Bernie Dresel

Bern'in Up the Drums

Bernie Dresel, one of the world’s premier drummers and percussionists, is a “percussive tour de force” in the recording and live concert industries, along with movies and television sound tracks. Drum magazine named Dresel to their list of "53 Drummers Who Made a Difference in the 90’s".  He was honored with Drum Magazine’s Drummie award in 2002 for Best Big Band Drummer and voted the “Best Big Band Drummer” by the readers of Modern Drummer magazine.   Dresel was the energetic driving force on Brian Setzers’ chart topping album “The Dirty Boogie” that won two Grammy Awards.  Accomplished in a variety of genres Bernie’s drumming has enlivened the  music of the many artists he has performed and recorded with including the Brian Setzer Orchestra, David Byrne, Chaka Khan, the Big Phat Band, B.B. King, Patti LaBelle, Ray Charles, Albert Lee, James Brown, Andy Summers, Brian Wilson, Maynard Ferguson, Big Bad Vodoo Daddy, James Taylor, José Feliciano, Cecilia Noel, and many many more.  He has performed in more than  58 movie sound tracks including Mission Impossible-Ghost Protocol, Mission Impossible 3, The Bourne Supremacy, Cars 2, Up, Super 8, The Mask, Elf, Analyze This, Star Trek Generations and more.  Working in television he is heard in the sound tracks of the Simpsons, Family Guy, King of the Hill, Bones, The Cleveland Show, The Sopranos, Cheers, Frasier, Bob Newhart, Murder She Wrote, Diagnosis Murder, Simon and Simon, Suddenly Susan, The Nanny, It's Gary Shandling's Show, News Radio, Just Shoot Me, Star Trek Voyager, Star Trek Next Generation, Dallas, Knots Landing, Dawson's Creek, Baywatch and more.  He has also performed in the orchestras of the American Music Awards, The Emmy Awards, the Golden Globes, the Screen Actors Guild, and the American Comedy Awards.   One of the highlights of Bernie career was performing with his idol Ringo Starr on the English television series Dame Edna.

Banging Away in Sharon Pa

Bernie Dresel was born on November 12, 1961 in Sharon, Pennsylvania.  He grew up in the small Western Pennsylvania mill town which is the home the defunct Sharon Steel, the Letterman, the Vocal Group Hall of Fame, and the world’s largest shoe store Reyers.  As a toddler he banged along to the radio riding around on Sunday drives in his parent 1961 Cadillac. His parents, Bernard and Marilyn, indulged Bernie buying him a toy paper head drum kit at age two.  Seeing the Beatles on Ed Sullivan he became addicted to a life of rhythm.  He came under the spell of Ringo Starr when his grandmother bought him a copy of “Meet The Beatles” at three.  After pounding through several paper drum kits playing along to “All my Loving” his parents bought him a small pro kit.  At age two they took him to Mark’s Music store in nearby Farrel for drum lessons.  Saying that he was too young the store turned Bernie away telling his parents to bring him back in a year.  Mark’s drum teacher turned Bernie down again at age three and four, but finally relented at 4 and ½ giving him a trial lesson.  After the trial lesson, the drum teacher joked you should have brought him sooner.  

Bernie took weekly lessons at Marks’ from Bob Bodell, the timpanist for the Youngstown Symphony, studying rudimental drumming through age 17.  He also studied music in his school music program beginning in elementary school.  Bernie performed with the Golden Tones drum and baton corps marching in parades and drum competitions from age 10 to 15. His parents drove him two hours to practice with the Golden Tone in Erie, Pa.  In 1970 at age 10 he won two national drum competitions at the NBTA National Championship held at Notre Dame University in South Bend, Indiana . He placed first in rudimental snare drum in the 9-10 year old division and first in the musical instrument division for drum set.

Mastering the drums he was teaching others at age 15. 

Bernie’s parents bought him a deluxe double bass Slingerland drum kit when he was a high school freshman.  To learn the kit he studied Carmen Appice’s book and played along with rock records in his basement. While in high school he was the drummer and singer for a popular local trio called Starbreaker. They played songs like “Frankenstein”, “Fly Robin Fly” along with disco, and polka.  They expand to eight members with a horn section playing weddings and social clubs.    After graduating from High School in 1979 he enrolled in the prestigious Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York to study orchestral drumming.  Advised to have a fall back career he also majored in music education with thought of become a music teacher. 

Becoming an L.A. Session Player

Upon graduating from Eastman in the Spring of 1983 Bernie moved to Los Angeles to start his professional career.  He signed up to take the California CBEST teaching certification test so that he could apply for music teaching positions.  To pay the rent he pursued drumming jobs.  Every time he was schedule to take the teaching test he had to cancel as he had a drumming gig.  Within three weeks of his L.A. arrival he found work playing a 2 week gig at Alladin Hotel in Las Vegas backing up the Albaricci Sisters, former Dean Martin Gold-Diggers.  He never did take the CBTEST as the drumming jobs never stopped coming.  While paying with the Albaricci Sisters he met several musicians who recommended him for more jobs.  He was recommended to Tony Butella of the Letterman by a friend from Eastman.  Bernie went on the road for five months with the Letterman, who coincidental were also from his hometown of Sharon.  Bernie’s first big break came while he was touring with Maynard Ferguson in 1986.  Composer Joe McNeely, a friend from the Eastman School, recommend Bernie for a job playing in the studio band of the television show “Our House”.  That opened the door for playing many more movie and television sound tracks.  Over the next few years Bernie reputation as a percussionist grew winning him regular session work with many artists.

Swingin' With the Setzer Orchestra

In 1992 Bernie Dresel was asked join Brian Setzer’s 16-piece swingabilly big band for two experimental performances.  Committed to previously scheduled engagement Dresel had to decline the offer.  Receiving a second call that informing him the Setzer wanted him for an extended tour, Bernie joined the jumping and jivin’ Brian Setzer Orchestra.  To prepare for his new band Bernie listened to recordings of the Stray Cats and the original rockabilly bands.  Bernie recorded and touring with the Brian Setzer Orchestra over the next 15 years.  They recorded four albums.  The highlight was the triple-platinum album The Dirty Boogie that was released in 1998.  It reached number 9 on yhr Billboard Top 200 albums.  The top 40 hit single from the album “Jump, Jive, An' Wail “ won the Grammy award for Best Pop Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocal and the song Sleepwalk won the Grammy for Best Pop Instrumental Performance.  In 2001 Bernie recorded with Setzer on his 2004 solo rockabilly trio release “Ignition”.  Bernie toured and recorded with the BSO for 15 years until 2006.

Go for the Gold with the Big Phat Band

Bernie has been the drummer of Gordon Goodwin’s Big Phat Band since its beginning in 2000 appearing on five of their recordings.  The Big Phat Band was nominated for ten Grammy awards in the years 2003, 2006, 2007, 2008, and 2011.  Other notable recordings that Bernie appear on include Davide Bryne's Forest (1998), Keiko Matsui’s “Cherry Blossoms” (1992), and the Brian Wilson Van Dykes Park project “Orange Crate” (1995), Andy Summer’s “Green Chimneys: The Music of Thelonious Monk” (1999), Big Vodoo Daddy’s “How Big Can You Get?: The Music of Cab Calloway” (2009), and Michael Feinstein’s  “The Sinatra Project, Vol. 2: The Good Life” (2011). 


Dresel’s current project is his own 12-piece supercharged funk band BERN that includes 4 horns, 4 singers and a 5 piece rhythm section.  Playing Earth Wind and Fire, Tower of Power and other funk classics they perform Vittelo’s in Studio City and Cafe Cordiale in Sherman Oaks.  Bernie celebrated his 50th birthday with a tribute to Buddy Rich concert that featured members of the Big Phat Band, Buddy Rich alumni, and Eastman School of Music alumni.

Bernie’s brother Jonathan is the drummer Jimmy Kimmel Live show on ABC.  Six years younger than Bernie he followed in his brother’s footsteps studying with teacher Bob Bobdell and playing in the Golden Tone drum corps before going off to music school and L.A.

Brian Setzer Orchestra
Andy Summer's Trio
Drum Champ Bernie with teacher Bob Bydell and music store owner Carl Marks
Mark's Music Store
Brian Setzer Trio
Bernie with James Taylor
Big Phat Band