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Drummer. Producer. Legend.
Some Down Time - STEVE KHAN

"That was a snare drum my
family used to keep behind the
couch, and every once in a while
as a treat they would let me play it
with a piece of material over it,
because it was pretty loud.”

Rochester in New York state was
where Gadd grew up. He lived
with his uncle and grandparents
there until he was three.
“Uncle was a drummer and he
inspired me, but my whole
family were very supportive and
very encouraging. When they
realized that I was leaning towards
the drums, they started to nurture it.
One birthday they bought me
a proper snare drum and a little
white bass drum. Then for another
birthday I got a tom-tom that you
could clamp on to the top of
the bass drum. And then for another
birthday I got a hi-hat.” Gadd used his
first snare drum as a little floor tom,
“I stripped it of its snares,”
he says. “I guess I must have

been about six or seven –
that was my first kit.”

At high school Gadd
took drum lessons and played
in the drum corps. College
followed where he studied
all the percussion family
including timpani, marimba
and all the orchestra stuff,
he says. “At one point I had to
make a decision, as I wasn’t
going to be able to keep on
playing all those instruments. I
decided that there was nothing
I could play as well as a kit of
drums. These are the
scary decisions that you have
to make along the way.”

Gadd’s influences came initially
from listening and playing to

the records his uncle bought.

“I remember he bought me some

Gene Krupa and Louie Bellson.
Then I heard about Philly Joe Jones
and started listening to all those
kinds of guys. My dad would take
me to hear different live music
which he loved. There were a couple
of great clubs in Rochester. The
one at the rich end of town
brought in all the big guys like

Oscar Peterson and Dizzy Gillespie.
I used to sit at the very front
and remember watching
Gene Krupa play.

“Then there was the other club
in another part of town where
they brought in organ groups like
Jack McDuff who would play
there regularly – sometimes they

would let me sit in. So I was
constantly hearing different bands,
and at one point I was playing with
Chuck Mangione, who also came
from Rochester. What I did was
follow my heart in terms of where
my passion was. The goal was never
to get to a financial place,
the goal was just to
play good music.

“My uncle bought me a Gretsch
drum kit when I was 12 that I still
have. When I got out of the army

I bought another set of Gretsch
drums with a small bass drum
and small toms. A couple of years
after that I built a set of drums,
putting different combinations
of things together when I started
doing some recording in New
York and I needed a more
‘all around’ sound.

“Then in 1975-76 I got a
deal from Yamaha. They
approached me to become an
endorsee and I’ve been with
them ever since. I helped them
design the Recording Custom
series, sizes and everything.
They were aware that I
played and was connected at
a certain level in terms
of advertisements. But I wasn’t
paid anything to do it but in
return for my ideas I got drums.
I have 12, 13, 14, and 16inch toms
and I use a 22x14 bass drum,
although sometimes
I’ll use a 20x16, it just depends
which one sounds good with
whoever is doing
the sound.”


Gadd keeps his own personal kit
in New York, otherwise Yamaha
supplies his every need for the
smaller jazz tours. “For big tours
I have a kit that goes
with me.”

Even though Gadd has
been playing the same basic
kit for some 35 years he says
he has changed from a birch
bass drum to a maple bass drum.
“It gives a fatter sound,” he
says, “and when I first went
with Yamaha, they were only
 birch drums. I always
use Remo heads. Coated
Ambassador on the top and
clear on the bottom although
sometimes, depending on
the situation I’ll use clear Pinstripe

heads on top. Years ago I was trying
Evans sets, which were great for
recording, but then when the

endorsement came along I found
that I could cover everything
that I needed with Remo.”


Gadd has always played Zildjian
cymbals; it was a Zildjian
cymbal that his uncle bought
him that time 58 years ago.
“I use a combination of all
of them,” he says.

“One of the orchestra rides I’ve got
is an A. Actually, it’s not an orchestra
ride, but an orchestra cymbal that
I use as a ride. I also have a Constantinople:
both are 20s. I have an 18inch dark K
crash and an old K heavy hi-hat

which is worn out, because it’s one
I bought back in the 1960s. But I
use that on top with an A, with
rivets in it on the bottom. It had
holes in it originally, but the fact
that it lets some of the air go
through, means that when

you’re playing it with your foot
it sounds really good and helps
me get the sound that I want.”
Gadd plays his own model of
Vic Firth sticks and brushes,.
“We just came up with
what we’d like them to be.”

Interview by David Gallant (2010)


Steve Gadd drumset photo collage

by Bill Zules (2019)




1 x LP SG Cowbell
or LP Mambo Bell
(Model #LP229SG)
1 X Cowbell Holder



Ambassador on
the beater side.
Bass drum must
have a ported
front head.
All other drums
are fitted with white
coated Ambassador
drum heads on top
and clear
Ambassador heads
on the bottom.

SG - Signature Sticks
SG - Signature Brushes



1 - Bass Drum
20" x 16" RBB2016 
*w/Lifter & Internal

Muffle Pillow

1 - 10" x 7.5"-
1 - 12" X 8"-
1 - Floor Tom-
14" x 13" RBF1413
1 - Floor Tom-
16" x 15" RBF1615


5 X Cymbal Stands-
CS755 or CS-745
2 XSnare Drum Stand-
1 X HH Stand w/Clutch-
or HS-1000 (2 leg)
1 X Double Foot Pedals-
DFP9500C or DFP-9310
1 X Drum School-
(3 leg-round top)
2 X Double Tom Holder
To BD- WS-904


1 X 16" K Custom
Session Crash
1 x 18" K Custom

Session Crash
1 x 18" K Dark
Crash Thin
1 x 18" K Custom
Session Ride
1 x 14" K Custom
Session Hi Hats

*Special thanks to


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