Back during this time, I swore I was the black Neil Peart. Neil was the drummer of the rock band Rush. He is on almost everyone’s top 10 list of greatest rock drummers of all time. I never really knew much about him when I was growing up because I was deep into funk bands who were popular at the time — Cameo, Slave, and The Time. Although my musical influences were varied and consisted of pop, early rap, and the heavy funk that was in heavy rotation on radio in the late 1970s and early 1980s, Rush was not on my radar.

My cousin, the guitar player on the right in this photo, introduced me to heavy metal when I was in my early high school years. I remember listening to hard rock music while growing up in Connecticut, mainly due to my older sister being into bands like Kiss, Aerosmith and Elton John. The classic rock played on FM radio stations was also an influence, but when I heard newer, faster, and heavier music that was a bit more complex than what I was accustomed to, I fell in love.

While I was busy learning how to play in the pocket drumming along to Barry White, Parliament, and Cameo records, I was slowly being led down a different path by my Gibson Les Paul playing cousin. Rush, Iron Maiden, Van Halen, and Judas Priest were part of a new diet of sounds I was ingesting.

When I heard Neil Peart, I lost my marbles. The first song I listened to from Rush was probably Tom Sawyer. I might have been drawn to it due to the fact the song grooves pretty hard. It’s somewhat funky, yet is clearly progressive rock — especially when the song veers into the time signature of 7/8. The drum solo that is featured at the climax, is still one of the greatest in recorded history. I quickly devoured Rush’s 1981 masterpiece “Moving Pictures” and found myself digging deep into their back catalog.

All of the various styles of drumming I heard over the years were all part of the ingredients that make up my drumming style and I have been fortunate to be able to pull from that cookbook of music whenever I need to add a certain spice to a groove I might be playing at any point in time. Knowing the language of funk, metal, pop, and fusion has allowed me to play with several different types of bands. Believe it or not, this has helped me over the past 20 years of playing in modern Broadway musicals.

Why do I say this?

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Clayton Craddock is an independent thinker, father of two beautiful children in New York City. He is the drummer of the hit broadway musical Ain’t Too Proud.