Leon "Ndugu" Chancler

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Ndugu Chancler
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, jazz fusion, pop, funk
Occupation(s)Musician, composer
InstrumentsDrums, percussion
Years active1965–2018

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.


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,[2] 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.[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] 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,[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 and death[edit]

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.[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, 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.[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 Miles Davis

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

With Donna Summer

With Eddie Harris

With Syreeta Wright

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

With Robbie Robertson

With Hampton Hawes

With Kenny Rogers

With LeAnn Rimes

With Keni Burke

With Sheena Easton

With Peabo Bryson

With Lionel Richie

With Patrice Rushen

With Joe Henderson

With George Benson

With Cheryl Lynn

With John Lee Hooker

With Dee Dee Bridgewater

With Tina Turner

With Michael Jackson

With Jennifer Holliday

  • The Song Is You (Shanachie, 2014)

With Harold Land

With Minnie Riperton

With Azar Lawrence

With Julian Priester

With Santana

With Lalo Schifrin

With Weather Report

With Jean Luc Ponty


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


External links[edit]