Leon "Ndugu" Chancler
|Birth name||Leon Chancler|
|Born||July 1, 1952|
Shreveport, Louisiana, U.S.
|Died||February 3, 2018 (aged 65)|
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
|Genres||Jazz, jazz fusion, pop, funk|
Born in Shreveport, Louisiana, on July 1, 1952, Leon Ndugu Chancler was the last child 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 heavily involved in playing there with Willie Bobo and the Harold Johnson Sextet. He graduated from California State University, Dominguez Hills with a degree in music education. By then he had already performed with the Gerald Wilson Big Band, Herbie Hancock, and recorded with Miles Davis, Freddie Hubbard, and Bobby Hutcherson.
He recorded as a sideman in jazz, blues, and pop music, including instantly recognizable drums on "Billie Jean" by Michael Jackson. In 1982, he received a Grammy nomination for Best Rhythm & Blues song, for co-writing "Let It Whip" made famous by the Dazz Band. He worked with George Benson, Stanley Clarke, The Crusaders, George Duke, Herbie Hancock, John Lee Hooker, Michael Jackson, 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, he became an Adjunct Assistant Professor of Jazz Studies at the University of Southern California and taught at the Stanford Jazz Workshop in California for three weeks every summer. He was a member of the Percussive Arts Society  and was inducted into the PAS Hall of Fame in 2020.
Personal life and death
Chancler was given the name "Ndugu" by musical icon 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.
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, son Rashon Chafic Chancler, with Vicki Guess. Family was important to him and he had many godchildren, nieces, and nephews.
Chancler died at his home in Los Angeles, California on February 3, 2018 of prostate cancer, at the age of 65. 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 Miles Davis
- Miles Davis at Newport 1955-1975: The Bootleg Series Vol. 4 (Columbia Legacy, 2015)
With George Duke
- Faces in Reflection (MPS Records, 1974)
- Feel (MPS Records, 1974)
- The Aura Will Prevail (MPS Records, 1975)
- I Love the Blues, She Heard My Cry (MPS Records, 1975)
- Liberated Fantasies (MPS Records, 1976)
- From Me to You (Epic Records, 1977)
- Reach for It (Epic Records, 1977)
With Patti LaBelle
- Tasty (Epic, 1978)
With Donna Summer
- Donna Summer (Geffen, 1982)
With Eddie Harris
- Excursions (Atlantic, 1966–73)
With Syreeta Wright
- Syreeta (Tamla Records, 1980)
- The Spell (Tamla Records, 1983)
With Robbie Robertson
- Storyville (Geffen, 1991)
With Hampton Hawes
With Kenny Rogers
- Christmas (Liberty Records, 1981)
- Love Will Turn You Around (Liberty Records, 1982)
- We've Got Tonight (Liberty Records, 1983)
With LeAnn Rimes
- What a Wonderful World (Curb, 2004)
With Keni Burke
With Sheena Easton
- No Strings (MCA Records, 1993)
With Peabo Bryson
With Lionel Richie
- Lionel Richie (Motown Records, 1982)
With Patrice Rushen
- Prelusion (Prestige Records, 1974)
- Before the Dawn (Prestige Records, 1975)
- Pizzazz (Elektra Records, 1979)
- Posh (Elektra Records, 1980)
- Signature (Discovery, 1997)
With Joe Henderson
- The Elements (Milestone, 1974)
With George Benson
- Love Remembers (Warner Bros., 1993)
With Cheryl Lynn
- Start Over (Manhattan, 1987)
With John Lee Hooker
- The Healer (Chameleon, 1989)
With Dee Dee Bridgewater
- Just Family (Elektra Records, 1977)
With Tina Turner
- Private Dancer (Capitol, 1984)
With Michael Jackson
With Jennifer Holliday
- The Song Is You (Shanachie, 2014)
With Harold Land
With Minnie Riperton
- Minnie (Capitol, 1979)
With Azar Lawrence
- Bridge into the New Age (Prestige, 1974)
With Julian Priester
- Love, Love (ECM, 1973)
With Lalo Schifrin
- No One Home (Tabu, 1979)
With Weather Report
- Tale Spinnin' (Columbia, 1975)
With Jean Luc Ponty
- Upon the Wings of Music (Atlantic Records, 1975)
- on YouTube
- Wynn, Ron. "Leon 'Ndugu' Chancler Biography". AllMusic. All Media Network. Retrieved February 6, 2018.
- "Thriller (1982)". albumlinernotes. Retrieved September 19, 2018.
- "Legendary Jazz and Popular Music Drummer Ndugu Chancler Shares 60 Years of Life and Music" (PDF). USC Thornton School of Music. September 23, 2012.
- "Leon "Ndugu" Chancler". GRAMMY.com. May 14, 2017. Retrieved February 4, 2018.
- Anderson, Daniel (February 5, 2018). "In memoriam: drummer Leon 'Ndugu' Chancler, 65". University of Southern California.
- "Ndugu Chancler Profile". Stanford Jazz Workshop. Retrieved February 6, 2018.
- Mattingly, Rick. "Ndugu Chancler (1952-2018)". Percussive Arts Society. Retrieved February 6, 2018.
- "Ndugu Chancler (1952-2018)". Percussive Arts Society. Retrieved May 18, 2020.
- Pareles, Jon (February 7, 2018). "Leon (Ndugu) Chancler, Versatile Drummer, Is Dead at 65". The New York Times.
- Kreps, Daniel (February 4, 2018). "Ndugu Chancler, Drummer on Michael Jackson's 'Billie Jean,' Dead at 65". Rolling Stone. ISSN 0035-791X.