The Elton John Band Archives
Drums, Tambourine, Backing Vocals
Drummer Nigel Olsson helped define the Elton John band sound that took the singer’s career to new heights in the mid-70s, and has been a fan favorite for decades.
Nigel started out as a lead singer in Sunderland, England and after becoming a drummer, moved to London to join the group Plastic Penny, which recorded two albums on Page One Records and a UK hit called Everything I Am.
In 1969, Nigel and bassist Dee Murray toured and recorded with the Spencer Davis Group, appearing on their album Funky, and Nigel went on to work with Uriah Heep for a short while, performing on their debut album, Very ‘eavy, Very ‘umble in 1970.
It was around this time that Nigel was also drumming on some of Elton’s songwriting demos at the Dick James Studios in London. Although not yet officially part of the band, he made his first appearance on an Elton record playing drums on Lady What’s Tomorrow, from the 1969 album Empty Sky.
Nigel became Elton’s concert drummer in April 1970, forming a trio with Dee Murray, and going on the road to support the Elton John album, culminating with the career-changing performances at The Troubadour in Los Angeles. Nigel, Dee and Elton continued to play together through 1971, even though other drummers were also used on the albums Elton was recording at the time.
In 1972, Elton, Nigel, Dee, and guitarist Davey Johnstone became The Elton John Band on record as well as on stage, beginning with the album Honky Chateau. This incredibly successful configuration would continue through five #1 albums, numerous smash hit singles, and record-breaking world tours until 1975, when Elton chose to dismiss Nigel and Dee from the band.
Nigel also released his own solo records, starting with Nigel Olsson’s Drum Orchestra And Chorus in 1971, and had a minor hit with Only One Woman in 1974. He also recorded with artists like Neil Sedaka and Billy Joel, whose album Turnstiles was originally done with Elton’s ex-rhythm section.
Nigel released two successful singles in 1979 and 1980, and then he and Dee were invited back to the band, beginning another four-year run with Elton. Nigel played Saturday Night from his album Changing Tides, and a song called All I Want Is You, in the middle of Elton’s set on the 1980 tour.
Nigel worked on his music production and songwriting in Atlanta and Nashville from 1984 to 1991, and then he and Davey Johnstone formed the group Warpipes, which released one album, Holes in the Heavens.
After a self-imposed hiatus from the music business, broken up by the occasional session in Nashville and Los Angeles, Nigel began work on his solo CD, Move the Universe. This 2001 effort featured Nigel covering a John/Taupin song that had been written for the Made In England album, but had never been released: Building A Bird.
Once again, Nigel was welcomed back into the fold of the Elton John Band in early 2000, playing promotional dates for Elton’s The Road To El Dorado soundtrack (on which he sang backing vocals), and making a big comeback on the stage of Madison Square Garden for Elton’s One Night Only concerts. On tour again with Elton, Nigel’s unique drumming style continues to thrill fans worldwide.