Nigel Olsson

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Nigel Olsson
Nigel Olsson 2007.jpg
Olsson in the Elton John band; May 2007 in Alabama
Background information
Born (1949-02-10) 10 February 1949 (age 70)
Wallasey, Cheshire
England, United Kingdom
Genres Rock
Occupation(s)Musician, songwriter, producer
InstrumentsDrums, percussion, vocals
Years active1967–present
Labels Page One, Uni, Rocket, Polydor, Columbia, Bang, 81, Artful Balance
Associated acts Plastic Penny, Elton John, Uriah Heep, Spencer Davis Group

Nigel Olsson (born 10 February 1949) is an English rock drummer and singer best known for his long-time affiliation with Elton John.

Elton John English rock singer-songwriter, composer and pianist

Sir Elton Hercules John is an English singer, songwriter, pianist, and composer. He has worked with lyricist Bernie Taupin as his songwriting partner since 1967; they have collaborated on more than 30 albums. John has sold more than 300 million records, making him one of the best-selling music artists in the world. He has more than fifty Top 40 hits, as well as seven consecutive number-one albums in the United States, 58 Billboard Top 40 singles, 27 Top 10 singles, four which reached number two and nine which reached number one. His tribute single "Candle in the Wind 1997", rewritten in dedication to Diana, Princess of Wales, sold over 33 million copies worldwide and is the best-selling single in the history of the UK and US singles charts. He has also composed music, produced records, and has occasionally acted in films. John owned Watford F.C. from 1976 to 1987, and 1997 to 2002. He is an honorary Life President of the club, and in 2014 had a stand named after him at the club's home stadium.


A dynamic drummer and backing vocalist, Olsson helped establish the Elton John sound as a member of John's original power trio alongside bassist Dee Murray. When not working with John, Olsson has taken up the role of a session musician. Olsson has composed, recorded, and produced albums for his own solo career.

Dee Murray English bassist

Dee Murray was an English bass guitarist, best known as a member of Elton John's band.

Session musician Profession; musician hired to perform in recording sessions or live performances

Session musicians, studio musicians, or backing musicians are musicians hired to perform in recording sessions or live performances. Session musicians are usually not permanent members of a musical ensemble or band. They work behind the scenes and rarely achieve individual fame in their own right as soloists or bandleaders. However, top session musicians are well known within the music industry, and some have become publicly recognized, such as the Wrecking Crew, and The Funk Brothers who worked with Motown Records.


Early years

Olsson was born to John and Elsa Olsson in Wallasey, Cheshire, England, the second of five boys. [1] He began his musical career playing the guitar in small bands, and took up the drums at a gig where the drummer did not show up at the last minute. [2] His first appearance on a record album was in the band Plastic Penny, which released Two Sides of a Penny on Page One Records in 1968. Olsson was spotlighted on one song on that album, "I Want You," performing both lead vocals and a drum solo. In 1969 he played drums on the "flower power" pop single "Mr. Boyd" b/w "Imagine" by Argosy, a one-off group which also included Reginald Dwight (later known as Elton John), Caleb Quaye, and Roger Hodgson. [3] Olsson also had a brief stint with the English hard rock band Uriah Heep, playing drums on two songs on their 1970 debut LP, Very 'eavy... Very 'umble . Subsequently, he played drums on one track on Elton John's debut album, Empty Sky , and then became a member of The Spencer Davis Group with bassist Dee Murray. The pair joined John on the road as his touring band in April 1970, and played with John during his debut tour in the United States at the Troubadour Club on 25 August 1970. Only permitted at first to play on one track of each of John's early studio albums, Olsson and Murray, along with guitarist Davey Johnstone, became Elton’s studio band with the recording of Honky Chateau in January 1972.

Wallasey Town in Merseyside, England

Wallasey is a town within the Metropolitan Borough of Wirral, in Merseyside, England, on the mouth of the River Mersey, at the northeastern corner of the Wirral Peninsula. At the 2011 Census, the population was 60,284.

Cheshire County of England

Cheshire is a county in North West England, bordering Merseyside and Greater Manchester to the north, Derbyshire to the east, Staffordshire and Shropshire to the south and Flintshire, Wales and Wrexham county borough to the west. Cheshire's county town is the City of Chester (118,200); the largest town is Warrington (209,700). Other major towns include Crewe (71,722), Ellesmere Port (55,715), Macclesfield (52,044), Northwich (75,000), Runcorn (61,789), Widnes (61,464) and Winsford (32,610)

Plastic Penny were an English 1960s pop band, formed in November 1967 before splitting up in August 1969. The group had one hit single early in 1968: the song "Everything I Am". Most of the members went on to greater fame with other bands or in session work.

Joining the Elton John band

Olsson in 1971 Nigel Olsson 1971.jpg
Olsson in 1971

With Johnstone, Olsson, and Murray on board, John enjoyed a string of critically acclaimed albums and hit singles. The albums include Honky Chateau , Don't Shoot Me I'm Only the Piano Player , Goodbye Yellow Brick Road , and Caribou . Shortly before the Caribou studio sessions, famed session percussionist Ray Cooper joined permanently, having previously been a sideman, what was billed as The Elton John Band. Olsson played during all of John's original American tours and confesses that he still gets nervous before going on stage. [4]

<i>Dont Shoot Me Im Only the Piano Player</i> 1972 album by Elton John

Don't Shoot Me I'm Only the Piano Player is the sixth studio album by Elton John. Released in October, 1972 by DJM Records, it was John's sixth normal studio album release, and was his second straight No. 1 album in the US, yielding his first No. 1 single in both the US and Canada: "Crocodile Rock". "Daniel" was also a major hit from the album, giving him his second Canadian No. 1 single on the RPM Top Singles Chart and just missing the top slot south of the border, still reaching a successful No. 2 on the US Billboard Hot 100 and reaching No. 4 in the UK, one place higher than achieved by "Crocodile Rock".

<i>Goodbye Yellow Brick Road</i> 1973 album by Elton John

Goodbye Yellow Brick Road is the seventh studio album by Elton John, released in 1973. The album has sold more than 30 million copies worldwide and is widely regarded as John's best. It was recorded at the Château d'Hérouville in France after problems recording at the intended location in Jamaica. Among the 17 tracks, the album contains the hits "Candle in the Wind", "Bennie and the Jets", "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" and "Saturday Night's Alright for Fighting" plus "Funeral for a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding" and "Harmony".

<i>Caribou</i> (album) 1974 studio album by Elton John

Caribou is the eighth studio album by Elton John, released in 1974. It was his fourth chart-topping album in the United States and his third in the United Kingdom. The album contains the singles, "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me", which reached number 16 in the UK Singles Chart and number 2 in the US, and "The Bitch Is Back", which reached number 15 in the UK and number 4 in the US. Both these singles reached number 1 in Canada on the RPM 100 national Top Singles Chart. In the US the album was certified gold in July 1974 and was certified platinum and 2x platinum in March 1993 by the RIAA. The album was nominated for the Grammy Award for Album of the Year at the 17th Annual Grammy Awards.

The Elton John band, while still a trio- Olsson in the center on drums, 1971 Elton John in concert in 1971.jpg
The Elton John band, while still a trio- Olsson in the center on drums, 1971

In 1971, Olsson produced and released his debut solo album Nigel Olsson's Drum Orchestra and Chorus on Uni Records; featuring Murray and Hookfoot guitarist Caleb Quaye, who had played on John's early albums. Olsson also teamed up with the Liverpool trio, The Big Three, for their reunion album Resurrection (1973).

Uni Records US record label operated by Universal City Records, Inc.

Uni Records was a record label owned by MCA Inc.. The brand, which long featured a distinctive UNi logo, was established in 1966 by MCA executive Ned Tanen and developed by music industry veteran Russ Regan. Notable artists on Uni included Strawberry Alarm Clock, the Foundations, Hugh Masekela, Brian Hyland, Desmond Dekker, Bill Cosby, Elton John, Neil Diamond, Dave and Ansil Collins, Fever Tree, Olivia Newton-John, Betty Everett, and the Factory. In 1967, Uni took over management of MCA's newly acquired Kapp Records. Uni also operated Revue Records, a soul music subsidiary, from about 1966 to 1970. In 1971 Uni was merged with Kapp and the co-owned American Decca Records, to form MCA Records. The Decca, Kapp, and Uni labels continued to be used for new releases for a short time, but in late 1972, new releases by their former artists began appearing on the MCA Records label; before long, their back catalogs were transferred to MCA as well. That year, Regan left MCA to revive 20th Century Records for 20th Century Fox.


Hookfoot was a British rock band, active from 1969 to 1974.

Caleb Quaye, is an English Afro-European rock guitarist and studio musician best known for his work in the 1960s and 1970s with Elton John, Mick Jagger, Pete Townshend, Paul McCartney, Hall & Oates and Ralph McTell, and also toured with Shawn Phillips in the 1970s. He is the son of Cab Kaye, younger brother of Terri Quaye, and older half-brother of former 1990s singer Finley Quaye.

In May 1975, Olsson and Murray were dismissed from John's band following the release of Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy, which, upon release, entered the charts at #1. Olsson's second solo album, Nigel Olsson, appeared later that year on John's own record label, The Rocket Record Company, and featured a cover of the Bee Gees'-penned "Only One Woman", which had been recorded with John and his band in August 1974 during the sessions for Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy, and was produced by Gus Dudgeon. The album was produced by Robert Appére.

<i>Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy</i> 1975 studio album by Elton John

Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy is the ninth studio album by Elton John. The album is an autobiographical account of the early musical careers of Elton John and Bernie Taupin. It was released in May 1975 by MCA in America and DJM in the UK. It debuted at number 1 on the US Billboard 200, the first album to do so, reportedly selling 1.4 million copies in its first 4 days of release, and stayed in that position for seven weeks. Though they would all appear on later albums as guest musicians, this was the last album with the original lineup of the Elton John Band. Murray and Olsson, who had formed John's rhythm section since 1970, were sacked prior to the recording of the follow-up album Rock of the Westies, while Johnstone would leave in 1978. This was the last album until Too Low for Zero that Elton John and his classic band would play on together.

A record label, or record company, is a brand or trademark associated with the marketing of music recordings and music videos. Sometimes, a record label is also a publishing company that manages such brands and trademarks, coordinates the production, manufacture, distribution, marketing, promotion, and enforcement of copyright for sound recordings and music videos, while also conducting talent scouting and development of new artists, and maintaining contracts with recording artists and their managers. The term "record label" derives from the circular label in the center of a vinyl record which prominently displays the manufacturer's name, along with other information. Within the mainstream music industry, recording artists have traditionally been reliant upon record labels to broaden their consumer base, market their albums, and be both promoted and heard on music streaming services, radio, and television. Record labels also provide publicists, who assist performers in gaining positive media coverage, and arrange for their merchandise to be available via stores and other media outlets.

The Rocket Record Company music label in Britain

The Rocket Record Company was a record label founded by Elton John, along with Bernie Taupin, Gus Dudgeon, Steve Brown and others, in 1973. The company was named after the hit song "Rocket Man". The label was originally distributed in the UK by Island and in the US by MCA Records, both of which Elton John was also signed to.

Olsson continued working as a studio musician, releasing another self-titled album produced by Paul Davis on Columbia in 1978, while managed by Martin Pichinson. Although that album brought no Top 40 recognition, in 1979 he released the album Nigel and enjoyed some mild success as a solo artist, scoring a pair of Top 40 hits on the U.S. pop chart with "A Little Bit of Soap" and "Dancin' Shoes", the latter of which cracked the Top 20 at #18. "Dancin' Shoes" was written by Carl Storie, and first recorded by his Faith Band.

In August 1980, he released the album Changing Tides on CBS's Bang Records, but the album failed to achieve chart success. That same year, Olsson returned to Elton John's band to begin a four-year tenure, appearing on John's albums 21 at 33 and The Fox . He rejoined former bandmates Murray and Johnstone for the tour behind John's 1982 album Jump Up! , and stayed with the reformed band through the next two albums and tours for Too Low for Zero (1983) and Breaking Hearts (1984). Following another line-up change, they would rejoin only one more time in 1988 for backing vocals on Reg Strikes Back prior to Murray's untimely death on 15 January 1992.

In 1991 Olsson reunited with Johnstone in the band 'Warpipes', releasing Holes in the Heavens. Although the album was critically successful, it failed commercially when their label, Artful Balance, went bankrupt, and the band was unable to tour to support the record. Olsson also sang on Davey Johnstone and Guy Babylon's production of Addison Steel's Stormy Blue that year.

On 31 March 2000, Olsson sang backing vocals alongside Billy Trudel and Ken Stacey when John appeared on The Today Show to promote the soundtrack to the film The Road to El Dorado . On 3 April, Olsson played drums on three songs at the Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS benefit saluting John at the New Amsterdam Theatre in New York City. By the time of John's "One Night Only" concerts in New York City on 20 and 21 October, Olsson was alternating with and playing drums alongside Curt Bisquera. In January 2001, Olsson took over the full-time drumming chores when Bisquera left to pursue other projects.

In 2001 Olsson released another solo album entitled Move The Universe on 81 Records. Davey Johnstone and Guy Babylon produced the record and played on all of the tracks, along with Bob Birch on bass, Elton John alumnus Fred Mandel on piano, John Mahon on percussion, and Billy Trudel on backing vocals. Kiki Dee sang lead vocals on "Naked Without You", and Olsson's brother Kai sang lead vocals on McGuinness Flint's "When I'm Dead an' Gone." The track "Building A Bird" had been written by Elton John & Bernie Taupin in 1994 during the sessions for Elton's album "Made in England," but never recorded. Olsson dedicated the album to the late Dee Murray.

In the studio, he played and sang backing vocals on several tracks on John's Songs from the West Coast (2001). He then played all the drums on Peachtree Road (2004) and The Captain & the Kid (2006), as well as continuing in the touring band, along with Johnstone, Bob Birch (bass), Kim Bullard (keyboards) and John Mahon (percussion). With bassist Matt Bissonette replacing the late Bob Birch in 2012, this band recorded Wonderful Crazy Night in 2015 for release in February 2016. [1]

On 9 November 2014, Olsson played his 2000th concert with Elton John at the Ice Hall Palace in Saint Petersburg, Russia. [5]

On his 68th birthday, 10 February 2017, Olsson played his 2,267th concert with Elton John at The Colosseum at Caesars Palace, Las Vegas, Nevada. [6]

Personal life

Olsson has two children: Justin, who lives with his wife Angela in the United States, and Annette, who lives with her husband Barry and children Ashley and Katie in England. [1] He has been married to Schanda Butler since 25 June 1989, [1] and resides in Los Angeles.

Olsson is a longtime car and racing fanatic, and has been associated with VARA and HMSA as both a racecar driver and a pace car driver. [1]



YearAlbum Billboard 200 Record label
1971Nigel Olsson's Drum Orchestra and Chorus DJM Records
1975Nigel Olsson The Rocket Record Company
1978Nigel Olsson (second self-titled) Columbia Records
1979Nigel140 Bang Records
1980Changing Tides
2001Move The Universe81 Records


YearTitlePeak chart
Record Label B-side Album
1971"Some Sweet Day" Uni Records "Weirdhouse"Nigel Olsson's Drum Orchestra and Chorus
"Sunshine Looks Like Rain""And I Know in My Heart"
1972"Alabama" DJM Records "Sunshine Looks Like Rain"
1974"Something Lacking in Me" The Rocket Record Company "Songs I Sing"Nigel Olsson
"Only One Woman"91"In Good Time"
1976"Get It up for Love""Can't You See"
"Girl We've Got to Keep On""A Girl Like You" (US #107)
1978"Say Goodbye to Hollywood" CBS Records International "Living in a Fantasy"Nigel
"Dancin' Shoes"188 Bang Records "Living in a Fantasy"
1979"Little Bit of Soap"349"Thinking of You"
"Part of the Chosen Few""All It Takes"
1980"Saturday Night""Trapeze"Changing Tides

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  1. 1 2 3 4 5 "Nigel Olsson Bio".
  2. Olsson, Nigel (1998–2009). "Interview on YouTube with Nigel Olsson". YouTube interview posted on Nigel Olsson's official website. Noreen Romano/ Retrieved 31 December 2011.
  3. Joynson, Vernon (1995). The Tapestry of Delights Archived 2 May 2012 at the Wayback Machine . London: Borderline Books. See entry on "Argosy".
  4. "Drummer delivers solid walls of sound for Elton John". The Daily Herald. 2010. Retrieved 11 February 2010.
  5. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 4 December 2016. Retrieved 25 January 2015.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  6. "Wishing Nigel Olsson a Happy Birthday". Elton John.