Chevy Chase Talks Almost Playing Drums In Steely Dan
Prior to SNL, the veteran actor was a bandmate of Donald Fagen and Walter Becker in the 1960s.
Chase was born in New York City and raised mostly in Woodstock, New York. He attended the nearby Bard College in Red Hook, where his classmates included fellow actor Christopher Guest, as well as musicians Walter Becker and Donald Fagen.
Chase, who is said to have perfect pitch, befriended Becker and Fagen and played drums in a band with them before they went on to co-found Steely Dan. Fagen, an avid WTF listener, was asked by Maron to give his assessment of Chase, whom he called a “great musician.”
“We started Steely Dan, basically,” Chase told Maron about his time at Bard in the mid-1960s. “I was [Fagen’s] first drummer and I loved it. We started at Bard College. I can’t remember the name of the little place that people would go and play guitars and sing. And we called ourselves The Very Bad Jazz Band. That was literally our name …
“I think I was a good jazz drummer … I loved doing that kind of thing and I did it many times later too … I didn’t want to be a rock ‘n’ roll drummer kind of guy, you know?”
Becker died in 2017 at age 67. Fagen continues to to tour as Steely Dan.
Among the other musical projects Chase was involved in was the short-lived group Chamaeleon Church. A lone self-titled album by the band, which Chase called “hideous,” was released in 1968 but generated little attention.
Chase brought his drumming skills to National Lampoon’s Lemmings, an early-1970s stage show that included a parody of the 1969 Woodstock festival and saw Chase reconnect with Guest. An album was released by National Lampoon of the Lemmings Woodstock spoof in 1973. Lemmings also featured John Belushi who would join Chase in 1975 as part of the original “not-ready-for-primetime-players” Saturday Night Live cast.
Also a skilled pianist, Chase has showcased his talents on the keys at various points in his acting career. Examples of Chase playing piano include the silly “I was made to love you,” scene in Caddyshack and his character’s adaptation of Bruce Hornsby’s “The Way It Is” that appeared on the television series Community.
Chase’s interview with Maron also touched on Chase meeting Bob Dylan and The Band in Woodstock, his one-season on SNL, successful film and television career and much more. Listen to Chase’s interview below:
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