Did Chevy Chase play drums for Steely Dan?
Not really. As Donald Fagen has put it: “We went to college with Chevy and before we ever thought of the idea of Steely Dan we used to do pickup dates with Chevy on drums. He was a very good drummer.” Let’s fill that statement in with some more detail: the institution in question was Bard College, in upstate New York, in the late ’60s. Fagen led a band that cycled through a variety of names, including the Don Fagen Jazz Trio, the Bad Rock Group, and the Leather Canary. (Before you snort in derision at that last name, ask yourself if Steely Dan is really that much of an improvement, nomenculturally.) Fagen recruited Walter Becker, two years younger, after hearing him play blues guitar in a student lounge; Chase was one of a variety of drummers who filled out that group.
But a bunch of things would happen before Becker and Fagen started Steely Dan: they would leave Bard in 1969 (Fagen graduating, Becker not), peddle songs at the Brill Building (they did manage to place one of their songs, “I Mean to Shine,” on a Barbra Streisand album), play as backing musicians on a tour with Jay and the Americans, and move to Los Angeles. Only then, over two years after leaving Bard, did Steely Dan start. So while Chevy Chase earned himself a footnote in rock history, he was in Steely Dan the way that a guy who played washtub in the Quarrymen, Lennon and McCartney’s teenage skiffle group, was in the Beatles. Or as Becker and Fagen might put it: They’re Steely Dan and he’s not.
(Excerpted from the 2006 book Is Tiny Dancer Really Elton’s Little John?: Music’s Most Enduring Mysteries, Myths, and Rumors Revealed, published by Three Rivers Press, written by Gavin Edwards.)