Remembering Mickey Roker 1932-2017

Sadly, drummer Mickey Roker passed away on May 22nd. In writing this tribute about him… It was personally painful. Growing up in a family surrounded by Jazz, we always had a subscription to Downbeat -- So I knew who all of these Jazz Cats were even as young teenager. At seventeen, I saw Mickey Roker at Manny's Music - NYC in the old drum and cymbal room. I mustered the courage to go over and talk to him…He was just so kind and gracious…A true gentleman who treated me (this young and unknown drummer) with the utmost dignity and respect. This is the way I will always remember him.

MICKEY ROKER (1932 - 2017)

Philadelphia native, Mickey Roker lost his battle with cancer and diabetes at the age of 84. Granville William Roker, Jr. was born in Miami, Florida on September 3, 1932. The hard driving drummer with a heart of gold is now in Jazz Heaven. His over forty-year reign on the music scene is legendary.

Mickey worked with some of the finest musicians in the business…Including Benny Carter, Dizzy Gillespie, Herbie Hancock, Milt Jackson, Sonny Rollins, Stanley Turrentine, The Modern Jazz Quartet, Nancy Wilson, Lee Morgan and numerous others. I could go on and on about Mickey’s ultimate greatness…It’s just easier to present some of the numerous accolades Mickey Roker has received since his untimely passing.

“Rest In Peace, Power, and Paradise to my Mentor and hero Mr. Mickey Roker “ ~ Johnathan Blake

“R.I.P. Mickey Roker, a fantastic drummer who appeared on dozens of Blue Note sessions in the late-1960s & early-1970s, including Herbie Hancock “Speak Like a Child,” Horace Silver “Serenade to a Soul Sister,” Stanley Turrentine “The Spoiler,” Duke Pearson “Sweet Honey Bee,” Lee Morgan “Live at the Lighthouse,” Bobby Hutcherson “San Francisco” & Donald Byrd “Kofi.” ~ Blue Note Records

“Very sad about the passing of the great Granville ‘Mickey’ Roker. Was lucky enough to have seen him recently in our hometown: Philly. He was nice enough to stop by when I was playing at ‘South’ with the great Orrin Evans Trio and was as upbeat and witty as ever. It was such a thrill for me to have some time with him. I first heard him as a teenager in Philly at a club down on South Broad St. where he was playing with George Andre and Nelson Boyd…even then he had the band in hysterics after something he said…Plus he was swingin’ his ass off ” ~ Randy Brecker

“Groove In Paradise Mickey Roker” ~ Gerry Brown


“Peaceful journey to the Village of the Ancestors Philly legend Mickey Roker... My hero from way back in the day...Gone but never forgotten, RIP” ~ Doc Gibbs

“I'm very sad to hear that one of my drum heroes Mickey Roker passed. I'm shocked because I met him in Philly last month at my gig with Orrin Evans. I'm thankful my brother Leon Jordan brought Mr. Roker to our gig so I could see him one last time. I'm a proud Philadelphian and every time I would hear him, or think of him, I would always feel the vibe of my hometown. I'm deeply saddened!”  ~ Gene Jackson

“Mickey Roker literally lived feet away from the front door of my high school. Joey DeFrancesco and I interrupted him many days after school just to hear some stories.              RIP, Mr. Roker…One of the most swinging drummers of all time”  ~ Christian McBride

“RIP Mickey Roker. THANK YOU ! Always joyous... Great cat!  What a vibe... What a BEAT!!!! ” ~ Adam Nussbaum

“One of the greatest drummers and musicians of all times (UNSUNG AND UNHERALDED) Mickey Roker deserved more recognition for his Art of music. RIP my brother you will truly be missed” ~ Danny Palmer

Today, I heard news that one of my Drum heroes passed.

Mr. Mickey Roker from Philadelphia was one of my favorite drummers. I remember hearing him with Dizzy Gillespie’s quintet in the 1970's. His deep swing will continue resonating on the incredible recordings he was a part of!  May God bless and comfort his family”  ~ John Patitucci

“I am saddened to hear of the passing of my Uncle Mickey...Mickey Roker was ALWAYS a supportive mentor before I met him, especially when I lived in Philly and after... His body of work is unequalled and Live at the Lighthouse taught me SO MUCH about playing music, musically...Rest In Peace, Power and Rhythm Mickey Roker...You have touched many and will continue to do so...Thank you for all you have given” ~ Ralph Peterson Jr.

“I'm sorrowful about the death of Mickey Roker. I played with him several times when he was with with Dizzy Gillespie. The first time was when he went to Cuba in 1977 - great drummer, and very nice guy. RIP”  ~ Arturo Sandoval

“Just heard of the passing of the great Mickey Roker. So many amazing musical experiences and just fun times… Recordings and performances with Duke Pearson, Toshiko Akiyoshi, Donald Byrd and so many others. Never will forget one summer at the Half Note with Duke P and the way the band was set up, I found my self facing the drums. Felt like I was inside the drums and a part of his magnificent presence. RIP Granville, you are truly missed. There will never be another like you, my friend”  ~ Lew Tabackin

“Mickey Roker, Great Drummer, RIP ” ~ Bob Weiner

“Rest in Peace Mickey Roker” ~ David Barsalou

"Mickey Roker's incredible and intense playing on Lee Morgan's 'Live at the Lighthouse' was life changing for me. Mickey was pure propulsion. He has left his mark on music."  -   George Lawrence

Not So Modern Drummer