Jeff Porcaro – Still Influencing Drummers!


Today my topic comes from my recent fascination with playing around with half-time shuffle grooves lately when I sit down at my practice kit. Of course, when it comes to the half-time shuffle, you can’t help but think of the late great Jeff Porcaro.

Jeff’s idol was Bernard Purdie the father of the shuffle. He obsessed over Purdie’s grooves and mastered them so well you couldn’t be able to tell which guy might be playing the groove. I was introduced to Jeff’s playing with some of his work with Steely Dan. He did quite a bit of work with them. From the Pretzel Logic album, Katy Lied, FM (No Static at All) released as a single for the movie of the same name. Last but not least Gaucho which was one of Steely Dan’s last recorded albums before a hiatus that lasted 12 years. The Dans is one of my fathers’ favorite bands and one of mine as well. It’s also important to mention his main band Toto which also for a time included his brother Mike Porcaro. It was a little later down the road that I got a chance to hear some of the iconic Toto grooves. Like on Africa or Rosanna.

Going into Jeff’ Porcaro’s career is astonishing. The man was a studio workhorse. He’s noted as being one of the most recorded session musicians in history. His entire discography is SCARY! (In a good way.) When you see all that musical diversity, all those great acts that he put his stamp on, it often makes me wonder– What would it have been like had his life not been so tragically cut short at the age of 38? He was so young and had so much time to continue his passion for drumming. I believe if he were still around today. He would have a career in drumming that could never EVER have been eclipsed. He would be 62 and still be playing like a mad man!

We are all still fortunate that Jeff released instructional material that we can all still use today. It’s also pretty easy to find videos that were produced back when Jeff was in his prime that allows us to go back and get insight and a peek into one of the greatest drumming minds in history. I also recently came across a drum only track for hit song Rosanna by Toto. Probably one of Jeff’s most known half-time shuffle grooves. It’s a great listening experience just to hear Jeff’s legendary shuffle in all its glory. With drums only, it’s so easy to pick up on every one of his amazing subtleties. His perfectly placed ghost notes or his use of dynamics on his cymbal work. I’ll put the link on this post so you can take a listen for yourself.

I will continue to work on my half-time shuffle grooves and I’m sure that every time I do I will think of Jeff Porcaro and how well he did to master this fun triplet based groove. It was Bernard Purdie who inspired him. Now Jeff inspires me to work on these grooves and pushes me to master their endless variations as he did, and I hope it will for you too. Show us here at Drummers I Like how Jeff has inspired you. Tag us in your videos on Instagram or Facebook. Send us a tweet or leave a comment below this post about your thoughts on Jeff, and how he has touched your life. Rich and I will mention some of the best videos and comments on one of our upcoming podcasts. Make sure to check out the videos and links on this page if you’re not as familiar with Jeff’s work and go check it out. Until next time keep rockin those half-time shuffles!

Kevin Ciarlelli

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