Chad Smith Biography

chad smith drummer Red Hot Chili Peppers young

Chad Smith Biography: Early Years

Chad Gaylord Smith was born in the mid west of America at the beginning of the swinging ’60s. [1] He was the third child of Curtis and Joan Smith; Chad has two older siblings, a sister called Pamela and a brother called Bradley.

chad smither drummer RHCP child with brother and sister

Chad Smith (right) with his siblings Bradley & Pamela

Both of Chad’s siblings were musical and Chad followed in the same vein. He started playing the drums from seven years of age[2]. His first drum kit comprised of some stolen ice-cream tubs & a pair of sticks (Lincoln Logs):

“His first drum kit was a pile of giant, round ice-cream cartons that his father stole from behind the local Baskin Robbins.”[3]

Chad played them enthusiastically and after banging holes into the tubs, his parents bought him a cheap drum kit from K-mart and encouraged him to play (especally when they were not around!):

You had a kit set up in your house as a kid?

I would set up in the house, the garage or the basement, where it was nice and loud, and I could annoy the neighbours. My mom was very supportive. She’d call to me, “I’m going shopping now. It’s a good time to practice if you want.” I’d bang away with the headphones on and rock out like I was playing with Zeppelin or Hendrix. Source

Chad loved sport and rock music e.g. Kiss and Led Zeppelin. He grew up in a normal Midwest family with nothing out of the ordinary happening in his life; in fact, little is publicly known about Chad’s early years except that he once ran away and that he didn’t perform that well in school apart from in band where he got high grades after joining nearly every band going:

“… Chad was a runaway at fifteen years of age, when he spent a summer sleeping in cars and crashing in other people’s homes, accompanied by a dog called Bong. On his return home, his mother ensconced him in a Catholic boarding school…”[4]


“Surprisingly, Chad never took any lessons, preferring instead to gather as much practical experience as he could by getting into every single band at school. “Marching band, jazz band, symphonic band, concert band, any kind of band,” he says counting them off on his fingers. “That’s where I learnt to read. I was pretty good so I’d always get an ‘A’ in band which would help to balance out my ‘D’s and ‘C’s in everything else.” Source

During his childhood, Chad moved a couple of times; he grew up in Illinois where he attended the Homewood-Flossmoor High School for two years before moving to Oakland County. Smith graduated from Lahser High School in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan in 1980 & then began work:

 “In rapid succession, he was fired by a paint company, when he screwed up a large order; a Gap store (his sweater-folding skills were questionable) and a pancake house, where he upended a big vat of maple syrup.”[5]

Chad fell back onto his drumming skills instead of seeking permanent 9-5 employment and was able to earning a living that way instead:

After leaving school, Chad joined Tilt and found himself earning $150 a week playing six nights a week…


In 1984 Smith joined Toby Redd (apparently named after a children’s story about a horse called Toby); it was his most successful band to date. Chad played drums on their second album ‘In The Light’ which was released in 1986 by Nemporor (a RCA sub-label; the first album, pre-Chad, had been released independently; the group had been signed to Nemporor following exposure on local radio). The group had some commercial success and the band even opened for Kansas.



Chad Smith: Red Hot Chili Peppers

However, tired of nothing really happening and the cold Michigan winters, Chad left Toby Redd and the mid-West  in 1988 and went off to try his luck in the bright lights of LA since he had friends living in the city and his brother was now living  ‘just up the road’ in San Francisco. On arrival in Los Angeles, Chad Smith enrolled at the LA Musician’s Institute. However he was never to complete his formal studies there because a few months later, a friend recommended him to a band that were looking for a new drummer; that band was the Red Hot Chili Peppers:

“Denise Zoom, one of the band’s friends from the LA scene, recommended him, saying simply, ‘I know this guy from Detroit [who] eats drums for breakfast.”[6]

The Chili Peppers had effectively been looking for a permanent drummer for several months; existing drummer Jack Irons had left the band following the untimely death of RHCP guitarist Hillel Slovak, leaving a void that no one could seem to fill. His position had been filled briefly by Dead Kennedy’s drummer D. H. Peligro but that had failed to work out and with three weeks left to go before the recording of a new album began, the band still needed a drummer. Philip “Fish” Fisher from fellow LA band Fishbone, briefly stepped in (his contribution remained on the track, ‘Taste the Pain’) but again the union failed to gel. Auditions were held; over 30 drummers (if the urban myths are true) were rejected but then in walked Chad Smith…

“Chad Smith was a behemoth, taller and broader than any of the band. His hair exploded from his skull like a field of black corn, kept in place by a bandana. A cut off Metallica T-shirt struggled gallantly to hold his bear-like chest in place. At first the waiting Peppers thought he had wandered into the wrong room ‘He looks like he should be in some heavy metal band playing at the Troubadour,’ Flea whispered across to Kiedis and Frusciante. ‘He looks like a geek,’ Kiedis hissed back. The group was with a breath of calling ‘OK, next’ when Smith started playing.”[7]

Kiedis and Flea, despite being so impressed by Chad’s drumming skills and his ability to not only keep up with, but overtake, Flea’s playing, were initially unsure about the drummer;

 “It was so obvious he was the man for the job… yet the guys [Flea and AK] balked at hiring him on the spot because they were afraid that he was too goofy and too rock.’ [Michael Beinhorn]….Eventually, Kiedis and Flea came to the logical realisation that Smith was their man. It was Lindy Goetz who talked the band round-he’d even called Smith and told him to be patient, the band would eventually hire him.”[8]

The band did decide to hire him but they were to add a caveat to the process; Chad Smith could join the band providing he turned up the next day minus his hair:

“We told him, ‘Okay, shave your head and you’re in the band.” Kiedis recalled in a later interview. “He said ‘No’, and we thought that was even more punk than being pushed around by a bunch of assholes like us.”[9]

It was 1989 and the rest is RHCP history! Chad Smith, with his bandana and hair in place, joined the Red Hot Chili Peppers just as they were about to record their fourth album- the album which was to become Mother’s Milk. He has since played on all of their studio albums including the recently released tenth RHCP studio album, ‘I’m With You’ (released August 2011).


red hot chili peppers studio albums

Chad Smith’s Discography with RHCP:

Mother’s Milk
Blood Sugar Sex Magik
By The Way
Greatest Hits
Stadium Arcadium
I’m With You (release August 2011)


Chad Smith: Private Life  

If Smith has a problem, it’s relationships. He has three children by different mothers, and has never been able to settle down. “I’m the dumper,” he sighs. “I fall in love easily, but… I get restless. I’ll figure it out one day. Can we talk about something else?”  Source

Chad married Maria St John in 1996; a marriage that was destined to be short-lived as they divorced not that long afterwards. Together they have a daughter called Manon St John Smith (born March 3rd 1997).

Chad became a father again in 1998 when his son, Justin Smith, was born and then again in 2000 when his daughter, Ava Cardoso-Smith, was born.

On May 8th 2004, he married architect Nancy Mack in the Bahamas; together they have two sons called Cole (born 2005) and Beckett Cash (born 2009). Chad has recently (March 2012) announced on Twitter that he and Nancy are expecting another child:

Chad Smith divides his time between Malibu, California and New York with the bulk of the time being spent in the Big Apple due to his children’s schooling.[10] 

Chad Smith Drummer More information on Chad’s drumming career outside the Chili Peppers with videos and photos.

Please Note- Disclaimer:  While I have made every attempt that I can to make this biography as accurate as possible, backing comments with relevant sources where possible, etc. this account can only be as accurate as that source material so please be aware of that if using this biography; please check sources and information for yourself if using this biography for anything other than personal use.

[1]There are very few details about Chad’s early life online and the details vary depending on sources e.g. about where he lived and the year he was born in:

Birth date: some books/websites give 1961 as the year Chad Smith was born and others 1962. Wiki now seems to have settled for the 1961 date giving various citations and this interview in Q June 2002 seems to confirm it; it was conducted in May 2002 and describes Chad turning 40 shortly before which means his birth date must be 1961 or he’d have been 40 in the October AFTER the interview:

Recently, he was the first band-member to turn 40 (Flea and Kiedis are 39), and celebrated with a “pimp and ho” garden party. “John came as a giant pimple and Flea came as a garden hoe,” he reports. “Very clever, those two, verrrry clever. My mom came out. She was a good-looking ho.

Birth Place: Another minefield! Most sources list Chad as having been born in St. Paul, Minnesota with a few listing Richfield in the same state. However there are a couple of accounts where it’s stated that Chad was born in Detroit Michigan e.g. Rhythm 1995 and there’s a Youtube video (0.30-33) -where Anthony Kiedis says that he and Chad were born in the same state of Michigan- Chad is sat next to AK and doesn’t contradict this (AK also says they were born two weeks apart and AK was born in 62 which adds more confusion on the birth year thing although he could have been referring to the fact their birthdays are 2 weeks apart and not the year).


[3]Fornication: The Red Hot Chili Peppers Story Jeff Apter page 182

 [4]‘Red Hot Chili Peppers: Inside the Veins of the Velvet Groove’ by Martin Roach, page 66

 [5]Fornication: The Red Hot Chili Peppers Story Jeff Apter, page 182-3

 [6] ‘Red Hot Chili Peppers By The Way: The Biography’ by Dave Thompson, page 139

 [7] ‘Red Hot Chili Peppers By The Way: The Biography’ by Dave Thompson, page 139

 [8]‘Fornication: The Red Hot Chili Peppers Story’ by Jeff Apter, page 183


9 thoughts on “Chad Smith Biography

  1. Grew up with the boys, Brad and Chad for a time back in the 70’s in Homewood. Just found out Chad is the drummer for the Chili Peppers, no surprise, he was talented way back when. Would love to know what his brother Brad is up to and say hello to them both. Cheers.

  2. hello chad i am a student from hampton park secondary and you are my notable that i am doing for my assignment which is called night of the notables where we dress up as our notable and since i am a drummer like yourself and have been playing for 3 years I wud love to get a bit of info about your self.

    your sincerely florian

  3. Wow, remember you in middle school .All of us were in band. Also remember the day you moved to Michigan. I was the one who gave you a hawks jersey. Glad to hear of your success. P.S. my son is a chef in San Francisco. He’s met many notables.

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