His father would always take Steve to all the clubs to soak up the sounds and often Steve could sit in with artists like Groove Holmes and Jack McDuff. George Benson first played with Steve when he
was only 14, they still record to this day.
After graduating from Irondequoit's Eastridge High School, he attended the Manhattan School of Music for two years before transferring to the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, playing in wind ensembles and concert bands. After Gadd finished college in the late 1960s, he played regularly with Chuck Mangione and his brother Gap Mangione. His first recording was on Gap Mangione's debut solo album, Diana in the Autumn Wind (1968).
Gadd was drafted into the U.S. Army and spent three years as a drummer in the Army Music Program, most of which was spent with the Jazz Ambassadors of the U.S. Army Field Band in Ft. Meade, MD.
While living in the Washington DC area, he briefly took lessons from the noted jazz drummer, Michael S. Smith. Following his military service, Gadd played and worked with a band in Rochester. In 1972, Gadd formed a trio with Tony Levin and Mike Holmes, traveling to New York with them. The trio eventually broke up, but Gadd began to work mainly as a studio musician. Gadd also played with Corea's Return to Forever but left the group.
In the 1970s and 1980s, he toured internationally, and recorded with Paul Simon and also with Al Di Meola's Electric Rendezvous Band. In response to confusion over another drummer by the same name, Gadd, while on his We're on a Mission from Gadd tour in 2005, told fans that was not him. Gadd said, "I've never met the other Steve Gadd. We happened to stay in the same hotel once, though. I kept getting his messages and apparently he was getting mine."
In 1976, Gadd and other session musicians in New York City, including Richard Tee, Eric Gale and Cornell Dupree, formed the group Stuff. Their work included appearances on NBC's Saturday Night Live, both performing on their own and backing Joe Cocker.
By the end of the 1970s, Steve Gadd was an accomplished drummer, with transcriptions of his drum solos on sale in Japan. Chick Corea once 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."
In 2005, along with Abraham Laboriel, Patrice Rushen and others, Gadd was awarded an honorary Doctor of Music degree from Berklee College of Music for outstanding contributions to contemporary music.
In January 2010, he was interviewed by Linus Wyrsch on The Jazz Hole for BreakThru Radio.
The song "A Little Green Rosetta" from the Frank Zappa album Joe's Garage lampoons Steve Gadd's status as one of the highest paid session drummers in popular music.
A short list of musicians with whom Gadd has worked include Paul McCartney, Paul Simon, Steely Dan, Al Jarreau, Joe Cocker, Stuff, Bob James, Chick Corea, Eric Clapton, James Taylor, Jim Croce, Eddie Gomez, The Manhattan Transfer, Michal Urbaniak, Steps Ahead, Al Di Meola, Manhattan Jazz Quintet, Carly Simon, Richard Tee, Jon Bon Jovi, Bee Gees, and Michael McDonald.
Gadd showed some of these strengths in his work on the title track of Steely Dan's Aja album – highlighted by Gadd's drum punctuation in the coda of the title cut. Corea's straight-ahead jazz albums Friends and Three Quartets, as well as Jim Hall's 1975 album Concierto are some more examples of Gadd's jazz playing. In 1979, Gadd performed a drum solo on Carly Simon's "SPY" LP.
Gadd was a featured performer and actor in the 1980 motion picture One Trick Pony starring Paul Simon. Simon's hit "Late in the Evening" was the movie's main title in which Gadd implemented the "Mozambique", a Cuban dance rhythm, into the song.
Gadd recorded and toured with Eric Clapton in 1994/1996 and again from 1997 to 2004. 1997 also saw him on a world tour in a trio with the French jazz great Michel Petrucciani and his Paul Simon band colleague, bassist Anthony Jackson (captured on the "Trio in Tokyo" CD and "Live in Stuttgart" DVD/VHS).
In 2009, Gadd returned to Clapton's band to play 11 nights at the Royal Albert Hall and was part of Clapton's touring band throughout May 2009.
Also in 2009, Gadd reunited with his band from 1973, "L'Image", featuring Mike Mainieri, Warren Bernhardt, David Spinozza and Tony Levin. The group performed at the Iridium Jazz Club in New York City, toured Japan, and released the album "L'Image 2.0".
Steve Gadd uses Yamaha drums, which he has played since 1976. He has recently changed his gear to a setup consisting of "Birch Custom Absolute" toms and a maple bass drum. He also uses a chrome Yamaha Recording Custom Steel Shell snare drum.
He has been asked to contribute his ideas to develop his own signature series Zildjian K Custom Session cymbals.
Gadd also has Vic Firth sticks with his signature on them. The drumsticks are a very light, thin kind, black in color, and normal "wood color" on the tips. There is also an identical model with nylon tips. The stick is also slightly shorter than the American Classic 5A, and features a barrel tip for improved recording sound. It is 15+3⁄4 in (40.0 cm) long and the diameter is .550 in (1.40 cm). Along with having his own signature stick, he also has his own signature brushes. These brushes are intended to solve the problem of wire brushes snagging on new coated drumheads by slightly angling the wires in the top 3/4” (1.9 cm) of the playing end. The wires glide across the head, allowing a smoother sweep and a velvet swish sound.
Gadd uses a variety of Remo heads: a coated Powerstroke 3 on the batter side of the snare, coated Pinstripes or coated Ambassadors on the batter sides of toms, and clear Ambassadors for the resonant sides. He uses a Pinstripe on the bass drum.
Steve Gadd (born April 9, 1945 in Irondequoit, New York) is an American session and studio drummer, notable for his work with popular musicians from a wide range of genres.
Gadd is a native of Irondequoit, a suburb of Rochester, New York. Steve Gadd was born April 9th, 1945 in Rochester, N.Y. At age three his Uncle Eddie
(a former army drummer) gave him his first pair
of sticks and a round piece of wood, which was
his practice pad. While listening to the radio
they would play along to John Phillip Sousa
marches and others. Four years later he started
his first private studies with Elmer Frolig at Levis Music, which was right across the street from
The Eastman School Of Music.
When he was seven years old, his uncle encouraged him to take drum lessons. By the age of eleven he had sat in with Dizzy Gillespie.
At the same time Steve with his younger brother Eddie had a tap dance routine they'd entertain folks in nursing homes and hospitals.