Marvin McQuitty Jr. at the 2006 Modern Drummer Festival

Marvin McQuitty Jr., who passed away on September 11, 2012, worked with nearly every major artist in the gospel genre, including Fred Hammond, Yolanda Adams, Mary Mary, Israel Houghton, Maurette Brown Clark, and Kirk Franklin.

McQuitty’s father was a drummer, so from a very early age Marvin was exposed to all things rhythmic. The McQuitty household enjoyed all kinds of soul, R&B, and gospel music. Marvin was also raised in the black church, which is arguably one of the richest musical environments a developing drummer could ask for.

Having honed his craft in the woodshed, with neighborhood bands, at church, and anywhere else the music took him, Marvin was considered by many of his close friends to be one of his home state of Michigan’s best-kept secrets.

“Marvin was my brother,” recalls fellow Michigan native and gospel drumming legend Dana Davis. “I didn’t really want him to go through so much of the negative stuff that I went through. I told him my horror stories about how the money was inconsistent on the road. He had a wife and kids and a job with benefits. But Marvin believed God, and I’m so glad he didn’t listen to me.”

Refusing to be swayed by the bad experiences of others, or even by his own concerns about being able to provide for his family, McQuitty left the security of his city job as a bus driver to accept the drum chair for Fred Hammond. This leap of faith proved to be the launching pad for a touring, recording, and producing career that would span nearly twenty years. Hammond’s music is widely considered the most powerful and nuanced on the gospel scene, and McQuitty’s playing served to elevate the artist’s recordings and concerts to soaring heights.

Stylistically, McQuitty’s playing was all about having a deep pocket and serving the song. “He had impeccable taste,” says 2011 MD Pro Panelist Jeff “Lo” Davis, “a groove that was so effective, it was sort of hidden. It lived in the music and didn’t stand out.”

Marvin played with rudimental precision, masterfully infused syncopation, tasteful placement, and the use of bold hand/foot combinations to introduce a sound to gospel music that hadn’t been heard before. His style bridged the gap between the more traditional pocket sound of the ’80s and the fusion-inspired vibe heard on many gospel records today. Even his setup showed his passion for pushing the limit, featuring a double kick pedal and rack tom positioning that placed his 12″ drum to the left of his 10″. Throughout his career, McQuitty was set on being an innovator.

This is an excerpt of an article from the April 2013 issue of Modern Drummer magazine. For the full story, pick up April the issue, on newsstands now. And for digital copies of MD, go to