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Russ McKinnon


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From 2001 to 2018 Russ was honored to be Barry Manilow’s drummer.  Russ enjoyed working with Manilow on many musical projects, including studio and live concert recordings, and large scale arena tours. Some highlights of his years with Manilow include a seven year residency in Las Vegas, major network television appearances, and even a run “On Broadway” in New York City.  


McKinnon's work with Manilow includes over 1,300 live performances, four studio CDs and five live DVDs - one earning a prestigious Emmy Award for best television music special in 2007.  


During his time with Barry, Russ was honored to include projects with brilliant producers and artists such as David Foster, Phil Ramone, Clive Davis, Elton John and Bette Midler in his impressive work lineup.  


You can hear McKinnon perform on Barry's recent recordings including; "2Nights Live!," "Scores," "Greatest Hits of the Fifties," "Greatest Hits of the Sixties," "Greatest Hits of the Seventies" and “Live In London with the Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra”. 


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The Tower of Power Years


By audition, Russ earned the coveted drum chair for legendary funk/horn band Tower of Power in 1989, where he performed alongside famed bassist Francis Rocco Prestia.  Since buying his first TOP record in 1974 (“Back to Oakland”), he had been a huge fan of the band and David Garibaldi’s awesome drumming.  Says Russ, “I still have that first Tower record, the vinyl grooves are completely worn out!”.


McKinnon toured internationally with Tower of Power for the next 6 years, playing nearly 900 shows.  His work with TOP, what many people call the “funkiest band in the world”,  eventually led to him being honored five consecutive years (1992-1996) as a winner of Modern Drummer magazine’s prestigious Readers’ Poll Award. 

With Tower of Power, McKinnon recorded two widely acclaimed studio CDs “Monster on a Leash” and “TOP”.  His playing appears on two compilation discs “Soul With a Capital S” and  “What Is Hip”.  While touring with the band was beyond exciting, Russ also enjoyed the song writing and recording process with band founders Emilio Castillo and Stephen “Doc” Kupka. 


McKinnon was asked to return and perform again with Tower of Power in honor of the band’s 40th Anniversary.  The much anticipated reunion concert, featuring both past and present members of the band, was recorded at the Fillmore West concert hall in San Francisco and was later released as a live CD and DVD.   Russ also played briefly with TOP in both 2015 and 2017, filling in for a recuperating David Garibaldi.  Performing with the band again and being introduced every night as "Tower of Power Alumni Supreme" by bandleader Emilio Castillo was indeed an honor for McKinnon. 


The Joe Cocker Years


Russ joined Joe Cocker’s touring band in 1999 to support Joe’s “No Ordinary World” CD.  McKinnon jumped at the chance to work with the legendary “Woodstock” era vocalist, whom he’d long admired.    


Over the next two years, Joe and his band played 170 large scale concerts across 26 foreign countries, including Russia, Tunisia, Lebanon, Croatia, Slovenia, Slovakia, Latvia, Estonia, Ukraine, Lithuania and Poland. 


“I still get goosebumps thinking about Chris Stainton (Joe's longtime keyboardist) playing the Hammond B3 organ on ‘With a Little Help From My Friends’, which was our nightly encore song. What an honor to perform with a rock and roll legend night after night.  Joe was always such a gentleman, loads of fun to be around and a consummate professional!”.


Other Artists 

with whom Russ has recorded and/or toured:


The Gap Band

Louis Miguel

Kenny G. 

Bette Midler

Marie Osmond

Melissa Manchester

Billy Vera and the Beaters

Michelle Schocked

Engelbert Humperdinck

Euge Groove

Freddie Ravel

Dave Coulier

Honey (South Korea)

Antonio Nadir (Mexico)


Music Festivals


From pop and rock to jazz, funk, folk, country and even classical, Russ has performed at the following prestigious music festivals, just to name a few: 


Nobel Peace Prize Concert (Oslo, Norway 2011)

Olympic Music Festival (Lillehammer, Norway 1994)

Playboy Jazz Festival (Hollywood, CA)

Nice Jazz Festival (France)

Pori Jazz Festival (Finland)

Copenhagen Jazz Festival (Denmark)

Gothenburg Jazz Festival (Sweden)

Newport Folk Festival (Rhode Island)

Newport Jazz Festival 

Bermuda Jazz Festival 

Blenheim Palace Music Festival

BBC Proms in the Park (London, UK)

Elton John White Tie & Tiara Ball (Windsor, UK)

PBS: A Capitol Fourth (with the National Symphony Orchestra)    Washington D.C.

Boston’s Fourth of July Celebration (with Boston Pops              Orchestra)

Clive Davis’ Grammy Concert/Party (Los Angeles)

Barbra Streisand Music Cares Concert 

Songwriter Hall of Fame Induction Concert (New York)

The Ella Fitzgerald Award Concert / Society of Singers (L.A.)

Pacific Rim Drum Invitational (featured performer/clinician)

Modern Drummer Festival (featured performer/clinician)

PASIC Drum Festival (featured performer/clinician)

Drum Masters Festival (Toronto, featured performer/clinician)




From castles and palaces, to arenas and jazz nightclubs, Russ has performed on many of the largest and most famous stages of the world.  Just some of these include: 


Madison Square Garden (New York City)

Staples Center (Los Angeles)

The Forum (Los Angeles)

O2 Arena / Millennium Dome (London)

Radio City Music Hall (New York City)

Royal Albert Hall (London) 

Wembley Arena (London)

Kennedy Center (Washington, D.C.)

Lincoln Center (New York City)

The Hollywood Bowl (Los Angeles)

The Greek Theater (Los Angeles)

State Kremlin Palace Concert Hall (Moscow)

Olympia Halle (Munich)

Windsor Castle (UK)

Blenheim Palace (UK)

Kodak Theater (now Dolby Theater) (Hollywood, CA)

Oakland Coliseum 

The Blue Note Jazz Clubs (NYC, Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya, Fukuoka & Las Vegas)

The Bottom Line (NYC & Nagoya, Japan)

The Sporting Club (Monte Carlo, Monaco)

The Fillmore West (San Francisco, CA)

House of Blues (Hollywood, CA, New Orleans, LA)

Tipitina’s (New Orleans, LA)

Toad’s Place (New Haven, CT)

Beacon Theater (New York City)

Blues Alley (Washington, D.C.)

Jazz Alley (Seattle, WA) 

Baked Potato (Hollywood, CA)

Catalina’s Jazz Club (Hollywood, CA)




In addition to being seen performing on numerous foreign and domestic music specials, Russ’ TV appearances also include:


American Idol

Dancing With The Stars

The Tonight Show with Jay Leno

The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brian

The Primetime Emmy Awards

The Jay Leno Show

The Today Show

Jimmy Kimmel LIVE!

Lopez Tonight

Good Morning America

The Today Show

VH1 Morning Perk

The Ellen Show

The View

The Martha Stewart

The Rosie O’Donnell Show

The Wendy Williams Show

The Tony Danza Show 

Olivier Awards (London)

A & E’s “Live By Request”

On Air with Ryan Seacrest

Much Music (Canada)

Rockefeller Center Tree Lighting Ceremony

A Capitol Fourth Concert (Washington, D.C.)

Into the Nite with Rick Dees

Graham Norton Show (UK)

BBC “Audience With...” (UK)

The Jonathan Ross Show (UK)

Schmidteinander (Germany)


Early in his career, Russ worked as an actor and sideline musician on the following popular television shows:



Beverly Hills 90210

Melrose Place 




Paper Dolls




It has been Russ’ honor to share the stage and perform with some of the finest and most respected orchestras in the world, such as: 


Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra (London)

Los Angeles Philharmonic

Hollywood Bowl Orchestra

The Boston Pops

National Symphony Orchestra (Washington D.C.)

BBC Radio Orchestra (London)

New York Pops Orchestra    


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