Leon "Ndugu" Chancler

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Ndugu Chancler
Background information
Birth nameLeon Chancler
Born(1952-07-01)July 1, 1952
Shreveport, Louisiana, U.S.
DiedFebruary 3, 2018(2018-02-03) (aged 65)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
GenresJazz, pop, funk, blues, jazz fusion
Occupation(s)Musician, composer
Instrument(s)Drums, percussion
Years active1965–2018
EducationCalifornia State University, Dominguez Hills

Leon "Ndugu" Chancler (/ɪnˈdɡ ˈænslər/ in-DOO-goo CHANSS-lər;[1] July 1, 1952 – February 3, 2018) was an American pop, funk, and jazz drummer. He was also a composer, producer, and university professor.


Early life[edit]

Born in Shreveport, Louisiana, on July 1, 1952, Leon Chancler was the youngest of seven children from the union of Rosie Lee and Henry Nathaniel Chancler. In 1960, the family relocated to Los Angeles, California. Chancler began playing drums when he was thirteen years old. He would publicly reminisce about being asked to leave a classroom for continuously tapping on the desk, only to be later heard tapping on the poles in the hallway. His love for the drums took over while attending Gompers Junior High School and it became his lifelong ambition. He graduated from Locke High School, having been involved in playing there with Willie Bobo and the Harold Johnson Sextet, and he later graduated from Cal State Dominguez Hills with a degree in music education.

Musical career[edit]

By the time he finished college, Chancler had already performed with jazz artists such as the Gerald Wilson Big Band, Herbie Hancock,[2] and recorded with Miles Davis, Freddie Hubbard, and Bobby Hutcherson.

He recorded frequently as a sideman in jazz, blues, and pop music, including the instantly recognizable drums on Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean".[3][4] In 1982, he received a Grammy nomination for Best Rhythm & Blues song for co-writing "Let It Whip", made famous by the Dazz Band.[5] Other musicians with whom Chancler worked during his career included George Benson, Stanley Clarke, the Crusaders, George Duke, John Lee Hooker, Hubert Laws, Thelonious Monk, Jean-Luc Ponty, Lionel Richie, Kenny Rogers, Patrice Rushen, Santana, Frank Sinatra, Donna Summer, the Temptations, Tina Turner, and Weather Report.

In 2006,[4] he became an Adjunct Assistant Professor of Jazz Studies at the University of Southern California[6] and taught at the Stanford Jazz Workshop in California for three weeks every summer.[7] He was a member of the Percussive Arts Society [8] and was inducted into the PAS Hall of Fame in 2020.[9]

Personal life[edit]

Chancler was given the name "Ndugu" by Herbie Hancock during his time with Hancock's Mwandishi band. He was known as Leon (Ndugu) Chancler, or sometimes Ndugu Chancler. Ndugu is Swahili for “earth brother,” a family member or comrade.[10]

Ndugu grew up active in his church and was mentored and influenced by many strong men that helped shape his life after the absence of his father at age 13. His older brother Londell was a major support and motivation to him. When his mother was diagnosed with diabetes, Ndugu cared for her until her death in 1994. Chancler had one child, his son Rashon Chafic Chancler, with Vicki Guess.


Chancler died at his home in Los Angeles on February 3, 2018, of prostate cancer, at the age of 65.[11][12][6][10] A song, "Home Light," written by Ernie Watts and Marc Seales, was dedicated to Chancler. It was the title track of a 2018 album by the Ernie Watts Quartet.


With David Axelrod

With George Benson

With Dee Dee Bridgewater

With Peabo Bryson

With Keni Burke

With Tia Carrere

  • Dream (Reprise, 1993)

With Miles Davis

With George Duke

With Sheena Easton

With The Emotions

With Herbie Hancock

With Eddie Harris

With Hampton Hawes

With Tramaine Hawkins

  • To a Higher Place (Columbia, 1994)

With Joe Henderson

With Jennifer Holliday

  • The Song Is You (Shanachie, 2014)

With John Lee Hooker

With James Ingram

With Michael Jackson

With Patti LaBelle

With Labelle

With Harold Land

With Azar Lawrence

With Cheryl Lynn

With Wendy Matthews

With Jean Luc Ponty

With Julian Priester

With Lionel Richie

With LeAnn Rimes

With Minnie Riperton

With Robbie Robertson

With Kenny Rogers

With Patrice Rushen

With Santana

With Lalo Schifrin

With Donna Summer

With Tina Turner

With Weather Report

With Syreeta Wright

  • Syreeta (Tamla Records, 1980)
  • The Spell (Tamla Records, 1983)

With Rahmlee Michael Davis


  • Chancler, Ndugu (2013). Pocket Change. Drumsong Music Company. ISBN 978-1483585789.


  1. ^ "Ndugu Chancler at KickPort NAMM 2015" on YouTube
  2. ^ Wynn, Ron. "Leon 'Ndugu' Chancler Biography". AllMusic. All Media Network. Retrieved February 6, 2018.
  3. ^ "Thriller (1982)". albumlinernotes. Retrieved September 19, 2018.
  4. ^ a b "Legendary Jazz and Popular Music Drummer Ndugu Chancler Shares 60 Years of Life and Music" (PDF). USC Thornton School of Music. September 23, 2012.
  5. ^ "Leon "Ndugu" Chancler". GRAMMY.com. May 14, 2017. Retrieved February 4, 2018.
  6. ^ a b Anderson, Daniel (February 5, 2018). "In memoriam: drummer Leon 'Ndugu' Chancler, 65". University of Southern California.
  7. ^ "Ndugu Chancler Profile". Stanford Jazz Workshop. Archived from the original on February 7, 2018. Retrieved February 6, 2018.
  8. ^ Mattingly, Rick. "Ndugu Chancler (1952-2018)". Percussive Arts Society. Retrieved February 6, 2018.
  9. ^ "Ndugu Chancler (1952-2018)". Percussive Arts Society. Retrieved May 18, 2020.
  10. ^ a b "Leon (Ndugu) Chancler, Versatile Drummer, is actually Dead at 65". Rejuvenation Media. February 7, 2018. Archived from the original on February 12, 2018. Retrieved February 12, 2018.
  11. ^ Pareles, Jon (February 7, 2018). "Leon (Ndugu) Chancler, Versatile Drummer, Is Dead at 65". The New York Times.
  12. ^ Kreps, Daniel (February 4, 2018). "Ndugu Chancler, Drummer on Michael Jackson's 'Billie Jean,' Dead at 65". Rolling Stone. ISSN 0035-791X.

External links[edit]