Bernard Purdie

Bernard Lee "Pretty" Purdie (born June 11, 1939) is an American drummer, and an influential R&B, soul, funk, and jazz musician.[1] He is known for his precise musical time keeping[2] and his signature use of triplets against a half-time backbeat: the "Purdie Shuffle."[3] He was inducted into the Modern Drummer Hall of Fame in 2013.[4]

Bernard Purdie
Birth nameBernard Lee Purdie
Also known as
  • Bernard "Pretty" Purdie
  • Mississippi Bigfoot
Born (1939-06-11) June 11, 1939 (age 82)
Elkton, Maryland, U.S.
GenresJazz funk, R&B, funk, soul, crossover music, jazz
Years active1958–present
LabelsA&M, Atco, EMI, Capitol
Associated acts

Purdie recorded Soul Drums[5][6] (1968) as a band leader and although he went on to record Alexander's Ragtime Band, the album remained unreleased until Soul Drums was reissued on CD in 2009 with the Alexander's Ragtime Band sessions. Other solo albums include Purdie Good! (1971), Soul Is... Pretty Purdie[7][8] (1972) and the soundtrack for the blaxploitation film Lialeh (1973).

In the mid-1990s he was a member of The 3B's, with Bross Townsend and Bob Cunningham.


Purdie was born on June 11, 1939 in Elkton, Maryland, US, the eleventh of fifteen children.[9] At an early age he began hitting cans with sticks and learned the elements of drumming techniques from overhearing lessons being given by Leonard Heywood. He later took lessons from Heywood and played in Heywood's big band. Purdie's other influences at that time were Papa Jo Jones, Buddy Rich, Gene Krupa, Joe Marshall, Art Blakey,[10] as well as Cozy Cole, Sticks Evans, Panama Francis, Louis Bellson, and Herbie Lovelle.[11]

In 1961, he moved from his home town of Elkton, Maryland, to New York City. There he played sessions with Mickey and Sylvia and regularly visited the Turf Club on 50th and Broadway, where musicians, agents, and promoters met and touted for business. It was during this period that he played for the saxophonist Buddy Lucas, who nicknamed him 'Mississippi Bigfoot'. Eventually Barney Richmond contracted him to play session work.[10]

Bernard Purdie has long claimed, the first time in a 1978 interview, to have remade the recording of the drums on no less than 21 Beatles tracks.[12] But today, there is no mention of this on the musician's official website or his autobiography, Let the Drums Speak !, released in 2014.[13] The vast majority of sources say that it is indeed Ringo Starr who officiates behind the drums. Rather, it is likely that Purdie was the studio drummer hired by Atco Records in 1964 to add a punchier sound for the US market[14] to the songs "Ain't She Sweet", "Take Out Some Insurance On Me, Baby" and "Sweet Georgia Brown",[15] recorded in Hamburg with Tony Sheridan in 1961 and 1962, when Pete Best was the drummer of the fledgling British band.[16] It is also probable that he played on covers of Fab Four songs performed by groups of imitators with names like the Buggs, the Liverpools or the Beetles, created by unscrupulous record companies in order to take a piece of the pie. Over time, the drummer could therefore have mistakenly remembered that he embellished the original recordings.[12]

He can be seen drumming for the house band at Murray the K's 1965 Brooklyn Fox show excerpts of which were shown on CBS that year.[citation needed] Purdie was contracted by arranger Sammy Lowe to play a session with James Brown in 1965 and recording session records also show that Purdie played on "Ain't That A Groove"[17] at the same session.[10] Purdie is credited on the James Brown's album Say It Loud – I'm Black and I'm Proud (1969)[18] and album Get on the Good Foot (1972).[19]

Purdie started working with Aretha Franklin as musical director in 1970 and held that position for five years,[1] as well as drumming for Franklin's opening act, saxophonist King Curtis and The King Pins.[20] 5–7 March 1971 he performed with both bands at the Fillmore West; the resulting live recordings were released as Aretha Live At The Fillmore West (19 May 1971) and King Curtis's Live At Fillmore West (1971).[21] His best known track with Franklin was "Rock Steady",[22] on which he played what he described as "a funky and low down beat". Of his time with Franklin he once commented that "backing her was like floating in seventh heaven".[10]

Purdie was credited on the soundtrack album for the film Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (1978) and later he was the drummer for the 2009 Broadway revival of Hair and appeared on the associated Broadway cast recording.[23]

Purdie has been a resident of New Jersey, living in Edison, Teaneck and Springfield Township.[24]

Encounter Records

In 1973, Purdie and Lloyd Price founded Encounter Records and released five albums:

Drumming style

Purdie shuffle variants[27] Play .
Purdie shuffle variant[28] Play .

Purdie is known as a groove drummer with immaculate timing who makes use of precision half note, backbeats, and grooves.[2] Purdie's signature sixteenth note hi-hat lick pish-ship, pish-ship, pish-ship is distinct.[10] He often employs a straight eight groove sometimes fusing several influences such as swing, blues and funk. He created the now well-known drum pattern Purdie Half-Time Shuffle that is a blues shuffle variation with the addition of syncopated ghost notes on the snare drum.[28] Variations on this shuffle can be heard on songs such as Led Zeppelin's "Fool in the Rain", the Police's "Walking on the Moon", and Toto's "Rosanna" (Rosanna shuffle).[28][29] Purdie plays the shuffle on Steely Dan's "Babylon Sisters"[30] and "Home At Last".[28]


As leader/co-leader

  • Soul Drums (Date, 1968)
  • Purdie Good! (Prestige, 1971) [note: reissued as Legends of Acid Jazz: Bernard Purdie in 1996]
  • Stand by Me (Whatcha See Is Whatcha Get) (Mega Records [in the 'Flying Dutchman Series'], 1972) with The Playboys
  • Soul Is... Pretty Purdie (Flying Dutchman, 1972; reissued on BGP/Ace in 2014)
  • Shaft (Prestige, 1973) recorded 1971 [note: reissued as Legends of Acid Jazz: Bernard Purdie in 1996]
  • Lialeh (Original Movie Soundtrack) (Bryan, 1974)
  • Delights of the Garden (Douglas/Celluloid, 1975) with The Last Poets
  • Purdie as a Picture (Kilmarnock, 1993) with Galt MacDermot's New Pulse Jazz Band
  • Coolin' 'N Groovin' (A Night at "On-Air") (Lexington/West 47th, 1993)
  • Bernard Purdie's Jazz Groove Sessions in Tokyo (Lexington/West 47th, 1993)
  • After Hours with The 3B's (3B's Music, 1993)
  • Soothin' 'N Groovin' With The 3B's (3B's Music, 1994) with Houston Person
  • The Hudson River Rats (3B's Music, 1995)
  • Fatback! The Jazz Funk Masters Featuring Bernard Purdie (Seven Seas, 1995)
  • Kick 'N Jazz (Drum Beat Blocks, 1996)
  • Soul to Jazz I (Act, 1996) with The WDR Big Band
  • Soul to Jazz II (Act, 1997) with The WDR Big Band
  • In the Pocket (P-Vine, 1997)
  • Get It While You Can (3B's Music, 1999) with The Hudson River Rats
  • The Masters of Groove Meet Dr. No (Jazzateria, 2001) with Reuben Wilson, Grant Green Jr., Tarus Mateen
  • King Of The Beat (3B's Music, 2001)
  • Purdie Good Cookin' (3B's Music, 2003) with Purdie's Powerhouse
  • The Godfathers of Groove (18th & Vine, 2007) with Reuben Wilson, Grant Green Jr., Jerry Jemmott [note: originally released as The Masters of Groove]
  • The Godfathers of Groove 3 (18th & Vine, 2009) with Reuben Wilson, Grant Green Jr., Bill Easley
  • Jersey Blue (Running Rogue, 2009) with Gene McCormick, Jack Hoban
  • Selling It Like It Is (Cadence Jazz, 2013) with David Haney; recorded 2009
  • Cool Down (Sugar Road, 2018)

As sideman


  1. Feather, Leonard & Gitler, Ira (1999). The Biographical Encyclopedia of Jazz. Oxford University Press US. p. 541.
  2. Wynn, Ron. "Bernard Purdie". Retrieved 2009-05-16.
  3. Hyatt, Greg & Mitchell, Stan. Get Locked. Alfred Publishing. p. 95.
  4. "Modern Drummer's Readers Poll Archive, 1979–2014". Modern Drummer. Retrieved 10 August 2015.
  5. Watts, R., Edwards D., Callahan, M., and Eyries, P. Date Album Discography Retrieved 26 May 2021
  6. Bernard Purdie discography Retrieved 26 May 2021
  7. Flying Dutchman Label Discography Retrieved 25 May 2021
  8. Bernard Purdie discography Retrieved 25 May 2021
  9. "Bernard "Pretty" Purdie - Artist Profile". Retrieved 1 April 2017.
  10. Payne, Jim & Weinger, Harry. The Great Drummers of R&B Funk & Soul. Oxford University Press US. pp. 143–145.
  11. Encyclopedia of Jazz Musicians: Biography. Archived 2011-10-01 at the Wayback Machine Retrieved 1 April 2013.
  12. "Did Bernard Purdie play for the Beatles? - Quora". Quora. Retrieved 12 June 2021.
  13. "Replacing Ringo? The Story Behind Bernard Purdie and The Beatles". Fab Four Archivist. Retrieved 12 June 2021.
  14. Ingham, Chris (2009). The Rough Guide to the Beatles. Rough Guides UK. p. 363. ISBN 978-1-84836-752-4.
  15. Gottfridsson, Hans Olof; Sheridon, Tony & Beatles. The Beatles from Cavern to Star-Club: The Illustrated Chronicle, Discography & Price Guide 1957–1962. Premium Publishing (1997). pp. 222, 310, 313, 333, 341.
  16. Everett, Walter (2001). "Notes to pages cited". The Beatles as Musicians. Oxford University Press. pp. 202–212. ISBN 9780195141054.
  17. "James Brown credits". Retrieved 2009-05-16.
  18. Unterberger, Richie. "Say It Loud-I'm Black and I'm Proud". Retrieved 2009-05-19.
  19. Elias, Jason. "Get On The Good Foot". Retrieved 2009-05-19.
  20. "Bernard "Pretty" Purdie - Artist Profile". Retrieved February 12, 2020.
  21. "Bernard "Pretty" Purdie credits". Retrieved 2009-05-15.
  22. "Rock Steady". Retrieved 2009-05-15.
  23. BWW News desk. "Hair Broadway Cast Recording With Never Before Released Tracks Hits Stores". Retrieved 2009-05-16.
  24. Jordan, Chris. "Drummer Bernard 'Pretty' Purdie has kept the time to your life", Asbury Park Press, October 4, 2013. Accessed October 5, 2013. "Purdie eventually moved to Jersey — Teaneck and Edison before settling in Springfield."
  25. last = Wynn| first = Ron| title = Seldon Powell Biography| publisher = Allmusic| Allmusic|class=artist|id=p9445/biography | access-date=26 May 2021
  26. Allmusic Brown N Serve review
  27. Michalkow, Mike (2008). The Total Rock Drummer, p.64. ISBN 0-7390-5268-3.
  28. Berry and Giani (2003). The Drummer's Bible, p.35. ISBN 1-884365-32-9.
  29. Segal, David (2009-03-30). "A Signature Shuffle Enjoys a New Life".
  30. Mason, Stuart. "Babylon Sisters". Retrieved 2009-05-16.
  31. "Oliver Darley Stirring Souls in U.K." Billboard, at Google Books. Retrieved 11 May 2013.
  32. "Earthquake at the Avalon – Larry Coryell – Songs, Reviews, Credits – AllMusic". Retrieved 1 April 2017.


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  • Gottfridsson, Hans Olof; Sheridan, Tony and Beatles. The Beatles from Cavern to Star-Club: The Illustrated Chronicle, Discography & Price Guide 1957–1962. Premium Publishing (1997). ISBN 978-91-971894-7-7
  • Kernfeld, Barry Dean. The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz second edition. Grove's Dictionaries Inc. (2002). Digitized 21 Dec (2006). ISBN 978-1-56159-284-5
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  • Rabb, Johnny; Brych, Ray and Lohman, Gregg. Jungle/Drum 'n' Bass for the Acoustic Drum Set: A Guide to Applying Today's Electronic Music to the Drum Set. Alfred Publishing (2001). ISBN 0-7579-9025-8
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  • York, William. Who's Who in Rock Music+. Atomic Press (1978). Digitized 30 Aug 2007.