Gordy Knudtson is the drummer for the Steve Miller Band, pioneer of the Open/Close Technique, and President/Owner of GK-Music.com, the first company to market hearing protection headphones for musicians. Gordy endorses Paiste Cymbals, Innovative Percussion Drumsticks, Tempus Drums, and ProLogix Practice Pads.
Gordy started playing drums at age 15. He played his first professional union gig at 17, and by 19 was doing studio work in Minneapolis’ busy commercial music scene of the 1970’s. He recorded jingles, radio & TV station logos, and industrial film scores during the day, while performing at night with regionally renown Minneapolis bands Passage, The Doug Maynard Band, and The Lamont Cranston Band.
In 1981 he toured with with guitar legend Roy Buchanan across the US, Canada, and Australia The following year he began a six year association with jazz pianist/vocalist Ben Sidran performing in jazz clubs and festivals around the world. Gordy is on three of Sidran’s CDs: Cool Paradise, Too Hot To Touch, and On the Live Side.
In 1987 Gordy joined the Steve Miller Band. This iconic classic rock band known for huge 70’s hits like “Fly Like an Eagle”, “Rockin’ Me”, “Jet Airliner”, and “The Joker”, toured every year until 2001 when Steve took a three year hiatus from performing. They resumed touring in 2004 and continue to play 50-60 shows a year. Gordy performed on these recordings of Steve’s: Born 2B Blue, Wide River, The Box Set, Bingo, Let Your Hair Down, and The Joker Live.
Gordy’s TV appearances with Steve include: The Late Show with David Letterman; The Tonight Show with Jay Leno; Friday Night Videos; The Arsenio Hall Show; Steve Miller Band — Live from Chicago; Crossroads — Steve Miller & Kenny Chesney; The Jools Holland Show; Austin City Limits: and AVO – Sessions Basel.
In 2016 Steve Miller was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Steve and the band performed at his induction ceremony which was broadcast by HBO. (Read Questlove’s post about the band’s performance)
When home in Minneapolis, Gordy has always done a wide variety freelance work. During the 2001-2003 Miller hiatus, he toured and recorded with Cuban piano virtuoso Nachito Herrera who moved to Minneapolis from Havana in the late 90’s. They recorded a CD on the Dakota Live label called “Nachito Herrera Live — 2” released in 2006.
In 2007 Gordy was called to fill-in last minute for Anton Fig with Booker T. & the MGs featuring Steve Cropper and Duck Dunn. Fig’s plane was delayed so he covered the first show without rehearsal, receiving kudos from the band, audience, and the press for his performance. The 8/9/07 Minneapolis StarTribune review of the show was headlined Local drummer saves groove for Rock Hall of Famers. In the review Steve Cropper said Gordy was “the best new drummer I’ve ever worked with.” (See Review)
In the late 80’s Gordy began exploring an obscure old drumming technique called open/close, push/pull, or drop/snap technique, which allows you to play a very fast, continuous stream of notes in one hand at a time. Even though this technique had been around for many years it was far from commonplace because it was tricky to do, and appeared to have only a few esoteric uses. It seemed no one had figured out how to synchronize it in both hands at the same time to fulfill its most obvious potential, a single stroke roll!
Gordy was first to publish this single stroke roll synchronization solution in the April 1999 issue of Percussive Notes Magazine – “A New Approach to the Single Stroke Roll”. In 2002 Gordy released the first books and instructional video about Open/Close Technique. They introduced nomenclature, notation, and synchronizations, then showed how this technique can be used to create a family of multi-note stroke single stroke rolls which directly parallel double stroke rolls.
Upon seeing Gordy’s work, Ed Shaughnessy declared “You have developed an historically important form of technique that ranks with the Moeller system!” His endorsement generated an invitation from the Percussive Arts Society to be one of three presenters chosen for a special clinic series on hand technique at PASIC 2003, called the “Hand Development Series”. The other two presenters were legendary drum technique gurus Joe Morello and Jim Chapin (See Percussive Notes promo article). After Gordy’s presentation Joe Morello said “I’m SO glad you did this! Billy Gladstone was messing around with this when I was studying with him, but he never documented it. I think you took it further than he did!”
Gordy’s subsequent work on O/C technique showed that it can also be used as a new way to understand and practice the mechanics of rudiments. His follow up book “Morphing Doubles with Open/Close Technique” introduced another innovation of his, slow motion notation. Slow motion notation allows you to assign precise rhythmic locations and exact hand movements for every note of a rudimental pattern, including the grace notes – https://youtu.be/X63Jq7kxnYI
Like many other musicians, Gordy suffers from tinnitus and noise induced hearing loss. In 1995 his company, GK Music, became the first to make and market hearing protection stereo headphones designed specifically for drummers called DrumPhones (See Review). These headphones provided much more acoustic isolation than regular headphones. They helped to protect a musician’s hearing from loud external sounds and reduced the need for excessive headphone volume levels. The success of DrumPhones spawned competition, but his current model called UltraPhones, is the isolation headphone of choice for top professionals across the country.