Rock and roll drummer Johnny Barbata saw a lot of the world before he settled down in Ada, Okla.
The drummer for such bands as the Turtles, Jefferson Airplane, Jefferson Starship and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young will be holding a book signing this Saturday at Vintage 22.
“The book is called 'The Legendary Life of a Rock Star Drummer,'” Barbata said. “I’ve got stories in there about meeting the Beatles, Elvis ... I even met Albert Einstein when I was a kid.”
The then 3-year-old Barbata met Einstein when the famed physicist’s boat ran out of gas on a lake. Barbata said his family towed Einstein’s boat back to dock.
“I was sitting on his lap while he was talking to my mother,” he said.
The New Jersey boy would go on to achieve fame in his own right as a drummer for the Turtles.
“I was with them for 40 hits and eight singles, including ‘Happy Together’ which was the number one single of the year,” Barbata said. With the Turtles, he would also co-write the song, “Elenore.”
After the Turtles, Barbata went on to play for eight albums with Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. Among the albums he worked on with that group was their first live album, “4 Way Street.”
“David Crosby got me into Jefferson Airplane,” Barbata said. With Jefferson Airplane, Barbata played for five albums. The band eventually turned into Jefferson Starship and Barbata played on five albums with that group, including for the song “Miracles,” which reached number three on Billboard charts.
In addition to his work with these groups, Barbata also worked as a studio drummer with such names as Linda Ronstadt, the Everly Brothers, Johnny Rivers, Dave Mason, John Sebastian and Booker T.
Barbata said many stories of his adventures and misadventures with these groups are included in his book.
He said one of the most memorable stories in the book took place at the Atlanta Pop Festival in Atlanta, Ga.
“There were 150,000 people there, it was the Fourth of July and it was 103 degrees,” Barbata said. “Canned Heat was there. Lynnyrd Skynnyrd, the Alman Brothers, it was a big show.”
At the time, he said he was playing with Johnny Rivers, who had the number one hit single in the country, “Memphis.”
About a minute into Rivers’ single, the festival’s power went out. Barbata said he began playing a drum solo to entertain the crowd while technicians rushed to return power. After a few minutes of playing, the festival’s promoter told Barbata to keep going.
“He said, ‘Hey, whatever you do, don’t stop because it’ll be a full-blown riot,’” Barbata said. “Everybody started turning their BIC lighters on and all of the sudden this hue came over the stadium.”
After about 30 solid minutes of drumming to the orange flickering of the lighters, he said the crowd was completely captivated.
“The crowd is totally into it because they’re wondering, ‘How long can this guy last?’” he said. “I’m playing everything I know.”
Finally, Barbata went into a train to wind up into a grand finale. As he finished the solo, he said the lights came on in perfect timing.
“That literally was the night the lights went out in Georgia,” he said.
In addition to books, Barbata said he would have drum instructional videos, CDs, pictures of the bands he’s been in and drumsticks for sale. He will be at Vintage 22, located at 800 East Main street, from 4-8 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 28.