score card research
Steely Dan
Steely Dan Dates

Sorry, there are no Steely Dan dates.

Steely Dan Biography

Two baby boomers from the Greater New York Metropolitan Area, Donald Fagen (keyboards/vocals) and Walter Becker (guitar/bass), met as students at Bard College in 1967. Realizing that they liked a lot of the same things - jazz, r&b, comic novels, science fiction - they began composing songs together on an upright piano in the common room of Walter's dorm. They played in various pickup bands at school and on recording sessions for classmate Terence (Boona) Boylan (Alias Boona {1969}).

After Donald's graduation in '69 (Walter had dropped out), the duo found digs in pre-gentrification Brooklyn where they sat around on ancient, shabby couches and plotted their assault on the music business. One bitterly cold morning, notebook in hand, they subwayed to the Brill Building in midtown Manhattan (now in it's declining years) and knocked on the doors of music publishers with the idea of presenting their collection of eccentric compositions. Unfortunately, on that day, most of the offices were empty owing to the annual publishers' conference (MIDEM) in Cannes. Feeling discouraged, they finally knocked on a door with a name plate that read "JATA". This turned out to be the production office of Jay and the Americans, a hit pop group of the mid-'60s, then on the verge of a comeback with a remake of of the Ronettes' "Walking in the Rain."

One of the Americans, Kenny Vance, took an interest in the duo's compositions and found them studio work, both playing and arranging. They also started touring with the group as members of their backup band.Vance managed to place one of their pop efforts on a Barbra Streisand album that featured songs by the new, groovy generation of writers.

Donald and Walter also played sessions for Vance crony Gary Katz. By the early 70s, they had worked with many top NYC session pros including drummers Herb Lovelle and Buddy Saltzman; bassist Chuck Rainey; pianists Paul Griffin and Artie Butler; and guitarists Elliot Randall, Dom Troiano, Ricky Zehringer (later Derringer) and Jeff "Skunk" Baxter.

In 1971, the lads relocated to sunny Los Angeles where Gary Katz, now an A&R man for ABC/Dunhill Records, had secured them a job as staff songwriters for the label, one of the last to employ house writers to write material for the artists on the roster. At that time, ABC was concentrating on "singles acts" aimed at the pre-teen and teen markets, such as Tommy Roe, The Grass Roots and Hamilton, Joe Frank and Reynolds. Officially tasked with writing pop tunes for these artists, Donald and Walter secretly began to the assemble a band to act as a vehicle for their "special material". With Katz's help, they began to import players from the east coast.

Early in '72, the original Steely Dan group - guitarist Denny Dias, guitarist Jeff Baxter, drummer Jim Hodder, and with Donald and Walter on keyboards and bass respectively - began rehearsing in an unfinished wing of the ABC building. Several weeks later, the group began recording their first album at Village Recorders in West Hollywood with engineer Roger Nichols. After being informed that ABC expected the group to tour extensively, Donald, who wasn't prepared to front a band at that time, insisted on finding another singer/frontman, and David Palmer was added to the group.

Can't Buy A Thrill, released that November, yielded two hit singles, "Do It Again" and "Reelin' In The Years", which featured a notable solo by guest guitarist Elliot Randall. A third single, "Dirty Work", with a vocal by David Palmer, also got a lot of airplay.

The band toured behind Can't Buy A Thrill and the following two albums, Countdown to Ecstasy and Pretzel Logic, both in the States and Britain. The band, now with Donald as the lead vocalist, expanded to include drummer Jeff Porcaro, keyboard/vocalist Michael McDonald and percussionist/vocalist Royce Jones. By 1974, Donald and Walter decided they'd had enough of road for the time being, and retreated to the studio to concentrate on recording. Naturally, the band wanted to work, and so departed for greener pastures. Donald and Walter, who had already started working with studio players on the Pretzel Logic sessions, began to write with certain musicians in mind. Over the next five years, four more albums were released: Katy Lied ('75), The Royal Scam ('76), Aja ('77) and Gaucho ('80), which was completed after the boys moved back home to New York.

Work-weary and exhausted by the harsh vicissitudes of the artist's life, the boys decided to part ways. Walter moved to the island of Maui and became, in his words, "a gentleman avocado rancher and selfstyled critic of the contemporary scene". Donald wrote and recorded his first solo album, The Nightfly (1982), which was a critical and popular hit.

During the '80s, Donald worked on a variety of projects. He wrote tunes for artists including Diana Ross, the Yellowjackets, the Manhattan Transfer and Jennifer Warnes; co-produced the soundtrack album for Bob Telson's off-Broadway musical The Gospel At Colonus (1988); and composed the score for the film Bright Lights Big City (1988). He also began writing essays for various publications, including a regular column on film music for Premiere Magazine.

In the meantime, Walter produced albums for China Crisis, Rickie Lee Jones (The Horses, 1989) and a number of jazz artists including Bob Sheppard, John Beasley, Andy Laverne, Jeff Beale, Marty Krystall, The Lost Tribe, LeeAnn Ledgerwood, and Dave Kikoski.

In early 1991, Donald and his wife Libby Titus created the New York Rock & Soul Revue featuring a revolving group of artists including Charles Brown, Phoebe Snow, Chuck Jackson, Boz Scaggs, Michael McDonald and Rascals alumni Eddie & David Brigati. Walter, who had reunited with Donald in 1986, came along for the '92 tour. He also produced and performed on Donald's second solo album, Kamakiriad (1993), after which they went on tour with an all new Steely Dan group featuring drummer Peter Erskine, bassist Tom Barney, guitarist Drew Zingg, pianist Warren Bernhardt, vibraphonist Bill Ware and an all-star horn section. A career retrospective boxed set entitled Citizen Steely Dan was released that Christmas.

After the band completed a tour of Japan in '94, Walter recorded his first solo album at his newly built studio on the slopes of Mt. Haleakala in Maui. Co-produced by Donald, 11 Tracks Of Whack was released in '94. The following year, a live album, Steely Dan: Alive In America, was released.

Now one of the top international touring bands, Steely Dan's first new album in twenty years was highly anticipated. 2001 saw Two Against Nature win four Grammys including the award for Album of the Year. In March, Steely Dan was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Finally, in May, Donald and Walter received honorary doctorates from the Berklee College of music.

The album Everything Must Go was released in 2003, followed by a triumphant American tour. The band now boasted an all-star lineup: Keith Carlock on drums; "Ready" Freddie Washington on bass; Jim Beard, keyboards; Jon Herington, guitar; Walt Weiskopf and Roger Rosenberg, saxes; and vocalists Carolyn Leonhart, Catherine Russell, LaTanya Hall and Cindy Mizelle. 

In between Steely Dan tours, Donald toured with his old Rock & Soul mates Michael McDonald and Boz Scaggs in a "supergroup" they called the Dukes of September. His solo albums Morph the Cat (2006) and Sunken Condos (2012) were both released to critical acclaim, as was Walter's second solo effort, Circus Money, in 2008.

Now concentrating on live appearances, the band began to offer evenings that featured performances of entire albums. Countdown to Ecstasy, The Royal Scam, Aja and Gaucho have all been performed live, often at the band's annual appearances at the Beacon Theater in New York, always fan favorites. Loyal to their roots in jazz, Walter and Donald have made it a point to present major jazz artists as openers. Featured players have included Bill Charlap, Jimmy Cobb, Chris Potter, Sam Yahel, Julian Lage, Joey DeFrancesco, Joe Lovano, Peter Bernstein, Mike LeDonne, Bobby Broom and the Deep Blue Organ Trio.

Recent partners on major tours have included The Eagles, The Doobie Brothers, Steve Winwood and Elvis Costello and the Imposters.


mail Sign up for our weekly event guide email.


Be the first to know. Get personalized event announcements, updates, and reviews every week with the event guide email.

Privacy Policy