PHOTO BY BOB KRASNER
The last Bush Tetras photo session: L-R: RB Korbet, Pat Place, Dee Pop, Cynthia Sley
Remembering East Village drummer Dee Pop
BY BOB KRASNER
There was a time when Dee Pop, the recently
deceased drummer and founding member of
New York’s renowned Bush Tetras, was a college
student named Dimitri Papadopoulos.
Back in 1977, he was a journalism student in Buffalo,
interviewing people like Richard Hell, hanging out with
Lester Bangs and playing in a band called ‘The Good’.
When the Forest Hills native headed back to NYC and
joined the music scene there, it didn’t surprise bandmate
Marlene Weisman, now an artist/graphic designer, at all.
“We all loved the music, but he was just so passionate
about it,” Weisman recalled.
Pop’s entrance into downtown’s music history began
in 1979 when guitarist Pat Place left noted avant-funk
bandleader James Chance’s Contortions and formed a
new combo with Laura Kennedy, Cynthia Sley and Pop.
“Right out of the gate, Dee was great,” says Place. “We
just had a lot of chemistry. There was never a plan – we
just jammed for hours and would take a few nuggets and
turn them into songs.”
“We instantly became close,” recalls lead singer Sley.
“It was so much fun to write with him. He wrote a lot
of lyrics then. Songs seemed to come out of nowhere.”
Place adds that “Dee had so much energy, he could
play for hours and was full of ideas. His contribution
Sley concurs, mentioning that “he was an unusual
drummer because he was a sensitive person, a poet.
He could be melodic. He was integral to the band – his
parts were just as important as mine. I appreciate his
contributions more now than I did then. He didn’t just
bang away – he really listened to the vocals.”
Hugo Burnham, drummer for the Gang of Four, remembers
the fi rst time he saw Pop playing with the BT’s.
“They opened for the Gang of Four in 1980 at Hurrah
and I always checked out the opening band. The fi rst
thing I thought was, oh dear, he’s much better looking
than I am. The second thought was, he’s a much better
drummer than I am too.”
“He was a real drummer,” Burnham explains. “I’m a
great ‘Gang of Four’ drummer, but he could sit in with
anyone. I couldn’t do that.”
Part of Pop’s secret was his love of jazz drummers,
having been exposed to that genre as a youngster by
his artist mom. By the time he was 10 he idolized Gene
Krupa and Buddy Rich as well as Keith Moon and Ringo
Dee’s younger brother Tom fi rmly states that “music
was the best part of his life. It was all he ever wanted to
do. He was at home behind the drum kit.”
Pop left the band in 1982 to branch out in other directions
with his new wife Deerfrance as well as numerous
others. The Deerfrance collaborations included Floor
Kiss, The Blue Picts, the Low Riders, Playtime and Extra
Virgin Mary; other notable gigs included (but not limited
to) the Gun Club, Billy Bang, The Clash, Gary Lucas,
James Chance, Chuck Berry, The Shams, Jayne County,
Michael Karoli (of Can), Richard Lloyd, Odetta, Darlene
Love, Andy Shernoff, the Waldos, Nona Hendryx, Band
of Outsiders, Lenny Kaye, Daniel Carter, Marc Ribot
and The Slits.“
Dee played over 200 gigs a year, every year, until the
lockdown,” claims Deerfrance. “He loved his drums and
he was a selfl ess person. He booked Brownies (a now
defunct East Village Club) and jazz nights at CBGB’s.
”Pop returned to the Tetras in 1992 and Sley recalls that
“it was like he never left. The chemistry was still there.”
Various friends mention that the lockdown was terrible
for him, preventing live gigs and socializing. Sley
notes his battles with depression and the fact that “he did
not lead a healthy life ” as factors that led to his passing
away in his sleep the day before their record release party
at Howl Happening gallery.
“He was obviously ill, ” Sley says. “He kept trying but
in the end he was getting sicker and sicker just couldn’t
play. It was very sad.”
Planned as a celebration of their upcoming vinyl box
set anthology on Wharf Cat Records, the event became
a well-attended memorial for Pop.
“It was such a nice send-off,” said Place. “But it was
sad seeing all those old pictures of us on the walls.
We were like a family.”Dee Pop is survived by his son
Charlie and daughter Nicole.
The Bush Tetras will be performing on Nov. 13 at Le
10 Occttoobbeerr 1144,, 22002211 SScchhnneeppss Meeddiiaa