On July 14, 2008, a random music fan shot a video of Rick K and the Allnighters performing at an amusement park in Pennsylvania. Two years later, someone else posted it to YouTube under the heading ‘This Drummer is At the Wrong Gig!’ and it promptly went viral. The singer introduces the ZZ Top tune Sharp Dressed Man and then leaves the stage for a breather as his three-man backup band takes over the show. It wasn’t intended to be a showcase for the drummer, but as the song progresses, the clip focuses more and more on drummer Steve Moore. Behind his hotrod flame trimmed double bass Ludwig drum kit, it is hard to miss him. Dressed in the band’s signature golden sport coat, he flails away at his kit in a manner than one may consider him to be possessed. He quickly earned the handle ‘The Mad Drummer’ in reference to his manic style, not because he appears to be the other kinds of ‘mad’ (as in ‘angry’ or ‘just plain nuts’).
Spending more time than I should checking out musical posts on the internet, I have had this ‘Wrong Gig’ clip pop up more than once. Having not watched it in a long while, I spent the six minutes it took to reacquaint myself with a drummer I knew nothing about other than what I had already seen in this video. It dawned on me, ‘Gee, it has been a long time since I wrote about a drummer’, so you can already see where this is going.
For the record, my archives only show seven drummer themed FTVs over the last four years: Three about Ringo Starr (5-3-23 and 7-5 & -12-23), one about The Band’s Levon Helm (6-8-22 though this one focused mostly on his movie career), Charlie Watts from the Rolling Stones (11-24-21), The Black Crowes former stickman Steve Gorman (2-19-20), and Lee Kerslake who is known primarily as the drummer in the classic lineup of Uriah Heep. Kerslake was also instrumental playing and helping arrange the recordings that kickstarted Ozzy Osbourne’s solo career (5-08-19). Yes, Ringo counts as more recent, but give me some slack here. All of the above are archived on the WOAS-FM website www.woas-fm.org .
Who exactly is Steve Moore? Since his ‘Wrong Gig’ video was posted, Moore has appeared on NBC, The Bio Channel, and TV Total. He has performed in Russia, Austria, Germany, and Belgium, not to mention numerous dates throughout the United States. Ad campaigns for Roland, Tillamook Dairy, and Advil have also featured him so the odds are, you may have seen him outside his Rick K gigs without realizing it. I had to look up the clip when it was reported Moore appeared as a local sportscaster who plays the drums in an episode of The Office. All in all, the ‘Wrong Gig’ video put his mug in front of some 50 million people.
A native of Elkins, West Virginia, Moore was born on February 24 (no year given). Seeing Chuck Berry on TV when Steve was five years old led him to beg his parents for guitar lessons. In the span of a year, he was playing his favorite songs for his family. He spent the next three years studying guitar, banjo, and piano. Just like many young students, Steve’s class was given a music test by the high school band director to gauge their interest in learning to play a band instrument. When the director approached the nine-year old Steve, the boy proclaimed, “Horns are dumb!” and walked away. Undeterred, the director called his parents and persuaded them that Steve had a ‘fantastic sense of pitch’ and asked them to discuss joining the music program. He eventually joined the school band but only on his terms: after six months of playing the trumpet, he wanted to switch to the drums. At that point, Steve’s path forward was paved with sticks.
The drummer’s near future would include playing in the school band and garage combos that are typical stops for a teen drummer learning the trade. In high school, he was playing every weekend in the area’s best bands but it wasn’t enough for Steve. He set his sights on making a living playing music and that meant he would need a change of scene. Moore spent the next six years playing music, but he wasn’t making a living at it. He worked various jobs (factory work, washing dishes) while honing his craft in a variety of bands. He studied the great drummers of the past and borrowed their showman moves. Steve noticed early on that people listen with their eyes as much as their ears so he was determined to do more than just keep time, he also wanted to put on a show.
Steve’s fortunes began to change when he hooked up with a recording engineer who let him crash on his studio floor for six months in exchange for Moore recording drum tracks for him.
Studying other drummers, he found people related to ‘characters’ like Ringo Starr and Keith Moon. Moore ditched the ‘cookie cutter, time keeper’ approach to drumming and amped up his act – if he was going to get noticed, he would do so by being as ‘over the top’ as possible with his playing. The next big step for Steve came in 1997 when he hooked up with Rick K and the Allnighters.
Hailing from MorganTown, West Virginia, the Allnighter’s Vegas style showband approach was just the right vehicle for Steve. Moore was able to ditch his side jobs so he could be on the road 150 to 200 nights a year, make a living, and hone his unique brand of flashy drumming. When a random person in Pennsylvania recorded him (and someone posted the soon to be called ‘This drummer is at the wrong gig’ clip in 2010), Steve Moore had no way of knowing how it was going to impact his career…until it did. The ‘wrong gig’ clip quickly amassed over a million views in just four days.
The clip has resurfaced enough times in the past 13 years that a whole new generation of fans are discovering The Mad Drummer. Soon after the video went viral, Moore’s name surfaced in publications like Drummerworld, and Modern Drummer. Drum manufacturing companies like Ludwig, Sabian, Evans, and Pro-Mark were soon courting a guy who was suddenly the topic of the day on every drum forum on the web. Pictures of Steve signing autographs at a NAMM (National Association of Music Merchants) show seated in front of a Ludwig banner at a long table of other famous musicians abound on the net. Even Dream Theater drummer Mike Portnoy took noticed, tweeting, “O MY GOD…This guy RULES!!” It is hard to say if Moore himself could have mounted a better PR campaign than the one kicked off by the ‘wrong gig’ post.
As far as the other media appearances mentioned above, clips of them can be found at his website ‘themadddrumer.com’, including the ‘wrong gig’ clip that started things rolling for Moore back when it was posted in 2010. When Moore and Rick K appeared on the popular German late-night talk show, TV TOTAL with Stefan Raab, the host commented, “This is not possible…that a human being can do that.” The duo then performed with the show’s house band ‘The Heavytones’. A performance at The Philharmonic in Kursk City, Russia was broadcast by TV46 to more than 500,000 viewers. Moore was also honored to perform at The Adams Drummers Festival in Belgium alongside a host of other performers. The highlight came at the end when Steve closed the show alongside special guest Mike Portnoy.
His appearance in The Office gave Moore the largest audience since his original ‘wrong gig’ clip was posted. The set up in this episode called Pam’s Replacement casts Steve as a local sportscaster who gets invited to jam with the ‘company band’ who are rehearsing in the warehouse. After CEO Robert California (James Spader) joins the group playing harmonica, he also invites guitarist Lindsey Broad and drummer Moore to join in. Steve plays it pretty basic until the group’s original drummer Kevin (Brian Baumgartner) challenges him to a drum battle. At this point, Steve kicks into Mad Drummer mode with hilarious results. The episode was viewed by 5.96 million people when it originally aired and many, many more since online.
One of the stranger endorsement deals Moore has wrangled was for Advil. Watching him tossing in wild windmill arm motions, mind blowing stick twirls, and beating his kit with untold savagery, endorsing a pain reliever isn’t so far-fetched an idea (and yes, he does use the product).
The first drummer I saw live who impressed me with both his chops and his showmanship played in the Lettermen’s back up band. You will forgive me for not being able to dredge up his name after 45 years, but he made an impression on me when I was only a couple of years into learning my way around a drum kit. With a small three piece backup band, the Lettermen produced a wonderful sound running down their hits. They took a couple of breaks by letting the band take their solo slots and (of course) the drummer left me slack jawed. Not only did he not miss a beat during the entire show, he broke out dayglow painted sticks during his solo just to make sure we could see all his tricks of the trade. The concert was held in the double gym next to Hedgecock Field House so you can get the feel for how high the ceilings were if you have been in any high school gym. During his flurry of solo fills, the drummer began flipping his sticks so high in the air, they would disappear behind the roof beams. Through all this, he never dropped a stick or lost a beat. After watching this show, I went home and told my mother I was going to quit playing the drums (but I was back at it the next day). Truth be told, I never did put any time into learning how to twirl or toss drum sticks – I was happy enough being able to keep time and toss in fills without throwing the band off track.
Ed Shaughnessy played in Doc Severinson’s Tonight Show band for 29 years. When they rumbled through their set at Hedgecock Fieldhouse, I was impressed how good he was. Ed was more of a drummer in the ‘big band’ style, but he was adept at any genre Doc would arrange for the band. Like the drummer in the Letterman’s band, Ed took the obligatory solo but unlike Mr Dayglow Sticks, he dropped enough sticks to build a beaver dam. Maybe he was just having an off night, but one couldn’t help but notice that he, too, never missed a beat even when one of his sticks took flight. Watching the band’s back line duck flying sticks was an added bonus.
I grew up learning to play the drums in the Iron Butterfly / In-a-gadda-da-vida era when every rock drummer was expected to play a solo. Butterfly’s Ron Bushy was perhaps not as technical as Buddy Rich, but he made his kit sound like a lead instrument. Neil Peart combined the best of big band and progressive rock in his solos. Mike Portnoy? He seemed to be soloing all the time in his Dream Theater days (as drummers in prog rock bands sometimes do). With that said, I was kind of interested in what kind of a drum solo Steve Moore would play for other drummers. Would he keep the showmanship level high while trying to show off his chops?
I found a clip of Steve doing just that at a drum festival billed as Woodstick 2010. Steve was playing a basic kit for this event, not the flamed out Ludwig double bass kit most of his ‘wrong gig’ era videos show. He was using a double bass drum pedal on his single bass drum with this kit and he did show off some fancy footwork. Interestingly, the ten minute solo he performed wasn’t a lot of super fast, fancy stuff. He built his solo off a steady rhythm that never wavered as he ran down his chops. Once a show drummer, always a show drummer; halfway through his solo, he did toss in a little of the arm waving, stick twirling stuff I had previously seen, but on the whole, he kept it pretty basic. This is not a criticism. YouTube is loaded with drummers blowing through solos which always make me think, “Okay, that is a bit much – I wonder what you sound like actually playing in a band?” It was refreshing to see that Moore could do a KISS solo (Keep It Simple, Stupid) and still toss in a few tricks without missing a beat or losing the rhythm. He was given a big ovation by this roomful of drummers for his efforts.
Back in the early 1990s, Moore played with a metal band called Brick Mistress. The most current video I have found came from late 2022 with Steve playing along with a BM track called Fight the System. Steve is seated behind a TAMA double bass set as he thunders through the song with a lot of bass drum work and few showy touches. The original band broke up in 1993 and I can not get a handle on why he released this video now. The clip is entitled ‘I’m Back’ so maybe they got the old band back together (not stated) or he is using this to promote a new Brick Mistress Anthology set that was recently released. After seeing a lot of the Rick K stuff he did (which was everything from pop to country), it was interesting to see what a competent metal drummer he is. For those who think being a ‘metal drummer’ is just mindless bashing, I urge you to look up Moore’s ‘I’m Back’ clip. Bashing, yes, but with many technical licks thrown in.
Drum blogger Jason Sayer recently re-posted the ‘I’m Back’ video and during his commentary, he also noted it had been a while since he had seen anything new from Moore. Sayer was pleasantly surprised when Fight the System kicked off with Moore’s cymbal chokes (he often strikes a cymbal and then uses the same hand to choke the same cymbal (which makes it stop ringing)) and his double bass footwork. His comments brought the following response from the Mad Drummer himself: “Jason, I appreciate the nice words. I’ve been doing the same thing for soooo many years, and just wanted to release a video of me playing drums (without the antics). However, I’m sure I will be tossing some of it in there in future videos. I appreciate the great support you’ve shown me. Hope all is well.”
Steve’The Mad Drummer’ Moore announced in 2019 that he left Rick K’s band so he could pursue other opportunities. With a drummer with his skill set (as both a drummer and a performer), I am pretty sure we will be seeing him put out more new music in the future.
Top Piece Video: If you haven’t seen it, let me introduce you to The Mad Drummer with the video that made him a viral sensation: