john guerin

John Guerin was a part of the Abnuceals Emuukha Electric Symphony Orchestra around 1967 when Frank Zappa recorded the orchestral parts for "Lumpy Gravy".
Later, John Guerin also took part in Zappa's "Hot Rats" sessions, and in the recording of Jean-Luc Ponty's "King Kong" album.

John Guerin sadly passed away on January 5, 2004.

Photo nabbed from


random notes / biography
  (by geoff wills, 2002)

John Payne Guerin was born on October 31st 1939 . He is one of the great jazz-rock drummers, and has a style that is as distinctive in its own way as that of his peers such as Billy Cobham, Steve Gadd and Harvey Mason. Emerging in the late 1960s and flourishing from the 1970s onwards, the Guerin style of that era featured tasty fills around his single-head concert tom toms, displaced accents, and the frequent playing of   three-four over four-four time. A perfect example of the coming-together of all these features is on the Frank Zappa Hot Rats cut It Must Be a Camel. 

Guerin’s association with Zappa  

Guerin worked with Frank Zappa on two main occasions: firstly on the Lumpy Gravy album, sharing drumming duties with Shelly Manne and Frank Capp, and secondly on sessions in the latter part of 1969. The second sessions included (a) the Hot Rats sessions, comprising Willie The Pimp, Little Umbrellas, It Must Be A Camel, Twenty Small Cigars (appearing on Chunga’s Revenge), and Lil’ Clanton Shuffle (appearing on The Lost Episodes), and (b) the Jean-Luc Ponty King Kong sessions, comprising Idiot Bastard Son, Twenty Small Cigars, America Drinks And Goes Home and How Would You Like To Have A Head Like That? On the Hot Rats sessions, Guerin was partnered with his frequent musical colleague, bassist Max Bennett. There was one other 1969 recording, to which I will refer later.

There is an interesting interview with Guerin in the January 1999 edition of Modern Drummer magazine. He shows the interviewer an artefact hanging on his office wall which turns out to be a framed piece of music from Lumpy Gravy. He says, “He (Zappa) laid this on me in the studio … he loved to do this kind of thing to me. What I would do was interpret as much as I could, which is really what he wanted me to do … He was always very serious and intense. He had a sense of humour, but in the studio it was another thing. But he was very easy to work with.” Interviewer: “Did you have to do things a hundred times?” Guerin: “No. Actually, Frank was a genius in the editing room. For instance, on the Hot Rats album, we let the tape run most of the time. There was no music, he just directed different feelings, or we’d establish a groove and he’d cut it off. Then, a few months later, an album with actual songs would come out. That was the beauty of his editing.”

Guerin’s appearance on Apostrophe’. A mystery revealed.

In the Modern Drummer interview, Guerin says, “He (Zappa) once sent me an album and  I said, ‘Wait a minute, Frank. My name is on here, but I don’t remember playing this.’ He said, ‘That’s because I took your drum track alone and wrote another song to it.’” Guerin is obviously referring to Apostrophe’, the only other Zappa album on which he has a credit. So which song does he play on? Side one of the original LP is obviously a continuation of the Overnite Sensation sessions with Ralph Humphrey. On side two, Jim Gordon plays on the cut Apostrophe’. Alex Dmochowski told me that Aynsley Dunbar plays on Uncle Remus, and the Zappa Recording Facts service states that Dunbar is also on Stink-Foot. So the Guerin track has got to be Excentrifugal Forz. Zappa probably extracted the drum track from something left over from Hot Rats and then recorded himself on vocals, guitars and bass, with George Duke on keyboards, probably in February 1974, when the finishing touches were put to the Apostrophe’ album, according to Neil Slaven in Electric Don Quixote. The drumming on Forz is typically tricky jazz-funk Guerin. It compares seamlessly to, for instance, his work on the cut LA Expression on the album Tom Scott and the LA Express (1974).

A Guerin biography

Guerin was born in Hawaii , but was raised in San Diego . Self-taught on drums, he worked with Buddy DeFranco from 1959 to 1960 and moved to LA in 1963. He was with George Shearing from 1965 to 1966, and worked in the late 1960s with other jazz artists such as Thelonious Monk and Donald Byrd. After working with bassist Larry Knechtel, he started to become interested in rock, and toured with The Byrds. From 1968 he was active in TV, film and recording studios, and in 1973 founded LA Express with Tom Scott, touring and recording with Joni Mitchell. Throughout the 1980s he was active as a producer and arranger, but returned to active jazz performance in 1989 with a new version of LA Express. In 1988 he played on the soundtrack of  Clint Eastwood’s Charlie Parker biography Bird. By the late 1990s the work slowed down for Guerin, but he was in a position to choose his own projects, for instance with artists like Dianne Schuur. His list of studio credits is amazing and undoubtedly his session career outlasted others’ because he was so musically open-minded.

A Guerin oddity

The Peggy Lee album Close Enough For Love (1979) is odd, but only in the sense that it features Ian Underwood, Max Bennett and John Guerin, and so should, perhaps, be subtitled Hot Rats Meet Peggy Lee. It’s an attempt by Lee to create a more contemporary, smooth jazz-type feel, and highlights some neat jazz piano solos by Ian Underwood.

-- notes by Geoff Wills 2002  


  1961 defranco, buddy- presenting the buddy de franco-tomm   
  1966 kellaway, roger- stride!  
  1966 wofford, mike- strawberry wine  
  1967 wofford, mike- summer night  
  1967 wofford, mike- sure thing  
4 frank zappa: lumpy gravy
   (1967, lp, usa, verve)

  1968 scott, tom- rural still life  
  1968 monk, thelonious- monk's blues  
  1969 mitchell, blue- bantu village  
  1969 jean-luc ponty- canteloupe island    
  1969 monkees- monkees present  


frank zappa: hot rats
   (1969, lp, usa, bizarre)

  jean-luc ponty: king kong  (5)
    (1970, lp, usa, world pacific jazz st 20172) – incl. various frank zappa compositions
  1970 brady bunch- merry christmas  
  1970 scott, tom- paint your wagon  


frank zappa: chunga's revenge
   (1970, lp, usa, bizarre)

  1970 nelson, oliver- black, brown and beautiful  
  1971 england dan & john ford- fables  
  1971 california earthquake- california earthquake  
  1971 mama cass- cass elliot    
  1971 rhodes, emitt- american dream  
  1971 reddy, helen- helen reddy    
  1971 hammer, jan- hammer  
  1971 mulligan, gerry- age of steam  
  todd rundgren: ballad of
    (1971, lp, usa, ampex)
  1972 parsons, gram- g p  
  1972 spring [1] - spring  
  1972 battin, skip- skip  
  1972 horn, jim- through the eye  
  1972 previn, dory- mary c brown  
  1972 mitchell, blue- blue's blues  
  1972 roberts, howard- equinox express elevator  
  1972 longet, claudine- let's spend the night together  
  1972 rankin, kenny- like a seed  
  1972 seals & crofts- summer breeze  
  1972 brady bunch- meet the brady bunch  
  1972 brady bunch- kids from the brady bunch  
  1972 vaughan, sarah- with michel legrand  
  david wagner: d/b/a crow
    (1972, lp, ??, ??) - feat. jim gordon, john guerin
  1973 mcguinn, roger- roger mcguinn  
  1973 parsons, gram- g.p./grievous angel    
  1973 seals & crofts- diamond girl  
  1973 browne, severin- severin browne  
  1973 carlton, larry- singing playing  
  1973 edelman, randy- laughter & tears  
  1973 harris, shaun- shaun harris  
  1973 muleskinner- muleskinner  
  1973 taylor, allan- american album  
  1973 crow [1] - david wagner d/b/a crow  
  1973 everly, phil- star spangled springer  
  1973 gates, david- first  
  1973 williams, patrick- threshold  
  1973 scott, tom- great scott  
  1973 scott, tom- tom scott & la express  
  1973 brady bunch- brady bunch phonographic album   
  1974 batteaux- batteaux    
  1974 cunha, rick- cunha songs   
  1974 hagers- hagers [elektra]  
  1974 horn, paul- visions    
  1974 ellis, don- haiku    
  1974 harrison, george- dark horse  
  1974 loggins, dave- apprentice (in a musical workshop)   
  1974 joni mitchell- miles of aisles (percussion, drums)  
  1974 streisand, barbra- butterfly  
  1974 joni mitchell- court & spark (percussion, drums)  


frank zappa: apostrophe (')
   (1974, lp, usa, discreet)
  1974 scott, tom- tom cat (percussion, drums, producer)  
  1975 okeefe, danny- so long harry truman  
  1975 brooks, elkie- rich mans woman  
  1975 edelman, randy- prime cuts  
  1975 phillips, shawn- do you wonder  
  1975 andersen, eric- be true to you  
  1975 blue, david- com'n back for more (drums, vocals, producer)  
  1975 mcrae, carmen- i am music  
  1975 garthwaite, terry- terry  
  1975 fire and rain- living together  
  1975 garfunkel, art- breakaway  
  1975 joni mitchell- hissing of summer lawns  
  1975 rankin, kenny- inside  
  1975 baez, joan- diamonds & rust  
  1975 brown, ray- brown's bag  
  1975 klemmer, john- touch  
  1975 triumphant sax- triumphant sax!  
  1976 melanie- photograph  
  1976 la express- shadow play (drums, keyboards)  
  1976 pacheco, tom- swallowed up in american heartland  
  1976 sainte-marie, buffy- sweet america  
  1976 spheeris, jimmie- ports of the heart  
  1976 pedersen, herb- southwest  
  1976 la express- l.a. express (drums, keyboards)  
  1976 doheny, ned- hard candy  
  1976 deardurff & joseph- deardurff and joseph  
  1976 bishop, stephen- careless  
  1976 franks, michael- art of tea (percussion, drums)  
  1976 joni mitchell- hejira  
  1976 souther, john david- black rose  
  1976 lee, peggy- mirrors (percussion, drums)  
  1976 klemmer, john- barefoot ballet  
  1977 alessi brothers- alessi  
  1977 boylan, terence- terence boylan  
  1977 pacheco, tom- outsider  
  1977 titus, libby- libby titus  
  1977 murphy, walter- rhapsody in blue  
  1977 sidran, ben- doctor is in  
  1977 feldman, victor- rockavibabe  
  1977 hamilton, dirk- at last  
  1977 franks, michael- sleeping gypsy  
  1977 joni mitchell- don juan's reckless daughter  
  1977 ogerman, claus- gate of dreams  
  chunky, novi & ernie: chunky, novi & ernie
    (1977, lp, usa, warner bros) - feat.lauren wood, ian underwood & john guerin
  1978 norman, neil- not of this earth  
  1978 mancini, henry- theme scene  
  1978 oak ridge boys- room service  
  1979 franklin, rodney- in the center  
  1979 garthwaite, terry- hand in glove  
  1979 raitt, bonnie- glow  
  1979 lee, peggy- close enough for love (percussion, drums)  
  1980 kunkel, leah- i run with trouble  
  1980 hamilton, dirk- thug of love  
  1980 rankin, kenny- after the roses  
  1980 scott, tom- best of tom scott (drums, producer)  
  1981 jackson, milt- big mouth  
  1981 robinson, spike- plays harry warren  
  1982 joni mitchell- wild things run fast  
  1982 mcferrin, bobby- bobby mcferrin  
  1983 linda ronstadt- what's new  
  1984 linda ronstadt- lush life  
  1986 linda ronstadt- for sentimental reasons  
  1986 linda ronstadt- round midnight with nelson riddle a   
  1988 rankin, kenny- silver morning  
  1989 feinstein, michael- m.g.m. album    
  1989 lighthouse all stars- jazz invention  
  1990 franks, michael- blue pacific  
  1990 raitt, bonnie- bonnie raitt collection    
  1990 madonna- dick tracy: "i'm breathless"  
  1990 labelle, patti- this christmas  
  1991 mcferrin, bobby- many faces of bird  
  1992 mcguinn, roger- born to rock & roll  
  1992 feinstein, michael- pure imagination    
  1993 neville, aaron- grand tour    
  1993 easton, sheena- no strings  
  1993 wilson, carnie and wend- hey santa!  
  1993 neville, aaron- aaron neville's soulful christmas  
  1993 john, elton- duets  
  1993 scott, tom- reed my lips  
  1994 kaye, carol- first lady of pop   
  1994 bishop, stephen- on & on: the hits of stephen bishop   
  1994 muleskinner- potpourri of bluegrass jam  
  1994 lemel, gary- romancing the screen  
  1994 everly brothers- heartaches & harmonies [box set] (percussion, drums)  
  1994 rogers, kenny- timepiece  
  1994 pizzarelli, john- dear mr. cole  
  1994 miracle on 34th street (1994) [ost]  
  1995 raitt, john- broadway legend  
  1995 mcrae, carmen- best of carmen mcrae  
  1996 shaken not stirred- shaken not stirred  


frank zappa: the lost episodes
   (1996, cd, usa, ryko)
  1996 klemmer, john- mosaic: the best of john klemmer   
  1996 minnelli, liza- gently  
  1996 bread- retrospective  
  1996 grace of my heart- grace of my heart (instrumental)  
  1996 cole, natalie- stardust  
  1996 joni mitchell- hits  (percussion, drums)  
  1996 joni mitchell- misses  
  1996 caldwell, bobby- blue condition  
  1996 monk, thelonious- this is jazz, vol. 5 (percussion)  
  1996 woman's world- woman's world  
  1997 rundgren, todd- very best of todd rundgren  
  1997 garfield, david- tribute to jeff porcaro  (tom-tom, drums)  
  1997 andersen, eric- collection  
  1997 frank zappa- strictly genteel  
  1997 best of smooth jazz- best of smooth jazz  


frank zappa: mystery disc
   (1998, cd, usa, ryko)

  1998 franks, michael- best of michael franks (percussion, drums)  
  1998 barone, mike- live at donte's 1968  
  1998 scott, tom- priceless jazz  
  1999 frank zappa- son of cheep thrills  
  david garfield & friends: the stete of things
    (2005, cd, eur, esc records) - feat. walt fowler, john guerin, vinnie colaiuta, allan holdsworth
       greatest science fiction hits, vol.  
       california earthquake- reformation  
       wagner, david- d/b/a crow   
       madelaine- who is she? (percussion)  
       morrison, bob- friends of mine  
       nevins, nancy- nancy nevins   
       pulver, judy- pulver rising  
       baby maker- baby maker  
       secret agent file- secret agent file  
       norman, neil- greatest science fiction hits, vol.   
       bird- bird  
       starlight christmas- starlight christmas  
       klemmer, john- best of john klemmer, vol. 1: mosai   
       rankin, kenny- peaceful: the best of kenny rankin  
       the mystic moods orchestra- emotions  


frank zappa: the crux of the biscuit
    (2016, cd, usa, zappa records zr20020)

fz_cruxofthebiscuit.jpg (32468 bytes)

random notes

* * *

from: unknown
the drummer on joni mitchell's "mingus" is john guerin.  john guerin and bass player max bennett were both in tom scotts band that backed joni in the early seventies. they can be heard on "miles of aisles".  guerin, bennett and tom scott appear on mitchells solo records from the mid seventies. bennett and guerin appear on "king kong, jean-luc ponty plays the music of fz".

Geoff Wills says:
This is not true. Guerin played at rehearsals for the "Mingus" album, but the actual drummer, and credited on the "Mingus" album, is Peter Erskine.
Also, Max Bennett does not appear with Guerin on Jean-Luc Ponty’s King Kong. The bassist is actually Wilton Felder, from The Crusaders.   

* * *

      from: unknown
if this is the same guy who goes by john guerin, and plays drums, in the  mid 70's he played with the la express with tom scott, i believed he was either married to or "going steady" with joni mitchell at this time as he played on several cuts on her "court & spark" album i believe. he also played drums on a very good studio big-band album written by pat williams which contained the oft played by college bands tune entitled "threshold". i believe john was a top call la studio drummer in this era.

      from: unknown
john was also in a latter-day version of the byrds (early 70's) formed to fulfill contractual concert obligations.

     mike kolesar( sez:
john was indeed a member of the l.a. express, and played on a number of joni mitchell albums in the 70's.  he may very well have been romantically involved with her at one time (so what? who wasn't!).  he was definitely one of the top l.a. studio drummers of the 70's, and i last heard about him in a feature interview in "modern drummer" magazine circa fall, 1978.

      shaun guerin( said:
my father, john guerin is alive and well and still playing drums on albums and movies. he just got back from playing with bobby caldwell in n.y and he's currently working on a project with roger kelleway. i guess you could say i'm following in his foot steps as a drummer and also a composer. you can hear me on the t.v. show "the naked truth" on nbc thursday nights after seinfeld. also co-wrote the music for a movie called "american tigers" which is an international release.      

      from: tom tuerff (
i ran across a website for john guerin which has a few pics and general information:  he mentions fz in the very first paragraph of his bio.

    from: Jeffery Stein
    Sent: Monday, February 02, 2004

In the John Guerin discography you missed the Todd Rundgren Lp. Ballad of. (1971 Ampex)

-- Js

    From: "Richard Friedman"
    Sent: Thursday, June 03, 2004
    Subject: John Guerin (& Zappa)

Sorry to inform you, if you don't already know, that John Guerin sadly passed away on January 5, 2004.
For more information, see


frank zappa  / musicians timeline



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