Any of you who have been following the story of Bon Jovi’s long-time drummer Tico Torres and his unfortunate medical issues may know about Rich Scanella. But it bears repeating because Rich is just another example that anything is possible for anyone who puts in the work and persists. The bottom line: Tico was sick, and Rich got the call. Read on, drummers, and get inspired!
And Tico…we hope you feel better soon and make a full recovery.
Ewing Drummer Lives Rock and Roll Fantasy After Bon Jovi’s Regular Drummer is Hospitalized
From The Times of Trenton, originally published on October 3rd, 2013, written by Michele Angermiller
Like many high school students growing up in the ’80s, Rich Scannella journeyed into Philadelphia to see plenty of rock shows. Sadly, he missed one of the era’s biggest acts: Bon Jovi.
“I saw tons of shows at the Spectrum, but I missed them,” Scannella, a Lawrence resident, said in an e-mail from Mexico last week.
But in a twist of fate, he is now living out the ultimate rock and roll fantasy as he was plucked from relative obscurity to be a fill-in drummer for one of the biggest bands in the world.
Scannella got the call on Sept. 10, after regular Bon Jovi drummer Tico Torres underwent an emergency appendectomy right before a show in Mexico City.
“I got the call the day after they had to cancel Mexico City when Tico went to the hospital,” he said.
That gave Scannella about one week to learn the entire Bon Jovi repertoire so that he could be ready to join the band on a moment’s notice for concert dates that included the famed Rock in Rio festival in Brazil.
“We flew down on Wednesday the 18th and Rock in Rio was Friday the 20th,” he said. “I had to chart out, literally write, the music so I could study it accurately and play along.”
One week later, on Sept. 20, Torres once more experienced excruciating pain, and was rushed back into the hospital. Scannella was thrust into the hot seat, taking the stage in front of 80,000 screaming fans at the Rock in Rio festival. In his words, it was a “huge adrenaline rush.”
“Nothing like a low-key first gig,” he quipped in an e-mail. “Eighty thousand people in attendance, with another million watching via TV in Brazil, and live stream in the U.S.”
It’s not like Scannella hadn’t been preparing for a moment like this his whole life. The former Ewing High School and Rider University student (“I made the dean’s list one year!”) first picked up a pair of sticks at the age of 9. The son of Joseph and Mary Scannella, Rich is the youngest of five siblings. His father is a musician, and the younger Scannella simply followed in his pop’s footsteps.
“My dad, being a music school teacher, bought a drum kit so he could brush up to teach his students, and sure enough I found the kit in the basement, where I instantly began banging away,” he recalled. “A short time later my dad said, if you’re going to keep playing we have to get you a proper teacher, so I started.”
“I didn’t really study seriously at first until my dad took me to see legendary drummer Buddy Rich. As we walked out of the show, I said that’s what I want to do with the rest of my life. I knew at that moment. So it’s all Buddy’s fault!” he said.
As he grew in his musicianship, Scannella joined Local 62 of the American Federation of Musicians in Trenton. Through the union he began to pick up work at weddings and other events, and eventually toured with seasoned acts like The Tokens and Gary “U.S.” Bonds, he said. Scannella now boasts an impressive resume, having played with the likes of Bruce Springsteen and Lady Gaga and scores of other names he lists on his website.
“My dad was president of Local 62. Since he had a successful band at the time I joined with a built-in gig. I played every hotel, wedding, bar mitzvah, and corporate event for governors and you name it,” he said. “It gave me not only a knowledge of jazz and standards I would never have been exposed to, but also my dad was such a professional that I really learned the work ethic of playing out, too.”
Among his many gigs, Scannella performed on a cruise ship, where he performed with singer John Eddie and met passengers like Chris Kirkpatrick of N’Sync, who would come up and sing with the group, he said.
It was his connection to Eddie that led him to the gig with Bon Jovi. Through a circuitous route, Scannella ended up playing with Jon Bon Jovi at several charity events that did not include the other members of the band.
“I played with John Eddie in the late ’00s, and through him I made some connections that led to Bob Bandiera, who now plays guitar in Bon Jovi,” he said. “Through playing with Bob, the first time I played with Jon Bon Jovi was a benefit show at the Count Basie Theater in Red Bank in ’08. From there he started to use me when JBJ did solo gigs, which we’ve done the last couple years.”
All those roads led eventually to Rock in Rio and his current job in Bon Jovi. Scannella is now with the band on the Canadian leg of their “Because We Can” tour until there is further news of Torres’ condition.
“The experience really has been amazing,” he said. “Jon and (keyboardist) David Bryan have been great. They realize the task at hand for me, and everyone has been super supportive. On top of that it is a first class-run operation, very impressive.”
“Coming up the way I did learning all facets of the business, and playing all types if gigs, makes me really understand and appreciate what I’m doing now. I’m very fortunate,” he said
When Scannella returns home, he plans to continue teaching area kids the art of drumming, he said.
“It’s so important to leave something for the next generation, and I’m old enough now to be so proud when a student of mine does something big,” he said in an e-mail. “The biggest full circle was when one of my students graduated from Juilliard. One, it’s a massive accomplishment, but it’s where my dad graduated from, too, so cool!”
Though he’s travelled the world, Scannella said he will never venture far from Mercer County,
“I loved growing up in Ewing. The places, my best friends, many of whom are from high school whom I still talk to and see, and experiences. I wouldn’t change one thing,” he said. “I never had a burning desire to ‘get away’ or leave. I really do love coming home. Playing is awesome, but it’s family, friends, and good times that make a great life.”