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Blessed: An Interview With Elton's Longtime Drummer

Written by Chief Editor.

It's been half a century since Elton played his first concert in the States. Pollstar recently asked Nigel Olsson to talk about this and more. 

The drummer told the publication that he was with Plastic Penny and Elton was in Bluesology when they first met. Nigel and his friend guitar player, Mick Graham, had finished a gig. Someone came up to Mick and said, 'I'm shopping for a drummer and a guitar player tor this band in London.'
''It was a session band they put together to do a song called Everything I Am, which actually was the B-side of the Box Tops record.'' 
He continued: ''It was put up by Dick James Music and going up the charts and they needed a band to tour it. Mick and I went to London, auditioned, got the gig. Being with Plastic Penny, who was handled by Dick James, we were there at the office hanging around. At that time, Bernie {Taupin} and Elton were staff songwriters for Dick James Music. If were in the office, we would see them coming in out and we'd get talking and we just became friends.''
As for when he first played with Elton, Nigel said that the pianist's eponymous album had been released, and he was writing for the Euorovision Song Contest.
''Elton asked Dee {Murray} and I if we'd be interested in doing this showcase at the Roundhouse in London. So we said, 'Yeah, sure. We're not doing anything else.' And he said, ''OK. Well, let's go in the studio,' which was a tiny little room in Dick James' office. We set up our gear and it was just Dee, Elton and myself and obviously Bernie. The first thing we rehearsed was Your Song, and within the first eight bars I said to myself, 'This is the music I want to do.''
Addressing the Roundhouse show, Nigel said they were in awe because they supported the Who. What's more, Mooney {Keith Moon} let him use his drums, ''and I was like, God, this is like . . . pinch me.''
Nigel experienced quite a few other ''pinch me'' moments as time went on. This included the first time the band played America, at the Troubadour in Los Angeles. 
''We'd been told by the record company it's quite a prestigious venue. There's lots of famous people you would know like Stephen Stills and Graham Nash, Leon Russell and all these people. And when we get there on the first night, look out there and there's Stephen Stills, Graham Nash, Quincy Jones and I think Diana Ross. It was like, 'Are we in a movie or what's the deal up here?' And then Neil Diamond gets up on stage to introduce us. It was so exciting for us.''
Asked about his take on the performance 50 years on, Nigel replied, ''It was an amazing, amazing part of my life. I went down actually on the day of the 50th anniversary of the Troubadour and had some guy on the street take a selfie in front of the marquee, which said Elton John played his first US date here on this day 50 years ago.''
As for his feelings about the Farewell Yellow Brick Road tour (before it was stopped by the coronavirus pandemic), the musician says, ''It amazes me that 50 years on, I can look out at the audience and see little kids sing the songs, knowing the words, and then their parents, grandparents and even great grandparents. It just felt amazing that we're still on top of it. And to be a part of music history, I still have to pinch myself and say, 'Wow, this is really happening.' 
''I feel blessed, I'm a lucky man.''
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