Gregg Bissonette, a 1977 Mott High School graduate who plays with Ringo Starr and His All Starr Band, performs a demonstration during a drum clinic May 9 at Warren Mott High School.

Gregg Bissonette, a 1977 Mott High School graduate who plays with Ringo Starr and His All Starr Band, performs a demonstration during a drum clinic May 9 at Warren Mott High School.

Photo by Erin Sanchez

Picking the right tempo with Gregg Bissonette

By: Maria Allard | Warren Weekly | Published May 17, 2024


WARREN — Abby Road led to the Warren Mott High School auditorium on May 9.

With drumsticks flying, Gregg Bissonette — a drummer with Ringo Starr and His All Starr Band — performed a concert at his alma mater.

Bissonette, who graduated from Mott in 1977, played several songs with a band of students in a concert open to the public. The Warren Mott Band Club sponsored the event, and donations were accepted for entry.

The students practiced just a few hours with Bissonette before show time. Warren Mott Band Director Erik Miller, who met Bissonette in 2017 at a reunion, invited him to visit the students.

The evening began with selections from the Warren Mott Marauder Big Band. The show continued with an entertaining performance from the Warren Consolidated Schools Jazz All-Stars, featuring students on various instruments from Warren Mott, Cousino and Sterling Heights high schools.

On stage, Bissonette — who plays a Dixon kit — got into the groove with the students with Maynard Ferguson’s “Coconut Champaign,” Buddy Rich’s “Nutville,” and the Average White Band’s “Pick Up the Pieces,” among others. Bissonette even drummed up the Marauder fight song for the crowd.

Earlier in the day, the music man connected with the high school students in a drum clinic, demonstrating different dynamics and styles. He caught the attention of 11th-grade student Laurence Frick, a percussionist in the marching and concert bands.

“I think this is probably one of the most incredible things I’ve seen in a hot second,” Frick said. “I really like the way he talks to people. I think he’s very charming and cool. I learned to get excited for drumming.”

Tenth grader Alyssa Sikorski also took notice.

“I’ve never been a fan of the kit drums until I saw him play. It opens up a whole new experience,” said Sikorski, a marching band and wind ensemble student. “He did a great job at keeping tempo.”

Alex Buckerfield, an 11th grader who has mastered several instruments including guitar, bass and drums, thought it was “amazing.”

“I think he’s insanely talented and smart,” Buckerfield said.

During his visit, Bissonette talked about the many opportunities he’s had, including playing music for the television show “Family Guy,” which brought back memories of sight reading during his Mott days.

“It’s a 100-piece orchestra at Fox (Studio) sound stage,” he told the students. “You have to read like we’re reading now, and it’s really pretty intense.”

After the clinic, the friendly Bissonette took selfies with students and past classmates. He also caught up with former teachers, including Wildwood Elementary School Band Director Jim Ruffner.

“He’s one of the best students I’ve ever had,” Ruffner said. “He’s the only student I remember composing his own songs.”


Drum roll, please
Bissonette, who grew up on Shady Drive in Warren, spent most of his childhood practicing his drum set in the basement and finding any band he could join. Music was part of the family dynamic. He followed in the footsteps of his dad, Bud, also a drummer. His mom, Phyllis, played the piano and vibraphone. His brother, Matt, a ’79 Mott grad, played bass in Elton John’s band for many years and now is a member of REO Speedwagon. His sister, Kathy, a ’80 Mott grad, works in concert promotion in Los Angeles.

After he graduated from Mott, Bissonette moved to Denton, Texas, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in music education at North Texas State University, now the University of North Texas.

While he thought about teaching, Bissonette relocated to Los Angeles in the early 1980s to find his calling as a professional musician. Since then, he has stayed on top of the beat with various artists, including Maynard Ferguson’s Big Band, Gino Vannelli, the Electric Light Orchestra, Santana, the Brian Setzer Orchestra, Duran Duran, Don Henley, Rick Springfield, Joe Satriani, Linda Rondstat, Enrique Iglesias and Celine Dion.

In 1985, the skilled musician snared a job playing drums in David Lee Roth’s solo band after Roth left Van Halen. The stint lasted seven years. It was a dream come true 16 years ago when Starr invited him to join his All Starr Band: The Fab Four’s drummer had long been one of Bissonette’s idols.

“That’s the greatest gig I’ve ever done,” the self-described “Beatles fanatic” said. “Ringo’s the nicest guy in the world. A super, caring, loving guy who loves to play.”

Bissonette said Starr, who is 83, is often asked why he’s still working.

“Why would I stop?” is the famed drummer’s response, according to Bissonette. “That’s what I do.”

While Bissonette honed his craft on the jazz greats and rock stars he listened to as a teen, he likes many artists who came in the last couple decades, including Lizzy McAlpine, Taylor Swift, Harry Styles, Billie Eilish and Snarky Puppy.

“I just love playing good songs because, to me, it’s about songs,” he said. “Great musicianship is wonderful, but it’s really about the songs. That’s why I love the Beatles so much.”

Ringo Starr and His All Starr Band has some upcoming tour dates in 2024, plus a residency this May and June at the Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas. On stage, Bissonette and Starr play double drums during part of the show. Starr also takes over as frontman to sing several songs.

The band line-up constantly changes, and the current band includes Starr, Bissonnette, Steve Lukather, Colin Hay, Warren Ham, Hamish Stuart and Edgar Winter. The band performs a setlist of Starr and Beatles songs, plus hits from the other musicians’ former bands, which include Toto, Men at Work, and the Edgar Winter Group.