When late St. Catharines drummer closed out David Letterman’s ‘Drum Solo Week’

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Published July 6, 2023 at 9:58 am

When "The Late Show with David Letterman" had a Drum Solo Week back in 2011, St. Catharines' Neil Peart was the big finale.

Back on June 9, 2011, a piece of St. Catharines shared the New York stage of The Late Show With David Letterman as drummer Neil Peart closed out the show’s “Drum Solo Week.”

As the drummer and lyricist for Canadian power trio, Rush, it was a rare large-scale glimpse of the man without his bandmates, Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson, sharing the stage.

This time, he shared the spotlight with Paul Shaffer’s CBS Orchestra, who jumped in during the solo here and there but largely left him to play.

While the “Drum Solo Week” ran June 6 to 9, there was little doubt the man who grew up in St. Catharines working (though not very hard by his own admission) at Lakeside Park as a teenager would be the big closer.

Considered one of the best rock drummers of all time, Peart followed performances by the show’s own Anton Fig, Sheila E. and Roy Haynes before his turn.

At the time, Peart, who died of brain cancer in 2020, told the magazine Music Radar that he had to alter his traditional eight-minute drum solo to a more reasonable length for the show.

“My regular live drum solo is about eight and a half minutes, so I decided I’d have to do a mental edit, accelerate the changes and minimize the improvisational parts and so on,” Peart said.

“At the rehearsal, during my first attempt, I had it down to about four minutes and 50 seconds, and the producers were giving me these worrisome looks.”

Thankfully, the producers realized who they were dealing with and let Peart pound away for nearly five minutes. Watch the final result from the June 9, 2011 episode of Letterman below.

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