Cheap Trick Drummer – Bun E. Carlos

October 18, 2023

When you think of iconic rock beats, the name Bun E. Carlos might just pop into your head. As the Cheap Trick drummer, he’s been the backbone of some of the most memorable rock anthems of all time.

Bun E., born Brad M. Carlson, has not only been the rhythmic force behind Cheap Trick but also a figure of intrigue with his signature glasses, ever-present cigarette, and vintage drum kits. His style, both in fashion and drumming, has set him apart in the world of rock ‘n’ roll. 

If you are curious to know more about this drumming legend, stick around as we delve deeper into the beats and life of Bun E. Carlos.

Bun E. Carlos: Cheap Trick Drummer

Early Life

Born in the heart of Rockford, Illinois, Brad M. Carlson, who would later be known to the world as Bun E. Carlos, had music running through his veins from a young age. 

The 60s were a transformative era for music, and growing up during this time, Bun E. was exposed to a plethora of sounds that would shape his musical inclinations.

His parents noticed his keen interest in rhythm early on. Family anecdotes often revolve around a young Bun E. tapping on tables, chairs, and just about any surface he could find. 

Recognizing his budding talent, his parents gifted him his first drum kit when he was 12. This wasn’t just a toy; it was the beginning of a lifelong passion.

Rockford’s local music scene was vibrant, and Bun E. immersed himself in it. He would often frequent local gigs, absorbing the styles of various drummers and incorporating them into his own unique style. 

By his mid-teens, he was already part of garage bands, jamming with friends and playing at school events.


Bun E. Carlos didn’t waste any time. He started playing drums in earnest during his teenage years. By the time he was 17, he had already played his first gig at a local venue in Rockford. His initial foray into the band scene was with a group called “Pagans.” However, destiny had bigger plans for him.

In the early 70s, Bun E. crossed paths with Robin Zander, Rick Nielsen, and Tom Petersson. This fateful meeting led to the formation of the iconic rock band Cheap Trick. 

Bun E. became the driving rhythmic force behind the band, and together, they produced hits that would resonate with rock fans for generations. He has been with Cheap Trick since its inception, marking over four decades of rock ‘n’ roll history.

Notable Performances

“I Want You to Want Me” – One of Cheap Trick’s most iconic songs, this track features Bun E.’s unmistakable drumming style. Played live at the Budokan in Tokyo, this performance became legendary, with the live version even surpassing the studio recording in popularity.

Budokan Concert, 1978 – This wasn’t just another gig for Cheap Trick. It was a defining moment. The Japanese audience’s enthusiasm and the band’s electric performance, with Bun E. Carlos at the helm of the rhythm section, made this a concert for the ages.

“Surrender” – Another gem from Cheap Trick, this song showcases Bun E.’s versatility as a drummer. The live renditions, especially during their 70s tours, were nothing short of explosive.

Notable Collaborations

Tinted Windows

Aside from Cheap Trick, Bun E. Carlos collaborated with Taylor Hanson (of Hanson), James Iha (of The Smashing Pumpkins), and Adam Schlesinger (of Fountains of Wayne) to form the supergroup Tinted Windows. Their self-titled debut album featured tracks like “Kind of a Girl,” where Bun E.’s drumming added a distinct flavor.

“Bang Zoom Crazy… Hello” 

While this is a Cheap Trick album, it’s worth noting because Bun E. Carlos was still involved in the studio recordings (despite not touring with the band during this period).

Solo Work with Guest Artists 

In 2016, Bun E. released his solo album “Greetings from Venezuela!” which featured collaborations with various artists. Notable tracks include “Armenia City in the Sky” with John Stirratt and “Him or Me” featuring Hanson.

Awards & Accolades

Grammy Award Nomination – 1980

Category: Best New Artist

Nomination: As the drummer of Cheap Trick, Bun E. Carlos was nominated for the prestigious Grammy Award for Best New Artist in 1980. While the band didn’t win in this category, the nomination itself was a testament to their impact on the music scene.

Bun E. Carlos Receives Award – WIFR (April 16, 2010)

On April 16, 2010, Bun E. Carlos was honored with an award by WIFR. This recognition celebrated his exceptional contributions to the world of music, particularly his role as the drummer for Cheap Trick. It stands as a testament to his enduring impact on the rock music scene.

Illinois Rock & Roll Museum Hall of Fame – 2015

Category: Inductee

Induction: Bun E. Carlos and the rest of Cheap Trick were honored with induction into the Illinois Rock & Roll Museum Hall of Fame in 2015, highlighting their significance in the local music scene.

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame – 2016

Category: Inductee

Induction: In 2016, Cheap Trick, with Bun E. Carlos as the original drummer, was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. This recognition honored their enduring contribution to rock music.


Solo Work:

  • “Greetings from Bunezuela!” (2016) – Bun E. Carlos’s debut solo album featuring various guest artists.
  • “Armenia City in the Sky” (with John Stirratt)
  • “Him or Me” (with Hanson)

Cheap Trick Albums (with Bun E. Carlos):

  • Cheap Trick (1977) – The band’s self-titled debut album.
  • In Color (1977) – Featuring classics like “I Want You to Want Me.”
  • Heaven Tonight (1978) – Including hits like “Surrender.”
  • Cheap Trick at Budokan (1978) – Live album showcasing their legendary Tokyo performance.
  • Dream Police (1979) – Featuring the title track “Dream Police.”
  • All Shook Up (1980) – Including “Stop This Game.”
  • One on One (1982) – With tracks like “She’s Tight.”
  • Next Position Please (1983) – Featuring “I Can’t Take It.”
  • Standing on the Edge (1985) – Including “Tonight It’s You.”
  • The Doctor (1986) – Featuring “Kiss Me Red.”
  • Lap of Luxury (1988) – With hits like “The Flame.”
  • Busted (1990) – Including “Can’t Stop Falling into Love.”
  • Woke Up with a Monster (1994) – Featuring the title track “Woke Up with a Monster.”

Tinted Windows (with Bun E. Carlos):

  • Tinted Windows (2009) – The self-titled album by the supergroup.
  • “Kind of a Girl”
Cheap Trick Drummer


First Idol: Buddy Rich – Bun E. Carlos found his first drumming idol in the legendary Buddy Rich. Rich’s virtuosic drumming skills left an indelible mark on young Bun E., inspiring him to take up drumming as a serious pursuit.

British Invasion Bands – The British Invasion of the 1960s played a pivotal role in shaping Bun E.’s musical taste. Bands like The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, known for their rhythm-driven music, influenced his approach to drumming.

Keith Moon – The wild and unrestrained drumming style of The Who’s Keith Moon left a significant imprint on Bun E. Carlos. Moon’s energetic and unpredictable drumming pushed Bun E. to explore unconventional rhythms and fills.


Signature Sound 

Bun E. Carlos is celebrated for his straightforward yet impactful drumming style. He’s known for driving the band’s music with a steady and unrelenting beat, providing a solid foundation for Cheap Trick’s catchy melodies.

Precision and Consistency 

What sets him apart is his remarkable precision and consistency. Whether it’s a thunderous drum fill or a subtle groove, Bun E. delivers each beat with unwavering accuracy, making him a go-to drummer for recording sessions.


While Bun E.’s style is often associated with rock, he’s shown versatility in incorporating elements of punk, pop, and even jazz into his drumming. This adaptability has allowed Cheap Trick to explore diverse musical territories.

Personal Life

Bun E. Carlos, the legendary Cheap Trick drummer, has managed to keep much of his personal life relatively private throughout his career. However, here’s what is known about his personal life.

Bun E. Carlos was born Brad M. Carlson on June 12, 1950, in Rockford, Illinois. He has largely kept details about his family and personal relationships out of the public eye, so there is limited information available about his immediate family.

In recent years, Bun E. Carlos has faced some health issues that affected his ability to tour and perform with Cheap Trick. These health problems led to him stepping back from touring with the band. Specific details about the nature of his health issues and their current status are to be publicly disclosed.


What is Bun E. Carlos’s real name, and when was he born?

Bun E. Carlos’s real name is Brad M. Carlson, and he was born on June 12, 1950, in Rockford, Illinois, USA.

When did Bun E. Carlos leave Cheap Trick, and why?

Bun E. Carlos officially stopped touring with Cheap Trick in 2010. His departure was primarily due to health issues that affected his ability to tour and perform. Despite his reduced touring role, he remains an integral part of the band’s legacy.

Has Bun E. Carlos released any solo work or side projects?

Yes, Bun E. Carlos released a solo album titled “Greetings from Bunezuela!” in 2016. This album featured collaborations with various artists and showcased his drumming skills in a different musical context. Additionally, he was part of the supergroup Tinted Windows, which released a self-titled album in 2009.

Denis Loncaric
Denis Loncaric

My name is Denis. I am a drummer, percussionist, music enthusiast, and blogger. Drums have been my passion for 15 years now. My idea is to write about the things I like and I am interested in. I want to share my drum passion with fellow musicians who walk, talk, and breathe drums.

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