Jonathan “Sugarfoot” Moffett was Michael Jackson’s live drummer for 30 years. Originally from New Orleans, he performed on the majority of Michael’s solo tours and appearances after drumming with The Jacksons, a gig he got after a chance meeting with their musical director.
At his Jacksons audition, he played “Shake Your Body (Down To The Ground)” exactly like the record, which the group said no one had ever done before. The track was a complex three-part overdub, near-impossible for a single drummer to play perfectly.
Sugarfoot performed on the Jacksons’ Destiny Tour, Triumph Tour and Victory Tour, and appeared with Michael Jackson on the HIStory World Tour, 30th Anniversary Celebration concerts, the 1988 Grammy Awards and more. He was poised to drum on the This Is It tour when Michael Jackson passed away on June 25, 2009.
When Sugarfoot wasn’t available for MJ’s “Dangerous” and “Bad” tours, Ricky Lawson filled in on the throne.
Listen to this interview with Sugarfoot where he talks more about his life as a touring drummer, working with Michael Jackson and more.
While Sugarfoot was Michael Jackson’s primary live drummer, a number of legendary drummers contributed drum tracks to his recorded catalog, including Jeff Porcaro, Leon “Ndugu” Chancler, Paulinho da Costa and John “JR” Robinson.
Jonathan Moffett is known for quick, articulate kick drum work. He impressed the Jacksons so much, they started referring to him as “Sugarfoot” – as in, his playing was sweet.
Michael Jackson shortened the nickname further, lovingly referring to his friend as “Foot”.
Check out this full lesson with Sugarfoot to learn a few of his bass drum secrets, how to create grooves using the backbeat as a foundation, and what it was like working with Michael Jackson:
0:40 – “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin” by Michael Jackson
6:00 – Drum Solo
7:30 – Introduction
10:35 – “Smooth Criminal” by Michael Jackson
16:00 – Where did the nickname “Sugarfoot” come from?
23:16 – Jonathan’s foot technique (mental/physical aspects)
42:38 – Drum Solo #2
51:10 – Jonathan’s approach to writing drum parts
56:23 – Jonathan’s tips for beginner/intermediate drummers
1:02:30 – Q & A!
1:09:28 – Drum Solo #3
1:18:13 – “Jam” by Michael Jackson
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Aside from drumming with Michael Jackson and The Jacksons, Sugarfoot has recorded and/or toured with some of the greatest pop artists of the last 100 years including Madonna, Janet Jackson, Elton John, Lionel Richie, Cameo, George Michael, Kenny G, Doug Miller, Peter Cetera and Bill Meyers.
He toured extensively with Madonna and recorded drums for several of her albums, including “True Blue” and “Like A Prayer”.
He’s appeared on The Tonight Show, Good Morning America, Saturday Night Live and The Arsenio Hall Show, and was the drummer for Cirque du Soleil’s tribute production – Michael Jackson: The Immortal World Tour – which spanned 500 performances around the world over the course of several years.
You can see the intense focus and passion Sugarfoot has for MJ’s tracks. Ever wondered exactly what Michael Jackson’s drummer was playing? Check out these playthroughs of some of his biggest hits:
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