Steve Gadd was born in Rochester, New York, April 9, 1945. His Uncle, a drummer in the army, encouraged him to take drum lessons when he was 7 years old. He sat in with Dizzy Gillespie when he was 11 years old. In 1957, he was featured on Disney’s Mickey Mouse Club. He studied music at Eastman College of Music in Rochester with John Beck, playing in a wind ensemble and concert band. At nights he would play at a club with Chick Corea, Chuck Mangione, Joe Romano and Frank Pullara. After college he was drafted into the army and spent three years in a military band. After his departure from the army he gigged and worked with a big band in Rochester. In 1972 he played in a trio around New York with Tony Levin and Mike Holmes. The trio fizzled out, but Gadd began to work extensively as a studio musician. He also played with Corea’s first Return to Forever. During the 1970’s and 1980’s Steve toured internationally and recorded with Artists Paul Simon and Al DiMeola’s Electric Rendezvous Band. By the end of the 1970’s, Gadd was the most in-demand and probably the most imitated drummer in the world.
Gadd rapidly rose to prominence with a wide variety of artists, including Al DiMeola, Stanley Clarke, Rickie Lee Jones, Frank Sinatra, Paul McCartney, Dr. John, Michel Petrucciani Stuff, Stevie Wonder, Paul Simon, and Kate Bush.
Chick Corea commented, “Every drummer wants to play like Gadd because he plays perfect . . . He has brought orchestral and compositional thinking to the drum kit while at the same time having a great imagination and a great ability to swing.” Gadd’s drumming favorites are Elvin Jones, Tony Williams, Jack DeJohnette, Buddy Rich, and Louie Bellson, among others. Advertisement
These days, Gadd splits his time by recording and touring with James Taylor, Eric Clapton, Mika Stoltzman, Blicher Hemmer Gadd, his own Steve Gadd Band, and spending time with his family.
In 2019, Gadd was awarded the first Grammy for one of his own projects. The Steve Gadd Band’s self-titled album won Best Instrumental Album. That version of SGB included Steve Gadd on drums, Walt Fowler on trumpet and flugelhorn, Kevin Hays on keyboard, Jimmy Johnson on bass, and Michael Landau on guitar.
In 2021, Gadd released Gaddiments, published by Hudson Music. In this, the first drum book he has written, Gadd presents a series of rudimental passages inspired by his time in drum corps and love of the rudiments.