When it comes to Santana drummer, few of them really stood out, but believe it or not, there have been over 15 different drummers during the band’s history.

Founded in 1966 in San Francisco, Santana is an American rock band led by popular Mexican-American artist, guitarist, and songwriter Carlos Santana. Despite the band changing personnel over the years, Santana is the only constant member that stuck through.

The original line-up included Santana on lead guitar, Rod Harper on drums, Marcus Malone on percussion, Sergio “Gus” Rodriguez on bass, and Gregg Rolie on lead vocals and organ.
Let’s check the most influential ones and how they contribute to the band’s success.

Michael Shrieve

Michael Shrieve
Photo from michaelshrieve.com

Before Michael joined the band, there were two drummers before him. 

Rod Harper, who was in the original lineup, played for a year from 1966 to 1967. Soon, he was replaced by Bob Livingston until 1969, when Michael came on board. 

Michael Shrieve is an American drummer, percussionist, and composer. He played on Santana’s first seven albums between 1969 to 1974.

The story behind Shrieve joining the band is very interesting. When he was only 19, he jammed along with Santana at a recording studio, and on the same day, he was invited to join the band. 

Santana appeared at the Woodstock Festival shortly after Shrieve turned twenty before releasing their first eponymous album. Throughout his career, he has been with Santana for Abraxas (1970), Santana III (1971), Caravanserai (1972), Welcome (1973), Borboletta (1974), and the live Lotus (1974). 

Besides co-writing four tracks, he also co-produced the album Caravanserai. Shortly after the live Lotus, he left the band to focus on his solo career. However, he joined the band again from 2014 to 2016, where he was the drummer for Santana’s twenty-fourth studio album Santana IV.

Graham Lear

Photo from drummerszone.com

Before Graham joined Santana, there were a few influential drummers such as Buddy Miles (1971-1972) and Leon “Ndugu” Chancler (1974-1976; 1988).
Graham Lear is an English-born Canadian rock drummer who played with Gino Vannelli, REO Speedwagon, and Santana.

He began his professional career very early. At 13, he joined the Symphony Orchestra in London, Ontario, while his teenage years were spent playing and touring with several bands in the USA and Canada.
He played, recorded, and toured worldwide with Carlos Santana, Paul Anka, REO Speedwagon, and Saga.

He also deserves a couple of Santana albums such as Moonflower, Inner Secrets, Marathon, Zebop, Shango, and Viva.

Rodney Holmes

Photo from drummerworld.com

Rodney Holmes is an American drummer, composer, and producer. He is a very popular yet humble musician who has worked with many talented and renowned artists in both the Rock and Jazz worlds.
Besides working with Santana from 1993 to 1994, and again from 1997 to 2000, Rodney has also worked with Michael Brecker, Randy Brecker, Steve Lukather, Joe Zawinul, Wayne Shorter, and Rob Thomas many others.

He was the drummer on one of the most popular Santana songs, “Smooth,” from “Supernatural.”
After nearly two years on the road with the Syndicate, Rodney decided to leave the band. However, Carlos Santana soon got in touch with Rodney and, shortly after, he was invited to join the Santana Band for the Santana-Bob Dylan Tour.

In 1997, he reunited with Santana once again. He played on their next album called Supernatural. He spent two more years touring around the world with Santana to promote the album, winning nine Grammys for his contribution to it.
There is no doubt that Rodney was an integral part of Santana, a band that achieved worldwide fame and notoriety under his tenure.

Dennis Chambers

Photo from flickr.com

Dennis Milton Chambers is an American drummer who began drumming at his earliest stage. By the age of six, he was already gigging in Baltimore-area nightclubs.

He played for 11 years with Santana, from 2002 to 2013. Although he lacks formal training, drummers recognize him for his great speed and technique. His playing style is extremely powerful and technically advanced, yet musically and groove-based. 

Dennis has also been known for playing a wide range of musical styles, but his greatest accomplishments have been Latin music, jazz-fusion, and funk.

Besides such devotion to Santana, whom he toured extensively with, he made a few appearances with his band Niacin as well. Dennis was also known for playing with George Duke, John Scofield, John McLaughlin, Brecker Brothers, Parliament/Funkadelic, Niacin, Mike Stern, and many more.

Cindy Blackman Santana

Photo from ultimateclassicrock.com

Cindy Blackman Santana is an American jazz and rock drummer currently playing with Santana. She was a child from a musical family. Her mother and grandmother were classical musicians, while her uncle was a vibist. 

Her first strokes behind the drums were at the party, where she immediately felt the connection. Not long after that, she started playing in the school band. Then, at 13, Blackman became interested in jazz music after listening to Max Roach. Shortly after, she got her first professional drum set.

To devote herself to drumming, she moved to Boston and enrolled at Berklee College of Music. But only after a few semesters she left college to play gigs, and in 1982, Blackman moved to New York City. During her stay there, Cindy worked as a musician while attending shows to hear masters perform. 

In 1993, she got a phone call from Lenny Kravitz where he immediately asked her to fly out and join his band. Her tour with Kravitz lasted 18 years. In the late 1990s, Blackman recorded her first album with a group of musicians and named it Telepathy to reflect their closeness. 

In 2004, Blackman decided to focus on her own Music rather than touring with Lenny Kravitz. Soon after, she released Music for the New Millennium on her Sacred Sounds Label. Three years later, she toured South America, teaching clinics in Argentina, Chile, and Brazil, and in 2010, she committed to recording the first tribute to Tony Williams. 

Carlos Santana proposed to Blackman on stage during a concert at Tinley Park, right after her drum solo. Besides touring with him in the past, Blackman is a current Santana drummer. In 2011, she made an appearance at the Montreux festival, playing drums for Carlos’s one-time reunion with John McLaughlin. Besides that, Blackman also helped mix the sound for the video they recorded.

She released a 17-track album in 2020 called Give the Drummer Some. Her voice appears on 11 of the songs on this album and remains active up to this day.