Les Sampson

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This veteran British rock drummer would no doubt be very surprised to find out that he is dead, at least according to a prominent magazine covering a wide variety of vintage rock music. The obituary in…
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This veteran British rock drummer would no doubt be very surprised to find out that he is dead, at least according to a prominent magazine covering a wide variety of vintage rock music. The obituary in question was actually about Les Gray, the lead singer for the band Mud, who actually did die of throat cancer in 2004.

Gray's name was not the one printed at the head of the obit, however; the caption indicated that it was one Les Sampson who had died. The best-known rhythm section partner of bassist Noel Redding besides Mitch Mitchell, the drummer is probably used to screwups involving his name by now, although these mistakes are usually not so extensive or potentially deadly. More normally, slight variations in both his first and last names are found in credits: he shows up as Les Samson in quite a few places and has even been identified as Lee Sampson.

There seems to be a much smaller margin of error concerning the names of the many bands this drummer has been involved in, probably because all the words are shorter. Sampson has drummed not only in Road -- a band and not something a touring band drives around on -- but in Gas as well, again a band and not what the band needs in order to do the aforementioned driving, nor what some members might find themselves suffering from after another greasy meal on the road with Road. The Road that recorded in the early '70s at the Record Plant in Los Angeles was a Noel Redding project, Gas not. Sampson's other experiences with Redding, famed original bassist from the Jimi Hendrix Experience, include Ramatam and the Clonakilty Cowboys. Sampson relocated to Cork, Ireland, to be closer to Redding and his projects, and may have had an even more sympathetic musical relationship with the unique guitarist and bassist than the better-known Mitchell.

The drummer also worked in Stray Dog, a trio formed in the '70s with two American musicians. The combo was given an energetic production and promotional push by Greg Lake of Emerson, Lake & Palmer but has been summarized by one critic as "tedious hard rock," an opinion to be taken seriously since this pundit claims to have all available Stray Dog recordings, including several after-the-fact live releases. Gas, like more than a few of Sampson's collaborations, was a heavy power trio featuring bassist Dell Vickers and guitarist and vocalist Donnie Burke. Song co-writing credits for the drummer pop up here and there with these various groups, such as the helpful "I Would" and the freaky "Mushroom Man."