Michael McDonald Recalls How He Started Working With Steely Dan

During a recent episode of the Ultimate Classic Rock Nights radio show, Michael McDonald told Uncle Joe Benson how he started working with Steely Dan.

“I was playing a lot of dance clubs that were kind of the precursors to disco,” McDonald explained. “Along the way, we would do these other casuals and one of them was a wrap party on the Universal lot for the cast of [NBC series] Emergency.”

McDonald said he was scrambling to find a backing band when he got the NBC series job.

“I put this band together, probably two days before the gig. Just called people. And one guy, I said, ‘Listen, I’m in a bind here. I haven’t gotten anybody for this thing, it’s in two days, it’s a wrap party, the money’s pretty good, do you know anybody?” he said.

He added that saxophonist Steve Leeds recommended drummer Jeff Porcaro and other musicians who were working on a Steely Dan album.

“So, we just showed up. And by the first set everybody was so drunk, they didn’t care anyway,” McDonald recalled. “And I remember hearing Jeff talk about this Steely Dan album he was doing.”

“I remember thinking, listening to Jeff going, ‘What a lucky stiff. I would give anything to play in that band.’ Because it was just my favorite group in the world,” he added.

McDonald said he joined Steely Dan’s touring band in 1974 and provided backing vocals on tracks for Katy Lied. He then went on to appear on The Royal Scam, Aja and Gaucho, through 1980.

In 1989, McDonald joined “The New York Rock and Soul Revue,” an all-star collaboration put together by Steely Dan’s frontman Donald Fagen.

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