A highly regarded and in-demand drummer, Steve Gadd has remained in the top echelon of studio and touring musicians for over five decades. A virtuoso talent since his youth, Gadd is considered one of the premier jazz and fusion drummers of all time. However, his work with pop, funk, and R&B icons also means he is one of the most utilized and respected studio musicians of his generation.
Born Stephen Kendall Gadd in 1945 and raised in a suburb of Rochester, New York, Gadd was introduced to the drums at age three by his uncle, a former Army drummer, who gave him his first pair of sticks and showed him how to play on a wood practice block. Around age six, he received his first drum set and started taking private lessons. A prodigy, Gadd progressed quickly, soaking in the style of his hero, swing drummer Gene Krupa. Along with drumming, he studied tap dancing and worked in a dance team with his brother. In 1957, at age 11, he won a contest and appeared playing drums and tap dancing on an episode of Disney's The Mickey Mouse Club television show. Also during his formative years, Gadd regularly attended shows with his father and had the opportunity to sit in with such luminaries as Dizzy Gillespie, Richard "Groove" Holmes, Jack McDuff, and others. In high school, aside from his jazz pursuits, he also played in the Rochester Crusaders drum corps, and toured Europe with the Band of the Americas.
After high school, Gadd attended the Manhattan School of Music, eventually finishing his degree at Rochester's Eastman School of Music. Upon graduating, he was drafted into the Army, and spent three years playing in military stage and field bands. However, he also had opportunities to play outside the Army and worked regularly with Rochester natives Chuck and Gap Mangione. He appeared on Gap's 1968 solo debut, Diana in the Autumn Wind, and on Chuck's 1970 album Friends and Love...A Chuck Mangione Concert, as well as on albums with Luiz Bonfá and Janis Ian.
During the '70s, outside of his studio work, he co-founded the preeminent jazz-funk outfit Stuff, appearing on 1976's Stuff alongside bassist Gordon Edwards, keyboardist Richard Tee, guitarist Eric Gale, and guitarist Cornell Dupree. He also contributed to Steely Dan's classic 1977 album Aja, and even performed regularly as a member of the original Saturday Night Live Band. By the close of the '70s, Gadd was a world-renowned drummer and highly sought-after session musician, well respected enough in his own right to see transcriptions of his playing made available in Japan.
He then collaborated on several jazz fusion projects with guitarist John Tropea, including 2004's Standard Influence and 2006's Rock Candy. There were also albums with James Taylor, Eliane Elias, and Earl Klugh, as well as a Steps Ahead reunion. In recognition of his many achievements in contemporary music, Gadd was bestowed an honorary Doctor of Music degree from Berklee College of Music in 2005. The Zildjian drum company also began sponsoring a series of well-received clinic tours billed as the Mission from Gadd.