tenure on the Merv Griffin Show and performances on over 250 recordings.

Jake started playing the drums at the age of 7, playing in the St. Brendan's Drum and Bugle Corps (Dorchester, MA), and studying with a variety of drummers playing in Boston's vaudeville theatres. When he wasn't playing the drums, he was listening to every record he could, especially those featuring the likes of Gene Krupa and Papa Jo Jones.

By the time Jake was 13 he was building a name for himself, keeping busy with local bands, filling the numerous drum chair vacancies due to the WWII draft. In the late '40s Jake worked in bands led by Tommy Reed and Ted Weems.

In March 1950, three months prior to the start of the Korean War, Jake joined the US Air Force and was assigned to play drums for the 761st Air Force Band based at Sheppard Air Force Base in Wichita Falls, Texas. While in the military, Jake learned to read music and did a lot of playing — big bands, dance bands and jazz groups performing at the USO, various NCO and Officer's Clubs. When he wasn't playing drums with a band on base or around town, he was practicing, sometimes up to eight hours a day on a practice pad.

After leaving the Air Force in September 1953, he moved back to the Boston area, gigging as much as he could and studying drums with Stanley Spector.

I wouldn't associate or work for anyone that wasn't funny; they've got to be funny, first.

In 1956 Jake enrolled at the Berklee School of Music and soon became the house drummer at at club in Boston, Storyville, for a number of years. Jake had a busy schedule as a studio musician, recording several albums with Carl Fontana for Concord Jazz in the mid-1970s, drummer for the band Supersax, and played with the likes of Toshiko Akiyoshi (1957), Maynard Ferguson (1958), Marian McPartland (1959-61), Woody Herman's Orchestra (1962-64), Harry James, Supersax, Bing Crosby, Rosemary Clooney, Tony Bennett, Oscar Peterson, and Count Basie. Jake was also the drummer for the Merv Griffin Show big band for over a decade (1964-75).

Jake passed away on February 12, 2010, in Los Angeles, due to complications from blood disease.

In 2012, Jake's neice, Maria Judge, released her memoir, Jake Hanna: The Rhythm and Wit of a Swinging Jazz Drummer, which recounts the life story and career of Jake Hanna through tributes, recollections and anecdotes — many of them his own hilarious quips — from more than 170 friends, fans, and fellow performers.

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