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While Dave Grohl is often the first name that comes to mind in Nirvana’s drumming history, the band’s rhythmic landscape is rich and varied. This article expands upon the well-known fact that Nirvana had multiple drummers, each contributing a unique flavor to the band’s sonic palette.

In exploring Nirvana’s drumming saga, we acknowledge Dave Grohl’s undeniable impact while delving deeper into the diverse lineup of drummers who collaborated with Kurt Cobain and Krist Novoselic. The article outlines the specific periods each drummer played in the band and highlights the reasons behind their arrivals and departures.

From official members to ‘temporary’ ones, this article offers insight into the nuanced drumming dynamics that played a crucial role in shaping Nirvana’s distinctive sound.


Below is the list of all the drummers who played with Nirvana and the reasons why they left the band.


Pre Nirvana’s Drummer: Bob McFadden (1986)


If one were to inquire about “Nirvana’s first drummer,” the immediate response might not be Bob McFadden. His tenure with the band spanned only five weeks during the summer of 1986. Despite its brevity, McFadden played a crucial role in the band’s early journey, participating in rehearsals with Kurt Cobain and Krist Novoselic when they were still navigating the intricate paths of their musical direction.

Their initial collaboration, known as the Sellouts, took the form of a Creedence Clearwater Revival tribute band. Krist Novoselic handled guitar and vocals, Kurt Cobain took on the drums, and Steve Newman played bass. However, this project had a fleeting existence. Bob McFadden was brought in as the drummer, but after a month, this project, too, met an untimely end.

McFadden acknowledged that he struggled to fully comprehend Kurt Cobain and Krist Novoselic’s visionary pursuits.


Aaron Burckhard: Nirvana’s First Official Drummer (April-December 1987)


After McFadden’s departure, Kurt Cobain and Krist Novoselic faced the challenge of finding a replacement drummer to fill the void left behind. Their search led them to Aaron Burckhard, a musician who would be a more suitable match than McFadden. Burckhard’s straightforward and spirited drumming played a pivotal role in shaping Nirvana’s early sound.

As they dive into their musical journey, Nirvana initially practiced material from Kurt Cobain’s Fecal Matter tape. However, they soon transitioned to writing new material, beginning a creative phase. Burckhard remained an integral part of the band until October 1987.

In 1987, the band’s drummer troubles began an issue that would persist for four years. Unfortunately, Burckhard faced a career opportunity that led to his departure from Nirvana. A managerial position at Burger King became an obstacle, preventing him from continuing to play with the band.

Aaron Burckhard returned briefly, but history repeated itself. The drummer was caught driving under the influence of alcohol in Kurt’s car, leading to his dismissal.

This turning point marked the end of Burckhard’s tenure with Nirvana, setting the stage for the band’s ongoing search for drummers and the eventual transformative arrival of Dave Grohl.


Dale Crover (January-February 1988 and August 1990)


This was the end of 1987, during the first year of Nirvana’s formation. Dave Grohl wouldn’t join until 1990. Little did Kurt Cobain know what challenges he would still face before finding the perfect drummer.

Kurt Cobain wasted no time and promptly placed an ad that read, “SERIOUS DRUMMER WANTED. Underground attitude, Black Flag, Melvins, Zeppelin, Scratch Acid, Ethel Merman. Versatile as heck. Kurdt 352-0992“.

In late 1985, Dale Crover played bass in Fecal Matter, a band he formed with Kurt Cobain and Greg Hokanson. Dale Crover emerged as the ideal figure to guide Nirvana in the right direction. Already established as the drummer for the prominent sludge metal band Melvins (one of Kurt Cobain’s favorite bands of all time), Dale Crover boasted a reputation as a seasoned and highly respected musician. Crover left his mark on their first studio demo, featuring tracks such as “Paper Cuts” and “Floyd the Barber.”

After the band played at Aberdeen RadioShack, Dale Crover left and moved to California with the Melvins. Kurt Cobain and Krist Novolesic knew that this would happen sooner or later since Crover was a temporary drummer and primarily associated with the Melvins.


Dave Foster (March-May 1988)


Kurt Cobain and Krist Novoselic knew this would happen sooner or later, given that Crover was a temporary drummer primarily associated with the Melvins. Despite his frustration with his departure, Dale Crover recommended Nirvana, suggesting Dave Foster.

Dave Foster, who was already renowned as a hard-pounding and hard-living drummer by this time, was also from Aberdeen. His time with the band was short-lived, marked by just a few live performances before his departure.

Dave Foster had the unfortunate incident of assaulting the son of the mayor of Cosmopolis. Consequently, he spent two weeks in jail, lost his driver’s license, and had to pay over $2,000 in medical expenses.

This incident occurred shortly before a new recording session, leading Kurt Cobain to fire Dave Foster from the position of the band’s drummer. Unofficially, the band invited Chad Channing to recording sessions numerous times until he eventually became an official member.


Chad Channing: Nirvana’s Drummer for “Bleach” (June 1988 to May 1990)


Dave Grohl’s drumming catapulted Nirvana into stardom, but Chad Channing played a foundational role in shaping the band’s trajectory. His significant contributions are notably reflected in the band’s debut album, “Bleach,” which showcased Channing’s distinctive drumming style.

However, creative disparities surfaced during the sessions as Kurt Cobain and Krist Novoselic grew disenchanted with Channing’s drumming. Channing, in turn, expressed frustration at his limited involvement in the songwriting process. This led to a mutual decision, resulting in Channing’s departure after the April-May 1990 tour, attributed to creative differences within the band.

Nirvana had undergone several name changes and drummer rotations, setting the stage for another transition.


Dan Peters (July-September 1990)


Dan Peters joined Nirvana in the summer of 1990, marking a brief but impactful tenure with the band. As Nirvana’s drummer, he recorded the song “Sliver,” which showcased his straightforward rock beat and lively snare rolls.

Mudhoney drummer played their first and only live gig, and then a 21-year-old Dave Grohl entered the scene. With prior experience in bands like Scream and Dain Bramage, Grohl caught Kurt Cobain’s attention, particularly due to the latter band’s amusing name. Once again, Buzz, a pivotal figure, played a role in helping Nirvana find a drummer, and Grohl’s addition turned out to be the most enduring solution for the band.

Peters’ sole regret is not having had the opportunity to contribute his drumming skills to Nirvana’s album, Nevermind.


Dave Grohl (September 1990 to April 1994)


While playing in Scream, Dave Grohl became a fan of the Melvins and established a friendship with them. Melvin’s guitarist Buzz Osborne introduced Dave Grohl to Kurt Cobain and Krist Novoselic during a 1990 tour stop on the West Coast.

Following the breakup of Scream, Dave Grohl sought advice from Buzz Osborne, who disclosed that Nirvana needed a drummer. Kurt Cobain and Krist Novoselic invited Dave Grohl to audition in Seattle, where they recognized him as the right drummer within minutes.

Joining Nirvana during the band’s demo phase for their second album, Dave Grohl contributed to the demos that garnered significant interest. In 1991, they recorded “Nevermind,” which achieved global commercial success… And the world of music would never be the same again!




How Many Drummers Did Nirvana Have?

Dave Grohl was the last and longest-serving drummer in Nirvana, joining in 1990 and staying until the band’s end. Before him, six other drummers, including Bob McFadden, Aaron Burckhard, Dale Crover, Dave Foster, Chad Channing, and Dan Peters, were either members or temporary players. The transitions reflect the band’s search for the right fit.

Ultimately, in September 1990, Dave Grohl, introduced by Buzz Osborne, impressed Kurt Cobain and Krist Novoselic during an audition. His arrival marked a pivotal moment, solidifying the iconic lineup and contributing to Nirvana’s monumental success with albums like “Nevermind” and “In Utero.”


Why Did Nirvana Change Drummers?

Due to musical preferences, creative differences, and the band’s evolving sound, Nirvana underwent multiple drummer changes. The initial drummers, like Bob McFadden and Aaron Burckhard, were part of the band’s early experimental phase when it was still finding its identity.

Dale Crover, from the Melvins, was briefly involved, but his relocation left Nirvana without a drummer. Subsequent drummers like Dave Foster filled in temporarily. Channing, who played on Nirvana’s debut album “Bleach,” eventually departed due to creative and personal differences.

The quest for the right fit continued, with Dan Peters and Dale Crover making temporary returns. The pivotal moment came in September 1990 when Dave Grohl, recommended by Buzz Osborne, auditioned and seamlessly integrated into Nirvana.


Could Kurt Cobain Play the Drums?

Kurt Cobain had drumming skills and began playing drums at eight. While he is primarily known as a singer, songwriter, and guitarist his early musical journey involved playing drums. Cobain’s versatility and musical background extended beyond the guitar, showcasing his proficiency in various aspects of music, including drumming. Kurt Cobain played the drums in the cover song “Seasons in the Sun.” This demonstrates his versatility as a musician beyond his role as a guitarist and vocalist.


Why Did Dave Grohl Play Drums in Nirvana?

Dave Grohl played drums in Nirvana because he joined the band in 1990 after the departure of previous drummers. Grohl, previously the drummer for the Washington, D.C. hardcore band Scream, impressed Kurt Cobain and Krist Novoselic during auditions.


Who Was Nirvana’s Best Drummer?

Dave Grohl, known as the vocalist of the Foo Fighters and the drummer for Nirvana, is undeniably one of the most influential drummers in rock history. His powerful and precise drumming played a crucial role in Nirvana’s success. Grohl’s impact is so significant that he’s been inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame twice – a testament to his lasting influence on the music world. Naturally, Dave Grohl was the best drummer of Nirvana.



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Mitch Holmquist
Mitch Holmquist
4 days ago

The picture of Aaron and Krist was taken by myself (Mitch Holmquist) please correct your miss credited information, or remove the picture! Also Aaron left the band due to a DWI and getting Kurt’s car impounded, not his job at Burger King

Mitch Holmquist
Mitch Holmquist
3 days ago
Reply to  AlexandreG.

Yes, Aaron was my roommate, and I still keep in regular contact with him. Also on your Fecal Matter post, they did play one show at the Moclips Tavern. Thank’s Mitch