This ‘Hired Gun’ Knows Brooklyn’s Best Pizza

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Talking with Billy Joel’s legendary drummer of three decades

Liberty DeVitto

If you are a New Yorker, odds are good that you have heard Liberty Devitto play the drums hundreds -- if not thousands -- of times. As Billy Joel's drummer for 30 years, that is indeed Devitto playing on classics like "New York State Of Mind," "Just The Way You Are," "Scenes From An Italian Restaurant," "Movin' Out," "Big Shot" and "It's Still Rock And Roll To Me." And that’s without factoring the recordings he played on with Meat Loaf, Carly Simon, Stevie Nicks, Karen Carpenter, Foreigner's Mick Jones, and Yes keyboardist Rick Wakeman.

These days, Liberty Devitto remains active as ever. As featured in the new documentary Hired Gun, Devitto is spotlighted alongside other A-list musicians from the backing bands of Michael Jackson, P!nk, Alice Cooper, KISS, Rihanna, and Katy Perry. As Devitto told me during our Q&A for The Daily Meal, he was the first musician to volunteer to be a part of Fran Strine’s film.

Beyond his work with Hired Gun – out on DVD now – Devitto is a part of The Lords Of 52nd Street and The Slim Kings, in addition to regularly playing on sessions for other artists. More on the 2014 Long Island Music Hall Of Famer and his various projects can be found via his Twitter account, @LibertyDevitto.

 

Hired Gun

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The Daily Meal: When did you first hear the term "hired gun?"
Liberty Devitto: I got an email via Facebook from the director Fran Strine. I understand I was the first "hired gun" to be asked to participate

What was your first session as a hired gun?
When I was 18 years old, I was hired by Detroit rocker Mitch Ryder to tour.

Did you know a lot of the other artists featured in Hired Gun?
I know most of them personally. It’s a small circle we're in.

Is there a credit that you are most proud of?
30 years with the same artist.

Having toured the world many times over, do you have a favorite restaurant overseas?
I have cousins in Australia. They came from Sicily. When we were in Sydney, we would go to Benny and Pina's house for great Italian food.

I believe you're now a resident of Florida. What is your favorite restaurant down there?
I actually live in Brooklyn now. I got sick of Mickey Burgers.

As a native New Yorker, do you buy into the belief that New York has the world's best bagels and pizza?
Bagel, yes. Pizza, I have to go with Spumoni Gardens in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn. But I do love Chicago deep dish!

Were there a lot of New York transplants by you in Florida?
When I was there, I found the further south you go, the more north you get.

When on tour, are there any food items that you always have on your rider?
Pasta, I need carbohydrates to maintain stamina.

What's coming up for you career-wise? Are you still working with the Lords Of 52nd Street? Doing sessions?
Yes, and I also have my own original group The Slim Kings.

When not busy with work, how do you like to spend your free time?
Raising my five-month-old daughter. I have four daughters: Devon, 37, Torrey, 33, Maryelle, 29, and Mae, 5 months. Yes there is snow on the roof, but there's fire in the fireplace!

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Finally, Liberty, any last words for the kids?
To learn an instrument is like learning another language. It will take you places and you will meet people you never thought you could. Passion is key.