This Day In Music 05.06.2016
Michael Henry “Nicko” McBrain was born in Hackney, East London, England on June 5, 1952. Nicko McBrain’s musical journey began quite unawarely at the age of 10 while watching in a TV show the Dave Brubeck quartet. Nicko McBrain became enthralled by the drummer, Joe Morello, while he performed a drum solo during one of the quartet’s most emblematic tunes, “Take 5.” Below.
That event spurred Nicko McBrain’s interest in drumming immediately.
“I got my first drum kit on the Christmas before my 13th birthday. My parents said, ‘This is going to be a five minute wonder if we ever saw one!’ And I said, ‘No, you’re wrong!’ My father said, ‘I think so, too.’ I’ll never forget that.” [Nicko McBrain in Nicko McBrain by Anne M. Raso, Modern Drummer Magazine, December, 1985].
Nicko McBrain’s early musical influences were primarily rock based. Bands like Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones and The Beatles were some of the acts that tickled his fancy. His greatest drumming influences actually came from those bands, namely John Bonham(Led Zeppelin) and The Who's Keith Moon. Nicko McBrain was also highly influenced by Vanilla Fudge and some of the greatest big-band drummers, like Buddy Rich and Gene Krupa.
At 15 he joined his first “real” band, The 18th Fairfield Walk, a small pub-band that performed Otis Redding, The Beatles and The Who covers.
In 1971 Nicko McBrain began playing with Michael “Mickey” Lesley, a guitarist, and Billy Day, a singer and keyboardist who was actually responsible for the nickname “Nicko.” McBrain was known as “Nicky” at that time, a nickname his parents christened him with as a little boy, after his favorite teddy bear Nicholas. One day, an intoxicated Billy Day introduced “Nicky” as “Neeko” to Dick Asher, head of CBS Records, during a recording session at CBS Studios, Whitfield Street, London. Nicko McBrain liked the name so much that he end up changing it to “Nicko” so it sounded more English.
In 1975 Nicko McBrain joined the Streetwalkers, an English rock-band that was mildly successful in the European music scene in the 1970s. After 2 albums he left the band, focusing almost exclusively in session work. His most memorable musical contributions in this period of his professional career came with the Pat Travers Band (1976-1977) and with French heavy-metal band Trust (1980-1982).
In December, 1982 Clive Burr (drummer) was fired from Iron Maiden once his touring obligations on The Beast On The Road Tour were over, and Nicko McBrain was brought in as his replacement, starting over 30 years of musical collaboration.
“I’ve always been a bell man—I love inflections on the cymbal bells.” [Nicko McBrain]