Drummer for Santana – Full Lineup Over the Years

October 12, 2023

List of Drummers for Santana

  • Michael Shrieve (1969-1974)
  • Buddy Miles (1971-1972)
  • Graham Lear (1976-1983)
  • Cindy Blackman Santana (2014-current)
Michael Shrieve

Michael Shrieve (1969-1974)

Early Life

Born in the musical city of San Francisco on July 6, 1949, Michael Shrieve was destined for rhythm. He was a mere teenager, just 16 when he began making waves in the local music scene, showcasing a talent that was mature beyond his years.


At the age of 19, Michael Shrieve joined the ranks of Santana, lending his innovative drumming techniques to the band’s first three groundbreaking albums. His infusion of youthful energy and distinctive sound played a significant role in shaping the band’s identity. 

After his journey with Santana concluded in 1974, Michael didn’t miss a beat. He ventured into various musical landscapes, forming his own bands and immersing himself in the world of jazz fusion, continually expanding his musical horizons.

Notable Performances

Who could forget Shrieve’s iconic performance at Woodstock in 1969? At just 20, he captivated the audience and fellow musicians with a mesmerizing solo during “Soul Sacrifice,” showcasing a level of skill and passion that would mark his career for years to come.

Notable Collaborations

Michael’s musical journey didn’t stop at Santana. He collaborated with a diverse range of artists, including the likes of Steve Roach, Stomu Yamashta, and Klaus Schulze. These collaborations allowed him to experiment with different genres and soundscapes, further solidifying his reputation as a versatile musician.

Awards & Accolades

Recognition for Shrieve’s musical contributions was inevitable. In 1998, he was rightfully inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of Santana, marking a significant milestone in his illustrious career.


Michael Shrieve has a rich and diverse discography that showcases his versatility and evolution as a musician. Here are some of his notable works:

With Santana:

  • “Santana” (1969) – The debut album featuring the hit single “Evil Ways.”
  • “Abraxas” (1970) – Known for the iconic tracks “Black Magic Woman” and “Oye Como Va.”
  • “Santana III” (1971) – Featuring hits like “No One to Depend On” and “Everybody’s Everything.”

Solo Work:

  • “Transfer Station Blue” (1984) – A collaborative album with Kevin Shrieve and Klaus Schulze exploring ambient and electronic soundscapes.
  • “Stiletto” (1989) – An album that delves into jazz fusion and features a variety of guest musicians.
  • “Two Doors” (1995) – A project with guitarist Bill Frisell showcasing a blend of jazz and ambient music.
  • “Drums of Compassion” (1996) – An album focusing on percussion and featuring artists like Airto Moreira and Zakir Hussain.
  • “Fascination” (2001) – A reflection of Shrieve’s diverse musical influences, incorporating elements of jazz, rock, and world music.


  • “Go” (1976) – A collaboration with Stomu Yamashta and Steve Winwood, blending rock, jazz, and electronic music.
  • “The Leaving Time” (1988) – Working with Steve Roach, this album explores ambient and atmospheric sounds.
  • “Oracle” (1996) – A collaborative effort with Steve Roach and Richard Burmer, focusing on ambient and tribal music.

Drummer Drum Kit

During his time with Santana, Michael was known for playing a Ludwig drum kit. This choice of equipment played a crucial role in creating the unique sound textures that defined the band’s early albums.


Influenced by jazz legends such as Elvin Jones and Tony Williams, Shrieve developed a versatile and dynamic playing style. The impact of these musical giants is evident in every beat and rhythm he produces.


Michael Shrieve’s drumming style is a harmonious blend of innovation and tradition. Known for his use of polyrhythms and intricate patterns, he has a keen sense of timing. His ability to seamlessly integrate rock with jazz elements has set him apart in the music scene, making him a revered figure in the industry.

Personal Life

Michael Shrieve, beyond his illustrious career in music, has led a fulfilling personal life. He spent a significant portion of the 1980s living in New York, where he met his future wife, a native of Seattle. 

The city of Seattle would later become one of his residences, along with Los Angeles. The couple welcomed a son, Sam, who has pursued education and is in his early twenties. Michael’s life, enriched by family and music, continues to be a harmonious blend of personal joy and professional fulfillment.

Michael Shrieve – Santana Drummer from Woodstock Drum Kit

Michael Shrieve, starting without his own drum kit, meticulously assembled an iconic set by Ludwig, which has left a lasting imprint on the world of music. The kit’s configuration included:

  • Champagne Sparkle Bass Drum
  • Rack Tom
  • Floor Tom
  • Supraphonic 400 Chrome Snare Drum
  • Avedis Zildjian Cymbals: 20″ Ride with rivets, 18″ Crash with rivets, (2) 14″ Hi-Hat cymbals
  • Speed King Bass Drum Pedal

This legendary Ludwig kit played a significant role in recording iconic Santana tracks such as “Evil Ways,” “Oye Como Va,” “Black Magic Woman,” “Jingo,” and “Samba Pa Ti,” marking its contribution to music history.


What happened to the drummer for Santana at Woodstock?

After his iconic performance at Woodstock, Michael Shrieve’s career flourished. He continued to contribute to Santana’s success with his innovative drumming before parting ways with the band in 1974. 

Post-Santana, Michael explored various musical genres, collaborated with a diverse range of artists, and released solo work, solidifying his reputation as a versatile and influential musician in the industry.

How old was Michael Shrieve at Woodstock?

Michael Shrieve was 20 years old when he performed at Woodstock with Santana, marking him as the youngest performer at the festival. His drum solo during “Soul Sacrifice” is still celebrated as one of the most iconic moments in music history.

Buddy Miles

Buddy Miles (1971-1972)

Early Life

Buddy Miles, born George Allen Miles Jr., discovered his passion for drumming early, banging out rhythms at just 12 years old. Born in Omaha, Nebraska, Buddy was destined for a life in music, with his father being a bassist for several jazz bands.


Buddy’s career was a colorful tapestry of rhythm and blues. Before joining Santana, he was a founding member of The Electric Flag and a part of Jimi Hendrix’s Band of Gypsys. His time with Santana, though brief, was impactful, contributing to the band’s fusion of rock and Latin American jazz.

Notable Performances

One of Buddy’s standout performances with Santana was at the “Santana III” recording sessions. His powerful drumming can be heard on tracks like “Everybody’s Everything” and “Gumbo,” showcasing his versatility and unique style.

Notable Collaborations

Buddy’s collaborations read like a who’s who of the music industry. Apart from Santana and Hendrix, he worked with legends like Mike Bloomfield and Barry Goldberg, creating music that’s still celebrated today.

Awards & Accolades

Throughout his career, Buddy received numerous accolades, including induction into the Omaha Black Music Hall of Fame. His work, especially with Band of Gypsys, is often cited as influential in the development of funk music.


  • With The Electric Flag
    • “A Long Time Comin'” (1968)
    • “The Trip” (Soundtrack) (1967)
  • With Jimi Hendrix / Band of Gypsys
    • “Band of Gypsys” (1970)
    • “Band of Gypsys 2” (1986, posthumous release)
  • With Santana
    • “Santana III” (1971)
  • Solo Albums
    • “Expressway to Your Skull” (1968)
    • “Electric Church” (1969)
    • “We Got To Live Together” (1970)
    • “Them Changes” (1970)
    • “Live” (1971)
    • “Booger Bear” (1973)
    • “More Miles Per Gallon” (1975)
    • “Bicentennial Gathering of the Tribes” (1976)
    • “Sneak Attack” (1981)
    • “Blues Berries” (2002)
    • “The Band of Gypsys Return” (2006, with Billy Cox)


Growing up, Buddy was influenced by the jazz and blues scenes. Artists like Max Roach and Elvin Jones played pivotal roles in shaping his drumming style, which was a blend of power and finesse.


Buddy’s drumming style was a unique fusion of rock, blues, and funk. His powerful yet nuanced playing brought a distinct flavor to every band he played with, making him a sought-after drummer in the music industry.

Drummer Drum Kit

Buddy Miles was known for playing on Rogers drum kits, a brand renowned for its quality and sound. 

Personal Life

Buddy Miles was a man of charisma and passion, not just for music but also for life. He had a notable love for motorcycles, a hobby that showcased his adventurous spirit. In his personal life, Buddy was known for his vibrant personality and the ability to light up any room he entered.

Tragically, the world lost Buddy Miles on February 26, 2008, due to congestive heart failure. He passed away at his home in Austin, Texas, leaving behind a legacy of rhythm, blues, and soul. Buddy’s contribution to the music industry, his unforgettable beats, and his vibrant spirit continue to be celebrated by fans and fellow musicians alike.


Was Buddy Miles a good drummer?

Absolutely! Buddy Miles was not just a good drummer; he was an exceptional one. His unique fusion of rock, blues, and funk, coupled with his powerful and nuanced playing, made him a sought-after drummer in the music industry. 

Buddy’s contributions to various bands, including Santana and Band of Gypsys, showcased his versatility and ability to bring a distinct flavor to the music, earning him accolades and recognition.

Did Buddy Miles play drums for Jimi Hendrix?

Yes, Buddy Miles played drums for Jimi Hendrix as part of the Band of Gypsys. This collaboration is particularly notable as it resulted in the creation of influential music, blending different genres and showcasing the talents of both artists. 

The Band of Gypsys album, featuring Buddy’s dynamic drumming alongside Hendrix’s legendary guitar playing, remains a significant piece of music history.

graham lear

Graham Lear (1976-1983)

Early Life

Born in Plymouth, England, and later moving to Ontario, Canada, Graham Lear was destined for drumming greatness from the age of eight. His early auditions for the Police Boys Concert Band of London, Canada, set the stage for a career filled with rhythm and accolades.

With influences ranging from Canadian jazz great Terry Clarke to Mandela drummer Penti Glan, Graham developed a unique style that would resonate with audiences worldwide.


Graham Lear’s illustrious career is a symphony of achievements. From his early days with Gino Vannelli, recording Grammy-nominated albums like “Powerful People” and “Storm At Sunup,” to joining the legendary Santana, Graham’s drumming has been a harmonious blend of R&B, Rock, and Jazz.

His performances with REO Speedwagon, Saga, and a reunion with Gino Vannelli for “Yonder Tree” further showcase his versatility and commitment to musical excellence.

Notable Performances

Graham’s drumming has graced stages around the globe, with highlights including the historic original Live Aid Concert (1985), Apple’s US Festival in California (1982), and Bill Graham’s International Peace Walk in Moscow (1987). His three appearances at the prestigious Royal Albert Hall in London, England, are a testament to his acclaim and popularity.

Notable Collaborations

Graham’s collaborations are a melody of musical partnerships. Working with artists like Gino Vannelli, REO Speedwagon, Saga, Gary Small, Bobby Torres, Patrick Lamb, and, of course, Santana, Graham has showcased his adaptability and mastery across genres and styles.

Awards & Accolades

Graham Lear’s rhythm has earned him a Lifetime Achievement Award from FCLMA in 2010 and an induction into the FCLMA Hall of Fame in 2018. Acknowledged as an influence by Canadian rock icons Neil Peart and Mark Kelso, Graham’s contributions to music continue to be celebrated and revered.


  • With Santana
    • “Moonflower” (1977)
    • “Amigos” (1976)
    • “Inner Secrets” (1978)
    • “Marathon” (1979)
    • “Zebop!” (1981)
    • “Shangó” (1982)
  • With Gino Vannelli
    • “Powerful People” (1974)
    • “Storm At Sunup” (1975)
    • “Gist Of the Gemini” (1976)
    • “Yonder Tree” (1995)
  • With REO Speedwagon
    • U.S. and South American Tours (1987)
  • With Saga
    • European tours (1987)

Graham Lear – Santana Drummer Drum Kit

Graham Lear’s drumming arsenal is as diverse as his musical style. He endorses DW drums, Zildjian cymbals, Headhunters sticks-creations, Remo heads, and LP percussion. This extensive gear setup allows Graham to produce a variety of sounds, catering to his love for R&B and jazz and adapting to the diverse requirements of his collaborations.


Graham’s musical influences are a rich tapestry of genres. From jazz legends like Terry Clarke to renowned drummers like Penti Glan, Bernard Purdie, and Ralph Humphrey, Graham has absorbed a variety of styles, contributing to his unique and adaptable drumming approach.


Graham Lear’s drumming style is a harmonious blend of precision, versatility, and passion. Whether it’s R&B, rock, or jazz, Graham’s ability to adapt and innovate has made him a respected and influential figure in the drumming community.

Personal Life

While Graham values his privacy, his passion for music is evident in every beat of his drum. Residing in Portland, Oregon, Graham continues to inspire with his performances at jazz festivals and his enduring commitment to musical excellence.

rodney holmes

Rodney Holmes (1993-1994, 1997-2000)

Rodney Holmes is a name that resonates with rhythm and passion. From a young age, Rodney was captivated by bands, especially the rhythm section. 

The drums, in particular, held a special allure for him. His journey into the world of drumming began when he joined the junior band. 

His technical prowess and love for playing out-of-the-box soon made him a standout, earning him a reputation as one of the best drummers to learn from.

Rodney’s unique drumming style, characterized by his technical skills and innovative approach, undoubtedly brought a fresh sound to any band he was a part of. 

His ability to personalize his drumming and add a distinct personality to his grooves made him an invaluable asset.

dennis chambers

Dennis Chambers (2002-2013)

Born on May 9, 1959, Dennis Chambers is a force to be reckoned with in the drumming world. His love for drumming ignited at a tender age. 

By the age of four, he was already drumming, and by six, he was performing in Baltimore-area nightclubs, showcasing a talent that was way beyond his years.

When Dennis joined the band, he brought a fresh, unparalleled sound. Santana had never collaborated with a drummer of Dennis’s caliber before. 

Dennis’s entry into Santana marked a significant shift in the band’s sound. His unique drumming style introduced a new rhythmic dimension that Santana hadn’t explored before.

Drummer for Santana

Cindy Blackman Santana (2014-current)

Early Life

Born in Yellow Springs, Ohio, Cindy Blackman Santana discovered her passion for drumming at the tender age of seven. Raised in a musical family, she was drawn to the beats of jazz and rock legends, setting the stage for a career that would see her become one of the most respected drummers in the industry.


Cindy’s career is a rhythmic journey through genres. Before joining Santana, she gained recognition as a versatile drummer, playing with artists like Lenny Kravitz and leading her jazz ensembles. Joining Santana in 2014, Cindy brought a fresh and dynamic energy to the band, contributing to their evolving sound and continuing legacy.

Notable Performances

Cindy Blackman Santana has delivered numerous memorable performances throughout her career. Some of her standout performances include:

  • New Mexico Jazz Festival: Cindy showcased her drumming prowess at the New Mexico Jazz Festival, held at the Outpost Performance Space in Albuquerque, NM, where she led the Cindy Blackman Santana Band.
  • Charleston Jazz Fest: Cindy returned for a critically acclaimed performance at the Charleston Jazz Fest, captivating the audience with her energetic and intricate playing.
  • Drumeo Festival 2020: Cindy’s drum solo at the Drumeo Festival 2020 was a highlight, demonstrating her technical proficiency and creative flair.
  • Live Performances with Carlos Santana: Cindy has delivered several remarkable live performances alongside her husband, Carlos Santana, where her dynamic drum solos have been a focal point.

Notable Collaborations

Cindy’s collaborations extend beyond Santana. She has worked with a myriad of artists, including Lenny Kravitz, Pharoah Sanders, Ron Carter, and Cassandra Wilson, showcasing her versatility and adaptability across musical styles.

Awards & Accolades

Cindy Blackman Santana’s contributions to music have not gone unnoticed. She has received numerous accolades and awards, celebrating her innovative drumming style and her ability to break barriers in a predominantly male-dominated field.


  • With Santana
    • “Santana IV” (2016)
    • “Africa Speaks” (2019)
    • “Blessings and Miracles” (2021)
  • Solo Albums
    • “Arcane” (1987)
    • “Code Red” (1992)
    • “Telepathy” (1994)
    • “Works on Canvas” (1999)
    • “Someday…” (2001)
    • “Music for the New Millennium” (2004)
    • “Another Lifetime” (2010)
    • “Give the Drummer Some” (2020)

Cindy Blackman Santana Drum Kit

Cindy Blackman Santana is renowned for her impeccable taste in drum gear. She proudly plays on Gretsch drums, which are known for their rich tones and versatility. Complementing her drum set, she chooses Istanbul cymbals, known for their unique sound and craftsmanship. 

To ensure the best resonance and tonal quality, Cindy uses Remo drumheads. Her choice of gear is a testament to her commitment to delivering top-notch performances. It is a reflection of her diverse and dynamic playing style.


Cindy’s drumming style has been shaped by a diverse array of influences, including jazz legends Tony Williams and Art Blakey, as well as rock icons like Mitch Mitchell and John Bonham. These influences have contributed to her unique approach to drumming, blending power, finesse, and creativity.


Cindy Blackman Santana’s drumming style is a fusion of jazz, rock, and Latin rhythms. Her powerful playing, coupled with her technical proficiency and creative flair, make her a standout performer, whether she’s playing with Santana or leading her own ensemble.

Personal Life

Cindy’s personal life is as vibrant as her drumming. Married to Carlos Santana, she shares a deep connection with music and spirituality. Cindy is also an advocate for gender equality in the music industry, inspiring aspiring female drummers to pursue their passion.


How did Carlos Santana meet Cindy Blackman?

Carlos Santana and Cindy Blackman first crossed paths in 2010 during a Santana concert. Cindy was performing in the band, and Carlos was immediately captivated by her talent and energy. 

The two connected over their shared love for music. Carlos proposed to Cindy on stage during a concert in July 2010, making their engagement a memorable moment for both them and their fans.

Is Santana’s drummer his wife?

Yes, Santana’s drummer is indeed his wife, Cindy Blackman Santana. The couple got married in December 2010, and since then, Cindy has been an integral part of the band, contributing her drumming skills and adding a fresh and dynamic energy to Santana’s music.

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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