In celebration of Nigel Olsson’s birthday today, we give you Ten Things You May Not Have Known About Elton’s long-time drummer:
To date, Nigel has played drums and/or sung backing vocals on 186 studio recordings and 59 live songs released by Elton. This is more than any other drummer who has worked in the band. He has appeared on 18 of Elton's studio albums and three live releases.
Nigel’s first appearance on an Elton album was as the drummer on Lady, What’s Tomorrow? from Empty Sky, Elton's 1969 debut. He played on select songs on the albums Tumbleweed Connection, Friends and Madman Across The Water before Elton solidified his studio band of Nigel, Dee Murray (bass) and Davey Johnstone (guitars) on Honky Château in 1972.
Nigel’s most recent credit on an Elton project was as drummer and backing vocalist on Elton's 2016 album Wonderful Crazy Night. Fun fact: Nigel (along with 3 other band members) provided uncredited handclaps on the brilliant stomper, Guilty Pleasure.
Nigel has performed a total of 2,358 concerts with Elton, starting during the spring of 1970 in Elton’s original 3-piece touring band, with Dee Murray on bass.
His most recent appearance was last night at Elton's Million Dollar Piano residency at The Colosseum at Caesars Palace, Las Vegas. He will also be performing there tonight, so if you are in the audience be sure to wish Nigel a happy birthday!
Nigel also was drummer and backing vocalist for Elton (and in the house band) during Elton John: I'm Still Standing – A GRAMMY Salute, on January 30 at the Theater at Madison Square Garden. The special will air on CBS in April.
[Nigel preparing for the Million Dollar Piano on February 9, 2018. (Photo: Tony Smith)]
Since 2000, Nigel hand-signs the snare drum head before each show he does with Elton with the concert’s city and year, making each one unique. He also includes his signature "Stick Man" doodle.
In the 1960s, Nigel was the drummer and sometime lead singer in the band Plastic Penny, whose 1969 album Currency included one of Elton and Bernie Taupin’s earliest compositions, Turn To Me. The song has never been released by Elton.
Nigel has released five albums on his own, starting with Nigel Olsson’s Drum Orchestra And Chorus (1971) and most recently Move The Universe (2001), on which he recorded the John/Taupin song, Building A Bird. The song was written by Elton and Bernie during the Made In England sessions but has never been released by Elton.
Aside from recording with Elton, Nigel has appeared on albums by Stevie Wonder, Neil Sedaka, the Spencer Davis Group, Kenny Rogers, Rod Stewart, Davey Johnstone, Kiki Dee, Jimmy Webb and Linda Ronstadt, as well as many other artists.
Nigel is an admirer of Royal Air Force (RAF) aircraft and their air crews. His custom-made drum kit for the Million Dollar Piano, designed and built by DW Drums, displays the badge of the No. 610 (County of Chester) Squadron, of which he is an honorary member, and the squadron code found on a Spitfire Mk.1 aircraft.
Nigel has a passion for automobile racing, having attended many competitive driving schools in the US and UK, and has driven both race cars and pace cars internationally.
We hope you will join all of us in the Elton John community in wishing Nigel Olsson a very happy birthday indeed!
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