Steve Elliott Smith (born on August 21, 1954 in Whitman, Massachusetts) is an American drummer who has worked with hundreds of artists in his career, but is mostly known for being the drummer of the rock band Journey during their peak years of success. Modern Drummer magazine readers voted him the #1 All-Around Drummer five years in a row. In 2001, Modern Drummer named Steve as one of the Top 25 Drummers of All Time, and in 2002 he was voted into the Modern Drummer Hall of Fame.
At age nine, in 1963, Smith began studying the drums with local Boston area teacher Bill Flanagan, who played in big bands in the swing era. Smith performed in the usual school band program and garage bands while in his teens, but also began to broaden his performing experience by playing in a professional concert band and the big band at local Bridgewater State College. After high school, he attended the Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts. Smith toured with jazz violinist Jean-Luc Ponty, was the drummer on the last Focus album Focus con Proby, as well as drumming with Ronnie Montrose before joining the rock band Journey in 1978. He occupied the drum chair from late 1978 through mid-1985. Smith left the band in 1985, but he returned in 1995 for the band's 1996 comeback album, Trial by Fire. In the interim, he played with Journey offshoot The Storm.
He has also worked as a session musician for pop artists such as Mariah Carey, Andrea Bocelli, Elisa, Vasco Rossi, Zucchero, Savage Garden, Bryan Adams, as well as world musicians such as Zakir Hussain and Sandip Burman. Additionally, he has played with various jazz artists including Mike Mainieri's Steps Ahead, Wadada Leo Smith, Tom Coster, Ahmad Jamal, Dave Liebman, Larry Coryell, Victor Wooten, Mike Stern, Randy Brecker, Scott Henderson, Frank Gambale, Stuart Hamm, Dweezil Zappa, Anthony Jackson, Aydın Esen, Torsten de Winkel, George Brooks, Michael Zilber, Steve Marcus, Andy Fusco, Kai Eckhardt, Lee Musiker, Howard Levy, Oteil Burbridge, Jerry Goodman, Tony MacAlpine and Bill Evans. Smith also leads his own jazz group, Vital Information.
In 1994 Smith was invited by Rush drummer Neil Peart to perform in a tribute album, Burning for Buddy: A Tribute to the Music of Buddy Rich, to legendary drummer Buddy Rich, who inspired both drummers' careers and techniques. Smith performed "Nutville", and was invited to return for the second tribute album, Burning for Buddy: A Tribute to the Music of Buddy Rich, Vol. 2, where he performed "Moment's Notice".
2001 was the year Modern Drummer magazine named Smith as one of the Top 25 Drummers of All Time. The following year, he was voted into the Modern Drummer Hall of Fame. In 2003, his Hudson Music DVD Steve Smith Drumset Technique - History of the U.S. Beat was voted the #1 Educational DVD of the year, while in the same year, Smith recorded two albums with Buddy's Buddies, a quintet composed of Buddy Rich alumni, and released two CDs on the Tone Center label. Both were recorded live at the famous London jazz club Ronnie Scott's. They are Very Live at Ronnie Scott's Set One & Set Two.
In 2007, Steve Smith and Buddy's Buddies were renamed "Steve Smith's Jazz Legacy". The band now pays tribute to many great jazz drummers in addition to Buddy Rich. In 1989, Smith headlined the Buddy Rich Memorial Scholarship Concert held in New York City, performing a duet with fellow drummer Marvin "Smitty" Smith.
Having received his first drum kit at age two, Smith began taking drum lessons at age nine with Bill Flanagan. He got his first "real" drum set when he was 12 years old. On many nights, Steve could be heard practicing in a small shed in the backyard of his Harvard street home. He played with both school bands and garage bands during his teens; his first "paid gig" was with a garage band. He graduated from high school in 1972, and joined the Lin Biviano Big Band at 19, playing with them for two years.
Smith studied with Alan Dawson at Berklee. He was voted "top drummer" in 2001. In the early 1990s, Smith studied with Freddie Gruber and as a result, his playing style completely changed.
Equipment and style:
Steve Smith uses his own Vic Firth Signature Sticks, which feature an elongated tip with a long shoulder and short taper, 16" long and .555" in diameter.
Steve also uses DW Hardware, Roland Electronics, Shure Microphones, DW Pedals, Puresound Snare Wires and Remo Drumheads.
Smith is primarily a traditional grip player, though he also uses matched grip.
Steve Smith 30th Anniversary Kit:
Sonor Beechwood Drums & Zildjian Cymbals:,
Drums -- Birdseye Amber Finish
14x14" Floor Tom,
16x16" Floor Tom,
12x5" Snare Drum,
14x5.5" Sonor Cast Steel Snare (w/Phonic Lugs),
20x16" Bass Drum (w/ Felt Strips),
Cymbals -- Zildjian
14" A Armand Hi-Hats,
22" K Dark Medium Ride,
20" K Constantinople Flat Ride,
19" Armand "Beautiful Baby" Ride (w/Rivets),
18" A Armand Thin Crash,
18" A Custom Rezo Crash,
9" K Custom Hybrid Splash,