Photo NJ Field Music Website

Alfred "DUKE" Terreri
Passed away on Sunday morning, October 29, 2000, at his son's Plainfield home. He was 82.

In the 1930s and '40s when Big Band ruled the music scene, so did Alfred "Duke" Terreri. As a musician barely past his teens, Al's mastery of the drums quickly earned him the nickname "Duke."

It was a reputation that landed him numerous gigs with some of the prominent Big Bands of the time, including Gene Krupa, Savoy All Stars, and the Frank Richlan New Yorkers, Frank Sinatra's first band.

Digressing ...

(Comments from an E-Mail from Nick Attanasio)

  • "Duke once auditioned for Gene Krupa, as a "back-up drummer in his band. I think there were 34 drummers that auditioned for the job, and yup, you guessed it, Duke got the job. But, at the last minute he had to turn it down. Why? Well, he realized then, that he would have to be "on the road" and be away from home for long periods of time. He elected to stay home. When you think about it, his rejecting the job was a "Blessing in disguise" for us in the drum corps world. Had he taken on that position we probably would never have had the close contact with him. He was the closest thing to an angel that we will ever see on this earth. We had so many good times and trips together. We did scores of exhibitions, Duke, Chew Gerhandt, (once a student of Duke and one hell of a drummer, himself) and myself. We would travel all over the country and to Canada. Duke was a trememdous influence not only in "our" drum corps world but also in the M&M Drum & Bugle World..


    Frank Nevins Photos

    To say that we will miss him is putting it mildly. My personal feeling is that the Musters, even though they will go on for ages, will NEVER be the same without little Duke out there drumming up a storm. He was truly a remarkable drummer with super quality and fantastic memory and knowledge of drum beats and music. I loved him dearly and always will. He shall forever be in my prayers."

Continuing ...

While Duke was heating up the Big Band scene with his drumming, his interest in "other" forms of music was expanding. The "Duke" soon got into rudimental drumming, in the fife, drum, and bugle corps. His love of rudimental drumming wound up enhancing a brilliant musical career that spanned more than seven decades. "Duke" , a resident of Newark, instructed and performed with dozens of (both) fife & drum and drum and bugle corps in the tri-state area. He also played at countless weekend Italian festivals for decades. From age 13, when he was hired to play drums with the Frank Richlan band, through his rudimental drumming, Duke was determined to make a name for himself. "He had his own style," said his son, John of Pine Hills. "It was very unique, one that no one could ever match. When you heard a drum line coming down the street, you could tell when Duke was either in there or had taught them."

Duke's interest in drumming began in the 1920's, when he saw his cousins and friends performing with the St. Lucy's Fife, Drum and Bugle Corps. After starting with Richlan's band, he continued to play with other groups such as the Savoy All-Stars, the Catskills Orchestra, Gene Krupa in the '30s and '40s. In the 1940s, Duke started his own Big Band, Duke and Tobia Brothers All Stars, that played into the 1980s. He also performed with the Newark Symphonic Band from 1964 up to last month! (September, 2000) His last performance was on Sept. 14 with his son's band, the John Duke Band.

He retired from Big Band playing in 1981. "He got tired of lugging around a drum set," said his son, John. Duke had a distinguished career teaching numerous fife, drum and bugle corps, including the St. Lucy's Cadets and St. Joseph's Cadets, both of Newark; Holy Family Fife, Drum and Bugle Corps of Nutley; Holy Rosary Fife, Drum and Bugle Corps of Jersey City; Immaculate Conception Fife, Drum and Bugle of Newark; Mt. Carmel Fife, Drum and Bugle Corps, Newark; Iselin Fife, Drum and Bugle Corps; Morris County Militia in Chatham; Mother Cabrini High School Fife, Drums and Bells Corps of New York. He performed with the National Fife and Drum Corps of Irvington and the St. Lucy's Fife, Drum and Bugle Corps and the Gabarina Skyliners of New York. Most weekends, Mr. Terreri could be found playing at Italian festivals in the tri-state area, including the St. Gerard Festival at St. Lucy's Church and St. Ann's Festival in Hoboken.

Digressing ... (again)

Javier Morales was kind enough to let me share his observations from Duke's Wake on Wednesday, November 1, 2000. I am inserting these comments here to emphasise the VARIETY of musical groups who treasured "OUR" DUKE!

Hello Friends,

I was at Duke's wake last night, and unfortunately was not able to go to the funeral today. There were people from all over the Northeast there- fifers, drummers; modern drum and bugle was amazing to realize how many lives were touched by Duke. The Mother Cabrini drum corps even came and had an honor guard keeping post next to Duke's casket-relieved every 15 minutes or so by other members of the honor guard, all in precise militaristic fashion. That was very impressive. Bill and Tishka came down, as well as Nick Attanasio, Jimmy Douglas, Jack O'Brien, and others who played with "Dukie" through the years gone by. Brian Pentony, Ryan McGee, and several others came up from D.C. representing the Old Guard. Members of the Blessed Sacrament Golden Knights, as well as the Hawthorne Caballeros were there to share the grief. Displayed were multitudes of pictures taken of Duke throughout the years. I am fortunate to have been able to meet and play along side such a legend. He truly will be missed by all. Hopefully, we will all be able to see each other again under happier circumstances.


Continuing ...

In 1997, he was inducted into the World Drum Corps Hall of Fame and in 1992 the New York Drum Corps Hall of Fame. His application for induction into the New Jersey Drum Corps Hall of Fame is pending. Duke studied music at Pope Pius X School of Music at Manhattanville College of the Sacred Heart in the '30s and '40s.

The "Duke" was music chairman of the Company of Fifers and Drummers for more than 20 years.

Excerpted from the Star-Ledger article November 1, 2000

1997, Ancient Times Article by Keven M. Sullivan
(Please understand this article was written in the present tense in 1997 while Duke was very much still with us.)

Duke Terreri - The Man with the Music in his Soul

The jam session is at full steam. A semi-circle of snare drummers has formed off to the right, and a group of fifers stands off to the left, facing them. In the center of the arc of drummers stands a short man dressed in a dark blue shirt and dark blue pants. A matching cap sits on his head, the bill pointing slightly off to one side. His eyes twinkle and his face is lit with a smile as his hands dance above his rope-tension drum.

There probably aren't more than five people among the crowd of drummers and spectators who know that his first name is "Alfred". Some may not even know that his last name is "Terreri". To all of them, he is simply "Duke".

Every now and then, a drummer must miss a stroke. I don't hear it, but Duke does. Just for a second, the eyebrows furrow and the smile loses a bit of its candlepower. Duke glances at the offender, then the smile returns and his brows relax, for, if I may borrow a phrase, Duke hates the sin but loves the sinner.

He was born on February 24, 1918 on Seventh Avenue, Newark, New Jersey. Today, he still lives on Seventh Avenue, just a few blocks from his birthplace. Almost directly across from his home stands St. Lucy's Church where Duke was baptized.

In 1929 Duke joined St. Lucy's Fife, Drum & Bugle Corps as a novice fifer. That's right, a fifer. He got as far as learning "Oh Suzannah" then switched to drum. A serendipitous choice, for the corps eventually jettisoned its fifers and joined the M & M world as St. Lucy's Cadets. He studied drum under William "Billy" Bean, and Duke apparently had a gift, for in 1931, he became the drum instructor for St. Lucy's. Duke played for St. Lucy's from 1929 to 1956 and he taught the drum line from 1931 to 1961. In later years, Duke instructed The Skyliners, Morris County Militia, Archer Epler, NJ Colonial Militia, St. Joseph's, St. Anthony's, Mother Cabrini, and NJ Field Music (which he founded) among many others.

St. Lucy's Church has been a keystone in Duke's life. Pat Vitale, a drummer with St. Lucy's, had a sister named Carmela whom he introduced to Duke. The Vitales, like the Terreris, were a parish family; Carmela had also been baptized at St. Lucy's. Time swept along, Duke and Carmela fell in love, and on January 7, 1945, they were married at St. Lucy's Church. Over the years, their children would all be baptized at St. Lucy's. In the 1960's Duke served as a Sacristan for the parish, and today he serves as an Assistant Sacristan.

During the Big Band era, Duke auditioned and was selected as the backup drummer to Gene Krupa. He did not take the job. He did, however, accept numerous dance band and nightclub gigs in the New York - New Jersey area, and to this day he points out to car mates seemingly numberless former night spots where he once played. Duke was known to, and respected by, such drummers as Gene Krupa and Buddy Rich.

IN the early days of The Company of Fifers & Drumemrs, Duke served with George Ripperger, Mike Chiodo Jr., and Doc Ferrante as a member of the Music Committee - the folks who compiled The Company Music Books.

IN 1987, Duke convinced Eric Perrilloux to record "40 Rudimental Drumbeats", which Perriloux had written in 1949. So on a hot, humid day in July 1987, Eric drove to St. Lucy's Church, trudged down a long flight of stairs to a windowless room in the church's basement, strapped on his drum and, while Duke handled the tape recorder, memorialized his music.

Duke has another accomplishment that sets him apart; he is a member of the Fife & Drum Hall of Fame, having been inducted in 1994, and he is a member of the Drum & Bugle Hall of Fame, into which he was inducted on August 30, 1997.

His musical talents don't end at the drum corps border. Duke has played percussion with the Newark Symphonic Band and for local Italian-American festivals. In addition, he plays the piano, banjo, trumpet (which he taught), violin (he has a fondness for Mozart and Beethoven), guitar and mandolin. Quite a life. Quite a fellow.

A gallery of "DUKE" photos.

Photo by Professional Photographer in Ireland

with the Entire
Duke O' Terreri Fife & Drum Corps
in Ireland

Photo by Joseph Gillotti.
Duke with Jack O'Brien in Ireland.

Frank Nevins Photo

with Ray Fardy (Bass Drum)and probably Domenic Cuccia
at New York Ancients annual party in Silver Beach in the Bronx.

Ron Da Silva Photo

with Sister Francis of mother Cabrini's H.S. March 17, 1994

Ron Da Silva Photo

with a couple of his drummers at Mother Cabrini's H.S.

Frank Nevins Photo

with Ronnie Peterson in Ireland

Photo by Joseph Gillotti at Blarney Castle.
He was waving good-bye before climbing the stairs of the castle to see the 'Stone'.
The good bye gesture struck Joe as Poetic. I agree and (for that precise reason) have chosen this photo for closing out the Gallery.

Say "HI" to the gang for us, Duke!

Remarks I received in E-Mails from friends.


Nice tribute to Duke...the best of them all! We all used to joke with Dukie about how short he was. Larry Kron made up a bottom rim for Dukies' drum with casters on it. Dukie loved it...laughed like hell! If you measure Dukies' contribution to the Company and to fifing and drumming in general, Duke would have been 12 feet tall and 6 feet wide! Next time someone asks how a drum beating goes, we'll all hear a voice from somewhere saying "It's in the Book!"

--Jim Hierspiel

Now HE is "in the book". The big "C" may have gotten him, but we sure are better off for his having been with us. We watched, We listened, We read, We learned. "The Book" is what separates Fife and Drum from all other musical disciplines. It (they) has brought us together, and Duke is responsible. No one else in Fife and Drum can so unequivocably make that claim.

I, along with countless others, will miss him terribly. Jam sessions from now until forever will pale without his guidance.

He will forever more enrich the "bigger circle of friendship."

--Terry Hennessey

Hi Bob,

I saw the website earlier today at work but couldn't get back to you then. The new stuff looks absolutely fabulous so far. This is a real fitting tribute you have put together for the Duke. I like the "missing man" idea, since without Duke, we have nobody to follow at the jam sessions. He knew the drum parts for every tune ever written! God rest his soul..

--Freddy Wasserman

Dear Bob,

Hi, you don't know me but I was student of "Duke" or as I called him Little Sir. I just wanted to share some memories about him that will always stay with me for the rest of my life. Little Sir was "The Best Drummer" I had ever heard, I mean who could have imagined that that much power would come from him. He was always the sweetest guy, never ever getting mad at us girls from the Mother Cabrini High School Drum Corps. My name is Christine Llull and I was the graduating Master Sergent from the Class of "99" and a drummer. My time at Cabrini I played in the Corps for 6 years and was taught by Duke for all those years. Duke has made some of the girls there some of the best drummers. Every year you had your 2 best players sitting with Duke after practice to learn more songs. Its funny because Cabrini had so many girls, Duke could not remember everyones name. Instead he gave everyone a nick name which he rememeber such as Red, Auntie, and Husky, lol. But he always called me by my name, Christine. I was the longest playing drummer out of the Cabrini girls to play with Duke and it definitly was an honor too. He made me love drumming and when I went to college I missed it so, so much. Little Sir was the best teacher. Everyday at 3 o'clock, he would walkin in with his hat on and his Band jacket and get to work. When he would teach me a really hard rudament and,I couldn't get it, Duke would take my sticks while I'm still holding then and tap out the song for me backwards. Boy do I miss him. When I found out about his passing, I was very upset because I was at school and was unable to attend his wake. I wanted to pay my respects to my teacher by standing honor guard. But I know that I'll always have my memories of my Little Sir forever. Still practicing what he has taught me and teaching the others the way of Duke. He was a great teacher, a great drummer, and a great friend. I'll miss him tons. I came across your web site and saw the tribute to him, which I think is awesome. The first picture actually got me to cry, to see Little Sir with his drum on. He was always such a strong man and you have to admire him for that. So I felt that I should have sent you this email to let you know and others how Duke has made an imprint on my life as well as the girls for Mother Cabrini High School.

Thanks for you time,
Yours truly,
M/Sgt Christine Llull Class of 99

His teaching will live on though. Although I'm not involved much in the drumming aspect of fife & drum anymore (I'm the fife sgt. in my corps), I have a drum corps of students I've taught from scratch in my pipe-band. They competed for the very first time this year, and ranked #5 out of 97 pipebands in the eastern U.S.

I make sure they learn all the stuff Duke taught me, with the patience and understanding that he taught me.

--Janis Rowell Music Director Genesee Valley Fife & Drum, Rochester, NY
Lead Drummer Feadan Or Pipe Band, Rochester NY
(Was taught by Duke when growing up in NJ with Westfield Fife & Drum, and New Jersey Field Music)

You Are Right!!!

You need the drum for the empty spot where Dukie stood and played with a smile.

I met Duke back in the late 60's when I was playing with the NY Regimentals. "What a Sweet Man!". The best jam sessions were always when I stood next to Duke. He would ask me "let's play some old stuff" like Yorktown, Northwest Passage, Katie Hill, Huntington, Dan Tucker and many others. And you know what, we played these songs and enjoyed playing these songs. I was heartbroken when he did not make this year's Jaybird Day. I was looking forward to playing those old songs again.

As a closure, God has summond Duke to play with Pace, Lemley, Classey, Boddie and many of our great friends that are now gone (from us).

--Dave Bender

My family went to the funeral and it was the most tremendous I've ever seen. I've told the story a number of times; I think it was a celebration of his life. The John Duke band (or as I've always called them "The Little Italian Band") marched around the block where Duke lived before moving in with his son. (The apartment building is right across the street from St. Lucy's church) Then the band marched to the church and took turns with Mother Cabrini playing as the processional moved along. The were quite a few drum corps people there, but it was amazing: St. Lucy's school children filled the church. Mother Cabrini had an honor guard. And tears were flowing as the priest talked of Duke's love of church, music, and carpentry. The priest made everyone smile when he talked of Duke's attempt to make a raft (for the CT raft race? I remembered the story as told by Duke, but wish Terry Malcarney would tell it again).

At the cemetery, the Italian band played, followed by the fifes and drums...everyone fighting the lump in their throats. And then the Italian band played again and brought a tear and a smile to everyone around.

We all went back to St. Lucy's and jammed in the gym...with Duke's drum in the center, inspiring us all.

For years, I wanted to meet a person I thought was a "legend" of fife and drum, with promises from many to introduce me. A few years ago, I was lucky enough to realize that I was in close contact with a few REAL legends....and I think it was when I was running through music with Duke that I knew it.

A legend is more than just a wonderful fifer or drummer. It is a person who inspires us. Take no one for granted. We have more legends just waiting to share their knowledge with us, such as Nick Attanasio and Doc Ferrante....

--Catherine Cuccia-Cavallo

A Message From "Duke" to Drummers

Arthur I. Ferrante, D.D.S. (DOC), was kind enough to share this with me recently.

In 1973 when the first Company Music Book was published, "Duke" wrote the following:


"The following drum beats come from good drummers and musicians in the field of Ancient Fife and Drum. For the Ancient drummer who is looking to create, these beats will be of great value in helping to understand the rhythmic patterns along with the melodic figures in the fife parts.

The rhythms are not overdone but are beautifully set in the form [style] of Ancient Fife and Drum. These beats are not mediocre , but have good taste. Therefore the creative drummer will develope this good taste with his own ability in creating. Many of the stock beats will fit the fife tunes - Drummers may experiment with these beats. Also, the drum parts written for the [specific] fife tunes will fit other fife tunes."

[signed] Alfred "Duke" Terreri

The drum beats and thoughts have proved quite useful over the years. No doubt more individuals will send their thoughts of Alfred Terreri to you for internet publication . In due time these tributes can be assembled and published.

Arthur I. Ferrante

The "Missing Man" Formation

I am really serious about starting and continuing a "missing man" formation at jam sessions.... I think, if we park a drum in Duke's spot, (so no one unknowingly steps up into our little buddy's place), it might be good for all of us to reflect a little while we are enjoying the music that Duke did so much to help us preserve. That un-played drum could eventually come to represent ALL of the drummers who have gone before, but I think this summer it should stand as a silent tribute to Duke.

What do you think?

Bob Castillo

Page Created and Maintained by Bob Castillo
November 5, 2000
Midi file, "Amazing Grace", sequenced by Barry Taylor.