Kenny Aronoff Recalls Breaking Point With John Mellencamp

In a recent conversation with Vintage Rock Pod, drummer Kenny Aronoff shared a key moment from his time with John Mellencamp.

When the host asked Aronoff about how it was to work with producer Don Was, he replied by saying:

“I was working with Don. He called me up and asked me if I could do a Bob Dylan record, and then Bob was on tour, so I’m like freaking out, ‘Are you kidding me?’ But then Bob couldn’t do it because he was on tour for a while, and he says, ‘Well, how about Iggy Pop?’ I’m like, ‘Are you kidding me? Teah.’ And I’m recording an Iggy Pop record with Don.”

Recalling how it went afterward, the musician continued:

“He went to the Grammys. I was like so focused on just drums and Iggy Pop. And all of a sudden, I walked in one day and said, ‘We’re done.’ He had to go to the Grammys. We recorded a little bit, and then he went to the Grammys, and he won two Grammys, one for ‘Nick of Time’ with Bonnie Raitt, which was her comeback record. Then he won ‘Love Shack with the B-52s, which he produced.”

Kenny added, sharing the names he had a chance to collaborate with thanks to Was:

“And all of a sudden, Don’s got two Grammys. There’s our guy, barefoot, glasses. He came back, and the next thing he said, ‘Hey, you want a record a Bob Seger record?’ ‘Yeah.’ ‘Hey, you want to record four Elton John songs?’ ‘Yeah.’ And it went on and on and on, and all of a sudden, Don blew up.”

Then, the drummer went on to reveal how his conflict with Mellencamp started:

“All of a sudden, my cred went up outside of John Mellencamp, and I suddenly realized I had two careers. This is where the conflict came in because I was on a very small retainer. I took myself off the retainer with the idea that if he calls, I’m not a retainer anymore.”

Aronoff added, detailing the call he received from Mellencamp:

“I got a call from John’s right-hand man, and he said, ‘John needs you this Thursday.’ I said, ‘I can’t. I’m working two weeks with Little Feat.’ John says, ‘Well, look, I know you could do that stuff, but when I need you, I need you.’ I totally get it, but I said, ‘John, they moved their entire schedule to accommodate me, and they built this whole session around me. I can’t leave.'”

He lastly opened up about how he stopped collaborating with the rocker:

“I get it. I mean, John wanted a drummer that was accessible 24/7, and I was becoming that guy that was not accessible 24/7. And eventually, we just parted ways.”

The musician played drums in John’s band from 1980 to 1996. He was later replaced by Dane Clark, who has continued to work with Mellencamp since then. During the 1990s, Aronoff worked with many bands and artists through Was’ help, including Joe Cocker, the Rolling Stones, and Richie Sambora.

You can watch the rest of the interview below.