Once again I heard about this as I was about to turn off the laptop for the night. It only became known tonight but original Mr. Big drummer Pat Torpey passed away from complications of Parkinson’s disease on Wednesday, February 7th. Only last autumn he toured with the band despite his condition, and played a specially-set up percussive kit alongside Matt Starr, who had stepped in as regular touring drummer. He was still fit enough to actually play the drums on the ballad ‘Just Take My Heart’ and contributed greatly to the live show still, adding his backing vocals as well as additional percussion. Introduced to the audience after three songs by bassist Billy Sheehan, his entrance was greeted enthusiastically by the fans at the show I saw, at Manchester Academy 1.
Mr. Big were formed in 1988 by Billy Sheehan who had up until then been playing bass for David Lee Roth; recruiting singer Eric Martin first of all he soon completed the line-up with virtuoso guitarist Paul Gilbert and finally Pat Torpey, a respected drummer who had played with many big names including Ted Nugent, and AOR singer/songwriter Jeff Paris. The band’s 1989 debut album got them noticed, but they broke through in 1991 with second album ‘Lean Into It’ and singles ‘To Be With You’ and ‘Green-Tinted Sixties Mind’. They continued to record and tour throughout the 1990s until Gilbert departed in 1999, reforming his old band Racer X. He was replaced by another guitar prodigy in Richie Kotzen, and this line-up made two more albums before the band split in 2002.
By 2009 the band had reconvened, with Gilbert back in the fold, and the group toured again, firstly in Japan where they had enjoyed much success. Two more albums (2010’s ‘What If…’ and ‘The Stories We Could Tell’, released 2014) followed, but Torpey had already been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease by the time of the latter album. He was unable to play drums on that album and contributed by working alongside a drum programmer. For that tour, Matt Starr was recruited to play in his place. Their most recent album (‘Defying Gravity’, released last year) had Starr play the drums on the record but working closely with his predecessor, credited as ‘drum producer’ on the album. Hailed by Eric Martin as ‘the strongest guy I know’, his appearance on the band’s most recent European tour both surprised and delighted the group’s fans.
To close yet another hastily-written post marking the passing of a great rock musician, here is Mr. Big performing ‘Addicted To That Rush’ before a huge audience at Japan’s Budokan in 2009, complete with Pat Torpey still at the top of his game: