Nirvana was one of the biggest bands to ever hit the music scene. While Kurt Cobain and Krist Novoselic were solid members of the band from the very beginning, they struggled to keep a consistent drummer for the first few years.
Everyone knows that Dave Grohl was the main guy, but there were several drummers that came before him in the band’s formative stages.
Here’s a list of every drummer that played in Nirvana. We’ll explain how long they played, what significance they had, and why they left the band.
When Kurt Cobain and Krist Novoselic first formed their band, the first drummer they found to play with them was a guy named Bob McFadden. There isn’t too much information available about him, but we know that he didn’t play with them for very long.
He only jammed with them in the practice room while they were figuring themselves out, and you could argue that he was part of the band before they were even an official thing.
Bob also played with Kurt Cobain in his first band called Fecal Matter.
Bob McFadden has played in a few Nirvana tribute shows over the past two decades. While he was never a solid part of the band, he has a solid spot in the band’s history.
Aaron Burckhard was the first drummer to play with the band when they performed live shows. This makes him the first-ever gigging drummer for Nirvana. He only played with the band in 1987.
It’s been said that he didn’t take things as seriously as Kurt and Krist would have liked him to. He also had a volatile personality, picking fights with several people during his time with the band.
He stopped playing with the two of them after they moved cities, forcing them to find a new drummer to practice and play shows with.
While the band never released anything at the time, you can hear Aaron Burckhard playing drums in With The Lights Out, which was released in 2004.
Dale Crover is an incredibly successful drummer who has had a fairly busy music career. He briefly joined Nirvana after Kurt and Krist departed from Aaron Burckhard. At the time, Dale Crover was already an established member of a band called The Melvins.
The significant role that Dale Crover played in the band was that he played drums on their first demo track at the beginning of 1988.
The band played a show on the same day that they recorded that demo, and a few of those songs are on the With The Lights Out album, so you can hear Dale’s drumming with the band on that.
He eventually moved to San Francisco, so Nirvana had to find a new drummer.
Dave Foster was the next drummer that joined the band. Like the drummers before him, he only played with the band for a few months.
Kurt and Krist weren’t the biggest fans of him, as it was difficult to practice often with him living so far away from where they were.
They eventually decided to look for a new drummer after they found out that Dave Foster had been arrested.Kurt wrote him a letter to let him know, but it was never sent. So, Dave Foster had no idea that he was out of the band until he saw that they were looking for someone new to replace him.
He continued to play drums in other underground bands after his time with Nirvana.
Chad Channing was the most significant drummer to play with the band other than Dave Grohl. He joined Kurt and Krist in 1988, and he played with them until 1990. Chad was the drummer who tracked the drum parts for Nirvana’s first full-length album called, Bleach.
During that time, Kurt and Krist found themselves becoming disappointed with how Chad played the drums. They wanted something more, and he wasn’t delivering. At the same time, Chad was disappointed that he couldn’t be more involved in the songwriting process.
He left the band due to creative differences. After that, he started his own band projects. His main band, Before Cars, are still around today.
The sad thing about Chad Channing is that he left the band right before they blew up in popularity throughout the world.
Dan Peters was yet another drummer who joined the band for a very short period. He played for one live showwith them, and he tracked the drum parts for their single called Sliver.
Like Chad Channing, Dan Peters also briefly missed the stage where Nirvana blew up.
He’s currently a member of a band called Mudhoney.
Dave Grohl was the next drummer to join the band, and he struck gold with his timing. Once he joined, the band joined DGC Records, which was the major label that worked with them on their most popular album.
Grohl tracked most of the drum parts on Nevermind, and he performed with the band until the very end. He became an integral part of the group, helping with creative choices and songwriting.
While all the other drummers failed to integrate themselves solidly, Dave Grohl became the perfect fit.
His drumming in Smells Like Teen Spirit is some of the most iconic drumming that you’ll ever hear in a rock song, and it got a lot more people interested in the band.
After Kurt Cobain died, Dave Grohl started Foo Fighters and went on to become one of the most famous musicians in the world.
Final Thoughts on the Drummers for Nirvana
It’s crazy to think that there were seven drummers playing in Nirvana over the eight years that the band was around. That makes Dave Grohl’s inclusion even more significant, as he was the only drummer that really stood out.
You can hear his drumming in most of the officially released music from the band, but it’s quite interesting to hear all the other drummers play in the few demos that have been released as well.