“Chops like Mitch Mitchell.”
– Cincinnati City Beat
Jerome Deupree has been hailed as one of the finest drummers on the Boston music scene, pretty much since he arrived in the early 80s. Impeccable chops and a strong work ethic allow him to accommodate his broad musical tastes. A natural improviser, Jerome is just as comfortable in jazz as in rock. Hence the comparison with Mitch Mitchell of the Jimi Hendrix Experience, the drummer who introduced jazz drumming to rock, and a major early influence on the young Deupree.
Jerome Deupree grew up in Cincinnati, where his two older brothers gave him an early music education. He started playing drums (starting old-school with just a snare) at age 6. He was gigging by age 14. A stint at a high school in Vermont led to a chance meeting and jam session with guitarist Mark Bingham, the older brother of a classmate. Bingham urged Jerome to come to Bloomington, Indiana after graduating to play. That’s exactly what Jerome did, and he was soon picking up gigs and recording with Bingham, Caroline Peyton and a young John Cougar, among others. A couple years later, Jerome moved to Santa Cruz, California and joined The Humans, who toured with Squeeze and opened for the likes of Patti Smith and Iggy Pop. It was also in Santa Cruz that Jerome met his wife Lisa. The couple moved to Boston in 1981, where Deupree found a permanent home.
“Once in Boston,” he says. “I played in the Decoders with Russ Gershon, who’s actually been a part of most of my musical connections/history in town.” says Deupree. “Sex Execs, Joe Morris, E/O [Either Orchestra], etc. were all in some way connected to RG.”
Russ Gershon often collaborated with Mark Sandman (MS sang on an E/O single and video); Gershon played in Sandman’s Hypnosonics, with whom Jerome played some gigs. Jerome was a huge fan of Mark’s popular “punk blues” band Treat Her Right who had a regular gig at The Plough & Stars in Cambridge. Deupree was already good friends THR drummer Billy Conway.
“Sometime in the late 80’s,” says Jerome. “Mark called me for a jam with him and Dana Colley. We met at my rehearsal space and played a bit. Mark had the bass with one string and Dana had his baritone sax. I stayed away from the cymbals as I had when I played with the Hypnosonics, another one of Mark’s many bands. It went well and later Mark said he had a name for the new band: MORPHINE.
“So in short order we got some songs together and played a gig at the Middle East. Treat Her Right was still going at the time so we would play when Mark was in town. There was a vibe and buzz about the band right from the start. We went to New York a couple of times and played some other shows around town. One of these was opening up for Noel Redding at Johnny D’s. Mark had the idea to play a Hendrix tune “Third Stone from the Sun” but we didn’t work it up. I’m sure it would have been great.
“We also did a bit of recording at Q Division and The Outpost. Then in late 1990 I started to get pain and weakness in my hands. I kept playing until New Year’s Day of ’91 and then decided to stop playing and find out what was the matter. I was out for many months and Billy Conway played some gigs during that period. Finally in September, I found a treatment that worked. It took a while to get back to playing but I was back with the band by early in ’92.
“At this point the band was a bigger focus for Mark as Treat Her Right was pretty much done. There were more gigs, we released “Good” on Accurate, and even a short tour in California in the fall. By this point though, Mark and I weren’t getting along well at all. It was a very tough decision for me, and I left the band just before the end of the year.
“Soon after this, Mark asked me to play on a demo tape. I thought that whoever was going to take my place should do it, but he wanted me to do it. We went into Fort Apache and recorded the bulk of what would later become the band’s second CD, “Cure for Pain”.
“Cut to late ’98 and Mark asked me to again come back and record with the band… I told Mark I’d only do it with Billy playing too. We started recording at Hi-N-Dry and then played a New Year’s gig in Chicago, with me as a special guest. In March of ’99 they asked me along for two weeks of gigs. This went pretty well and there was talk of doing more touring in the summer after they went to Europe. The last time I saw Mark was the day they left.”
..and Sandman died onstage in Italy during that tour.
Jerome, Dana and Billy formed Orchestra Morphine initially for the memorial concert in Central Square, Cambridge, and then toured to support The Night, which came out after Mark passed. The nine-piece group played at Nel Nome Del Rock in Palestrina, a year after Mark succumbed on the same stage.
In the years following, Jerome has played in many bands, including Bourbon Princess with Monique Ortiz (who later formed AKACOD with Dana); jazz guitarist Joe Morris; the Jeff Robinson Trio (Jerome did over ten years with the band at the Lizard Lounge’s Poetry Night); The Coots (with Jimmy Fitting of Treat Her Right) and Bruce Millard’s Hokum’s Heroes. In autumn of 2005, Jerome met Jeremy Lyons – the Katrina-displaced New Orleans guitarist played a few songs during the JR Trio’s set break at the Lizard. Lyons hired Deupree for some gigs and gave the drummer some of his CDs to listen to, which Jerome quickly noticed were produced by his old friend Mark Bingham. Jerome played on many of Lyons’ “deltabilly” gigs, but it was not until the two paired up with Colley one night that things really clicked. They experimented with some trancey Delta blues material, and with some Hendrix tunes and other jams. And then, of course, it was for the tenth anniversary of Mark’s death that the trio began playing Morphine material.
A few years and some great national and international shows later, Jerome had a bout of tendinitis. He took more than a year off the gig, with Jeff Allison filling in on local gigs and Billy Conway flying to New Orleans for a couple shows with Dana and Jeremy. But now Jerome is back in action, still sharing duties with Jeff Allison, so as not to over-do it.
Jerome and his wife Lisa live outside of Boston with a dog, a cat, and a horse or two.
> Jerome’s drum room is a site to behold. There is not the space here to cover it all, but as for what he’s been using lately…
“Right now I’m having fun with mismatched groups of drums that I find cheap, fix up and put together. I’m a big fan of Gretsch, Sonor (70’s and 80’s vintage) Craviotto and Ludwig drums. Cymbals are mostly Paiste, but I have stuff from lots of different sources.
“I think finding the gear that works best for you is what it’s about. It’s kind of a long process, unless you’re smarter than I am. If I could switch places with my self from even ten years ago and have gear stay the same? I think ‘both’ of us would be asking ‘How the #$%^ do you play drums like this??’”
For more information, visit Jerome’s website: www.jeromedeupree.com