Questions with Burleigh Drummond of Ambrosia
By Naughty Mickie
Ambrosia originally formed in Los Angeles in 1970 and is
best known for its Top 40 hit singles, such as ďHow Much I Feel,Ē
ďBiggest Part of MeĒ and ďYouíre the Only Woman (You and I).Ē They
started out with a progressive pop sound and later moved on to
jazz/pop still focused on their multi-layered harmony vocals.
Despite their more than four-decade career they only released five
studio albums and one live album.
Ambrosia's current lineup consists of original members
vocalist and bassist Joe Puerta, vocalist and keyboardist
Christopher North and drummer Burleigh Drummond, plus vocalist,
keyboardist and percussionist Ken Stacey, guitarist Doug Jackson and
vocalist and keyboardist Mary Harris.
As Ambrosia began its tour in Southern California we had an
opportunity to chat with Drummond and posed him the following eight
DB: What is the secret to Ambrosia's longevity?
BD: I think itís just a matter of unfinished business. We
still feel like these songs are evolving and weíre still in the
process of mastering, if thatís possible, finding a different level
of performance and expression in a song. Itís funny because some of
the songs that weíre going to be playing are 40-plus years old and
they still have a new life to them in our minds, itís like we wrote
it yesterday. You canít phone Ambrosiaís music in, you have to
prepare for it, you have to be there to the full extent and give
your best performance or youíve cheated the music.
As weíre a little older now too, what passed for
exhilaration possibly in the past it gets replaced with a little
more style or grace. Some different elements come into other than
the sheer young physicalness that you had when you first performed
it. Iím not saying that we donít try for that, we definitely donít
feel like weíre one foot in the grave. Weíre happy we can still
perform and perform at this level. We take it pretty seriously.
DB: How has the internet helped you-- or has it?
BD: Itís made everything accessible, good and bad, thereís
a glut of music now that you have to sort through to find something
thatís really good. I canít say that there isnít great music
happening today, I think there is, but I think you just have to look
for it. Thereís less of a filtering system because labels donít
really go out and pick the prime thing any more, itís like anybody
can put something up, you just have to do a lot more to find what
DB: Ambrosia is considered one of the top bands in the
yacht rock movement, what do you think about this new genre?
BD: Itís given us a whole new audience. Itís amazing to me
this whole millennial generation that show up with sailor caps on,
theyíre usually inebriated, but thatís OK, they know every lyric.
Itís flattering and exciting at the same time that a whole
generation or a large part of it would embrace this music as
meaningful to them. I give credit to the songwriting, the melody and
the craftsmanship of the writing during that era was really at a
DB: Ambrosia tours a lot. What is it like being on the road
BD: On a 3-5 day run that last plane ride home is usually
from the East Coast and itís a 5-hour flight and by about the fourth
hour Iím ready to leave my body or something. Charlie Watts from the
Rolling Stones said I love the two hours on stage, itís the other 22
that give me a problem.
DB: What can Ambrosia fans expect at your current run of
BD: We like to vary it for our own sake because just having
a few different songs per night can really affect the whole set and
the whole presentation. We like to interchange things and push
ourselves to have an edge. Weíll definitely play one brand new song
that hasnít made it to the public yet and thatís great for us to do
that because that confirms whether weíre on the right track or not
with the production of that song.
DB: Tell me about your upcoming album.
BD: It will be probably at the end of the year at the
earliest that the album will be available, but I think weíre really
a culmination now of everything weíve done, especially the prog and
the pop coming together, not that we systematically sit down and try
to incorporate all these things, they just naturally show up now.
Back in the day when we had more of our prog side it was always
melodic prog, it was never a lot of notes for notesí sake, see how
fast I can play. We did have some daring instrumental moments, but
always within the context of a good song. I think weíre
incorporating everything that weíve embraced all these years, like a
good pop song with great arranging and a great statement, everything
has to mean something, nothing thrown away.
DB: I know that not all of your band members have side
projects, but they all have outside interests.You and your wife Mary
Harris have put your project, Tin Drum, on hold for a while, but
itís coming back.
BD: Ambrosiaís been consuming to get it to the point where
it is now because itís definitely had an explosion in the last 10
years to where it has been pretty consuming, but now we want to fit
Tin Drum back into the mix. As good as Ambrosia is, and itís great,
it doesnít fulfill all the expressions needs one has.
DB: You shared that Ambrosia will be featured in an
upcoming ďEthan Bortnick: Generations of MusicĒ special on PBS and
told me about your regular Ambrosia and Friends concerts with fellow
musicians, like Bill Champlin from Chicago, Peter Beckett from
Player, Al Stewart and Stephen Bishop, who you back on stage for a
selection of songs. What else would you like DaBelly readers to
BD: We do a lot of different presentations. We love doing
Ambrosia where we get into the deep cuts and the hits. Itís funny,
you meet a fan who comes to hear the most obscure Ambrosia tune and
thatís all he wants to hear so youíve got to cater to that and then
thereís people who just want to come for an evening of hits and
thatís on the lighter side, but thatís totally valid too.
If you want to see Ambrosia in Southern California, the
band will be at the Simi Valley Cajun & Blues Music Festival May 26,
and Concerts on the Green at the Lou Bredlow Pavilion in
Woodland Hills June 9,
For additional tour dates and more information, go to