Talk to Me

E57: Drummer for the band, Chicago, Walfredo (”Wally”) Reyes, Jr.

September 13, 2020

Walfredo Reyes, Jr., is the drummer for the legendary band, Chicago.

Watch the video version of this interview at

Author and speaker, Michael Angelo Caruso interviews the music veteran on a wide range of topics, including life on the road with the Chicago band and stories about other famous acts.

1:32   Lessons from Walfredo Reyes, Sr. 
5:00  Josephine Baker (in Havana, Cuba!) 
7:00  Making it in music is part talent and part personality 
9:15  The music BUSINESS 
10:00  Famous rhythm sections (The Wrecking Crew, The Section, The Toto boys) 

11:15  Making and maintaining connections 
16:00  Chicago's relentless touring schedule 
20:15  "Take the best and leave the rest" 
22:00  All Cubans do not know each other, lol 
23:15  Is it easier to make it in the music business now? 
26:00  Close encounters with the cold business of music 
28:30  Auto-tune, Pro-Tools, triggers, fix-it-in-the-mix philosophy 

31:15   Working with Lindsey Buckingham 
32:30  Chicago drums 
33:30  Music as fashion 
34:00  The many flavors of snare drums 
38:00  All kinds of drum students 
41:00   Staying in shape 
44:30  Obsessed with drumming
49:00  Neal Peart 
51:15  Danny Seraphine and Tris Imboden 
53:30  Taking requests from the boss(es) 
57:00  How Wally got started in Chicago (Robert Lamm story) 
1:00:00  Abe Laboriel, Sr. and Jr. (Paul McCartney's drummer) 
1:03:00  "I never want to worry where 'one' is" (Lee Loughnane story) 

1:06:00  Drumming is 50% playing and 50% listening 
1:08:00  The problem drum fills ("never disturb the dancers") 
1:14:00  Beginnings, Introduction, 
1:15:00  Ballet for a Girl in Buchannon, Old Days 
1:17:00  Time signatures; "Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?" 
1:20:00  Wally's legendary "Graffiti" drum kit

*Sorry, not sure why the drums were muted when Wally played during this podcast.

Walfredo Reyes Jr. (born Walfredo de los Reyes Palau IV) December 18, 1955) is a Cuban American expert in drum set and auxiliary percussion, a music educator, and a clinician. He has performed with many jazz, Latin, World music, World fusion, Afro-Cuban, and rock bands as a touring, session recording, and full-time player.

Reyes is known for his fusion of many of the world's percussion techniques, including the ability to play a drum set with his hands in addition to the traditional use of drumsticks.   It's said that he can "sound like a drummer and a percussionist at the same time".

He is well known as a long-term member of Santana, and a member of Chicago as the percussionist from 2012—2018 and the drummer since 2018. 

Walfredo Reyes Jr. was born on December 18, 1955 in Havana, Cuba. He's a third generation musician in a prolific professional musical lineage on both sides of his family, including several globally notable percussion experts.

His father is percussionist Walfredo Reyes, Sr.; one brother is World music percussionist Daniel de los Reyes (also with Chicago); another brother is actor Kamar de los Reyes; and his grandfather is trumpeter and Cuban orchestral organizer, Walfredo de los Reyes II.

Reyes has had a lifelong interest in the music of Chicago Transit Authority, now known as Chicago. He says that the band's debut album, Chicago Transit Authority, is the first album that he had ever purchased as a youth with his own money.

The following passage is written by Rick Van Horn:

“Few drummers playing today can successfully combine the rich history of Latin, Afro-Cuban and World Percussion with the drum set. 

For Walfredo Reyes, Jr., fusing the two disciplines has been his driving passion. In fact, by blazing this path, Reyes has challenged the technical levels of our instrument. Born in Cuba, raised in Puerto Rico, and culminating his musical style in the U.S., Wally (Walfredo Jr.) learned the traditions from the master, his father Walfredo Sr.

"He married those principles with his love of the drum set, coming up with his own truly global rhythmic style. Simply put, Wally is able to sound like a drummer and a percussionist at the same time. Add blistering chops and a penchant for playing unusual patterns to the mix, and you have only a small idea of what this man can do."

Not surprisingly, this one-man percussion show has gathered an impressive list of gigs over the years, including touring and/or recording with:

- Carlos Santana, Traffic 
- Steve Winwood 
- Jackson Browne 
- Celia Cruz 
- Gloria Estefan 
- David Lindley 
- Ricki Lee Jones 
- Richard Marx 
- Sergio Mendes 
- Smokey Robinson 
- Robbie Robertson
- Joe Sample 
- Boz Scaggs
- Christina Aguilera 
- Ricky Martin 
- Johnny Hallyday 
- Khaled 
- Lindsey Buckingham 
- Chicago 
- And many others

Because of his versatility, Walfredo is one of the most in demand musicians in the world today. He continues to expand his talents to recording, producing, composing, education, live performance, and touring.

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