Former AC/DC drummer Chris Slade described his two stints with the band as “a good job” and added that he always viewed the role professionally.

But Slade – who made the big time as a member of Tom Jones’ band and later played with Jimmy Page and Paul Rodgers in the Firm, and also with David Gilmour, Asia and others – said he told his sons not to follow him into playing percussion.

In a recent interview with Wales Online, Slade recalled his early days with Jones, who was using the stage name Tommy Scott, and his band the Senators. “I was working in a shop and the Senators’ guitarist came in to buy some shoes,” Slade said. “I’d just been told an hour or so before that the band … had sacked their drummer the night before.

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“I saw [him] and thought, ‘Am I going to do this?’ He was in his 20s and I was 16. I was shaking but went up to him and said I’d just been told they need a drummer, that I play the drums and lived near Tom, which I did.

“We didn’t know each other, but my dad did. My father used to come back and say he’d seen this singer who was 10 times better than Tommy Steele and I thought, ‘That can’t be true.’

“They ended up coming to our front room one day. … Someone asked, 'Can you play "Walk Don’t Run"? - which in those days was quite a hard intro. I played it and we rehearsed. … I remember Tom [saying], ‘We’re rehearsing in a pub – can you drink?’ I was 16 and nearly 17 so I said, ‘Yes!’ He said, ‘Good.’”

Soon he was earning approximately $6 a night and gigging every night of the week, while his father was paid about $25 a week. That led Slade to quit school, which he said was “very stupid” and didn’t recommend it to anyone else. But just over two years later he was performing at Madison Square Garden as a member of Tom Jones and the Squires.

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Slade is often asked if he can be heard on Jones’ 1965 hit “It’s Not Unusual,” but he’s not sure. “It’s debatable because they must have done it about six times,” he explained. “Ronnie Verrell did, Jimmy Page did. You didn’t get any credits in those days. … I personally think it’s Andy White on it but it’s hard to tell.”

At one point the management of the Squires fired him because he couldn’t read music, but he was then invited to rejoin. “I needed the money, so I did,” he noted.

In 1989 Slade wound up with an audition for AC/DC, which he remembers as a tense moment as he faced the Young brothers for the first time. “Angus and Mal came in, put two chairs down 10 feet from the drum kit, and didn’t say anything. So no pressure at all!” He was convinced he failed the test, but he was given Phil Rudd’s role by the time he got home.

Chris Slade Says Drummers Are ‘Bottom of the Pecking Order’

Slade reflected, “I’ve never felt daunted or nervous. I know it sounds arrogant. I am a little apprehensive if I don’t know the music, but if I know it, I’m quite happy to do anything.”

He left AC/DC when Rudd returned in 1994, then replaced him again in 2015 and left for the second time in 2020. He noted, “It was a job. It was a good job – but, you know, I’ve always been very professional. You just do the best you can for the band. They were great. Malcolm was absolutely fantastic. He was a genius. The best rhythm guitarist I’ve ever played with.”

The Welshman is still touring with his Chris Slade Timeline band, and two of his sons wound up behind drum kits. “I warned them, ‘Don’t become a drummer – learn keyboards or guitar,’” he said. “Drummers come at the bottom of the pecking order.”

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Gallery Credit: UCR Staff

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