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Mike Kowalski

Mike Kowalski
File:Mike at concert 1998.jpg
Kowalski at a concert in 1998
Background information
Born (1944-07-28) July 28, 1944 (age 76)
Origin Hollywood, California, United States
Genres Rock, Blues, Jazz
Occupation(s) Musician, Writer, Producer
Instruments Drums, Piano
Years active 1947–present
Associated acts Beach Boys
The Backsters

Mike Kowalski (born July 28, 1944) is a percussionist and musicologist. He is best known as one of the former drummers from the rock band The Beach Boys. He and saxophonist Joel C. Peskin recorded as The Backsters in 1984.

Early career

Mike Kowalski was born in Hollywood, California. He started singing and playing piano at the age of three. His first professional engagement was playing the piano, with Mel Torme on drums, for a television pilot at the age of five. At age ten, he was given a set of Slingerland Radio-King drums by Dragnet actor Jack Webb.[1][2]

At the age of fifteen, he was playing drums professionally with various local rock and rhythm and blues bands. He performed both on stage and on screen as his family was affiliated with the film and television industries. By age nineteen he was playing drums with, L.A. based singers, Pat and Lolly Vegas, whom later formed the pop group Redbone. Also during this time Kowalski performed and recorded with Sonny & Cher, Little Anthony & the Imperials, and Etta James.[3]

In 1968 Kowalski was asked to join Ed Carter's, London based rock/blues band, The New Nadir. Along with Gary Thain on bass, the trio played the London circuit . The band was signed to Witchseason Productions. One of the highlights for Kowalski was when Jimi Hendrix sat in with them at The Speakeasy.[1][4]

The Beach Boys and The Backsters

Later in 1968 Kowalski joined the Beach Boys,[5] playing percussion for the band. He was their main drummer, following the death of Dennis Wilson, from 1983 to 2007. Kowalski parted ways with the Beach Boys in September 2007.[1][2]

It was also in 1968 that Kowalski met and first worked with saxophonist Joel C. Peskin.[1][2]

In between touring with the Beach Boys, Kowalski performed and recorded with, among others; blues guitarist Albert Collins, Johnny Otis, jazz saxophonist Charles Lloyd, Big Joe Turner, John Mayall and Charlie Musselwhite.[1][2]

In 1984 Kowalski collaborated with Joel Peskin to create The Backsters. They were signed to A & M Records with Herb Alpert as executive producer. Their album, entitled Get on Your Back, featured many seasoned jazz and blues players. Released in early 1985, their first single was "Handclappin".[1][2]

Other bands and performers

Kowalski has played with numerous bands and performers; both as a member of the group and as a session musician. Acts Kowalski has played with include:[6][7][8][9]

Joe Houston Shuggie Otis Jim O'Keefe
Nino Tempo Nick Drake Billy Hinsche
Roger McGuinn Barry Mann Jon Lawton
Brian Wilson Bumps Blackwell Adrian Baker
Mark Andes John Martyn and Beverley Martyn Don Peake
Gene Vincent Crazy Horse Hank Marr
Eddie "Cleanhead" Vinson Captain and Tennille Ernie Knapp
Marie Adams Joe Boyd Bobby Figueroa
Bruce Johnston Leon Russell Mike Meros
Chris Farmer Lance Carson Steve Douglas
Mike Ley George Whitsell Gary Griffin
Darrol Schexnayder The Dragons Elliot Ingber
John Marx Domenic Genova
Tay Uhler AKA Eddie Sapien Gary Chang Clark Garman Scott Lipsker
Chris Mancini 'Rock Island' Clark Garman Bobby Jones
Tim Bonhomme Carl Radle Rod Armstrong
Scott Engel with The Walker Brothers Stu Hoffman AKA Barbecue Bob Dean Torrence
Bobbie Gentry Leroy Vinnegar Andy Simpkins
Jerry Gonzalez Henry Vestine Wells Kelly
Ron Altbach Soupe Bradshaw Jitter Webb
Joe Angelo Jeff Foskett Dave Pegg


A brief list of bands and musicians Kowalski has played with:[6][7][8][9]

  • Pat and Lolly Vegas at the Haunted House (1965) - Pat and Lolly Vegas
  • Louisiana Fog (1968) - Charlie Musselwhite
  • 20/20 (1969) - The Beach Boys
  • Live in London (1969) - The Beach Boys
  • The Road to Ruin (1970) - John Martyn
  • Ragtime Cowboy Jew (1970) - Stefan Grossman
  • Bryter Layter (1970) - Nick Drake
  • Freedom Flight (1971) - Shuggie Otis
  • Smiling Men with Bad Reputations (1971) - Mike Heron
  • Surf's Up (1971) - The Beach Boys
  • The Beach Boys in Concert (1973) - The Beach Boys
  • M.I.U. Album (1978) - The Beach Boys
  • Crazy Moon (1978) - Crazy Horse
  • Survivor (1978) - Barry Mann
  • Almost Summer Soundtrack (1978) - Celebration
  • Weavings (1978) - Charles Lloyd
  • Get On Your Back (1984) - The Backsters
  • Still Cruisin' (1989) - The Beach Boys
  • Live & Jumpin' (1997) - The Backsters
  • Symphonic Sounds: Music of the Beach Boys (1998) - Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
  • Garden State (2004) - Movie, Various Artists
  • A Postcard From California (2011) - Al Jardine
  • Made in California (2013) - The Beach Boys


External links