Michael Cartellone: Damn Yankees, Lynyrd Skynyrd

Michael Cartellone

Looking back through Michael Cartellone’s career as a drummer is like looking at a who’s who of classic-rock history. Ted Nugent, Freddie Mercury, Cher Accept, and John Fogerty are just some of the names Cartellone has performed with over the last two decades of his long, storied career.

Born in Cleveland on June 7, 1962, Cartellone began playing drums at the age of nine and was laying down the beat in bars and clubs in and around the Cleveland area by the time he was 11. He made the move from the Buckeye State to the music metropolis of New York in 1984 at the age of 22, where he paid his dues Drumming in a string of bands in the rough bar and club circuit of the Big Apple, with occasional higher profile gigs with the aforementioned artists. It wasn’t long before Cartellone began performing with former Roxy Music star Eddie Jobson, from there moving into the drum throne behind former Styx guitarist/vocalist/songwriter Tommy Shaw, which led to his most popular performance spot at that time: Damn Yankees.

Consisting of Cartellone, Shaw, former Night Ranger bassist/vocalist Jack Blades, and guitarist/vocalist/hunter/Motor City Madman Ted Nugent, Damn Yankees scored big with their #1 hit, “High Enough,” off their self-titled 1990 debut (the first major hit for Cartellone, and, oddly enough, the biggest hit of Nugent’s career). Damn Yankees released one more album in 1992, Don’t Tread, which highlighted Cartellone’s steady, thick backbeat. The high point of the album, however, is the final track, “Uprising,” which showcases Cartellone’s stellar use of toms and bass drum to give the Nugent-penned track a primal, Native American feel. Damn Yankees disbanded in 1996, although a string of reunion shows followed in 1998. During this time, Cartellone took over as drummer for the German metal band Accept. In 1999, he became the full-time drummer for legendary Southern rock outfit Lynyrd Skynyrd.