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Richard Bailey


Currently working with Steve Winwood, Richard Bailey discusses turning his back on the lucrative session scene, recording Jeff Beck's landmark Blow By Blow album and the release of his own solo record Shanti Om.

Born in Guyana and growing up in Trinidad, Richard Bailey is the son of Emmanuel McDonald Bailey, an Olympic runner who won a bronze medal for Great Britain in 1952. Like his father, Richard was a keen athlete, but left school at 15 to pursue music, working with Jeff Beck, Incognito, Steve Winwood, Linda Lewis, Billy Ocean and a host of others.

"My older brother Robert had a band in Trinidad, and the equipment was always lying around so I used to play percussion and bass guitar. At that time I was hearing Tamla Motown on American radio, and also the Caribbean and Latin music from the various islands, so I could play many rhythms, like bossa nova, jazz waltz, and funk. I knew nothing about rudiments, but with those rhythms I was able to play a gig and I finally got my own kit when I was 11, but I wouldn't play in front of anyone - not at home, anyway, as I was shy and didn't touch the drums until everyone was out of the house. "My family moved to London when I was 12, and my first notable gig was with Johnny Nash when I left school at 15. I got the gig indirectly through my brother, who was playing with people like Wendell Richardson and Fuzzy Samuels, and later played in Osibisa. I would often go to his gigs and I was also in the West Indian steel band scene and they would play function gigs. Rebop Kwakuba, who played with Traffic and Osibisa, recommended me for the Johnny Nash gig. That was just before Johnny had a hit with 'I Can See Clearly Now.' I don't remember auditioning but I got the gig. Bob Marley was also in the band but he wasn't well known at that time, but he was pretty wild and intense and knew what he wanted. He would do four numbers as a guest in Johnny's show."

Surprisingly Richard has never taken a drum lesson and considers himself a weak reader of notation. "I'm completely self-taught. I can read music a little as I took a few flute lessons at school. That gave me the basics, and later I bought a copy of Buddy Rich's Modern Interpretation of Snare Drum Rudiments, which helped with my basic reading and got me into some of the rudiments. I'm rarely asked to read and if I'm given a chart it's often more of a hindrance, so I usually ask the bass player to cue me for any major accents."

In spite of this admission, Richard very quickly became an in-demand session drummer in the 70s, recording Jeff Beck's landmark though often complex fusion album Blow By Blow.


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