Joe Noble is a prime and rare example of great talent, intense intelligence, and genuine kindness combining in one person. As a highly regarded member of the Royal Scottish Pipe Band Association’s judges panel, Noble is directly in touch with the activities of that organization. As a former top player, he is in tune also with the thoughts of pipers and drummers around the world. He has strong opinions about the current state of pipe band competitions and the way the RSPBA governs them, and is concerned that the organization currently risks drifting away from the desires and wishes of the players as a result of it becoming overly bureaucratic.
Joe Noble was born in Fraserburgh, Aberdeenshire, in 1942. Neither of his parents were connected with piping or drumming but, about five years after the Noble family moved to Glasgow in 1949, Joe started drumming lessons with the local Boys’ Brigade band.
His talent for drumming was immediate, and he progressed rapidly with the 214 Boys’ Brigade Pipe Band until he was good enough to play with the Grade One Renfrew Pipe Band. He stayed with Renfrew for an impressive 23 years, most of them as Leading Drummer. While with the band, Noble was surrounded by great piping and drumming talent, including Iain MacLellan, Alex Connell, Andrew Hosie, George Hunter, Robert Turner, and Tom Anderson, who, as Pipe Major of Renfrew, had a distinct impact on Noble’s career.
His competitive drumming career was impressive, especially when considering he played at a time when the great Alex Duthart was his contemporary. In 1972, Joe Noble won the Scottish Pipe Band Association’s Challenge Trophy for drummers—the equivalent at that time of a world solo championship. When the association did in fact create the World Solo Drumming Championship in 1975, Joe Noble was its first winner.
With Renfrew, Joe Noble guided his drum corps to a World Drumming Championship title in 1974, and also won the drumming at the Cowal Championship four times—1968, ’71, ’73, and ’75.
In 1982, he was coaxed out of retirement after only a few months when he agreed to lead the drum corps of the Grade Two Toyota Pipe Band, which dominated that grade for several years until it was promoted to Grade One.
When the Toyota band folded in 1986, Joe Noble retired from competitive drumming and started The Band Room, a business dedicated to supplying bands and orchestras of all types with equipment. With Iain MacLellan, his partner in The Band Room, Joe Noble’s shop on West Regent Street in Glasgow is a social centre for pipers and drummers year round, and becomes especially busy the week before each World Championship.
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