Motley Crue fans might have been disappointed when Tommy Lee announced on the first night of the Stadium Tour that he had broken four ribs and would be playing only a few songs per night before handing off the sticks to veteran fill-in drummer Tommy Clufetos. But those fans could rest assured they were in the best possible hands, as Clufetos has worked with some of the biggest and best names in rock and metal over the past 20 years, including Black Sabbath, Ozzy Osbourne and Alice Cooper.
Born and raised in the Detroit area, Clufetos got his professional start playing with local mainstays Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels before linking up with Ted Nugent in 2001 at the age of 21. He toured with the Motor City Madman for three years and played on 2002’s Craveman and 2007’s Love Grenade, and also appeared on the Full Bluntal Nugity live DVD.
With Cluetos in tow, Nugent went on tour with Cooper in 2003. When Cooper’s drummer Eric Singer left to join Kiss in 2004, Clufetos inherited his throne, touring with the shock-rocker that year and playing on his 2004 album Dirty Diamonds. “There are definitely more intricate drum parts in the original Alice Cooper material, and you really have to understand that that was a band,” Clufetos told Modern Drummer on the difference between the Alice Cooper Band and Cooper’s solo material from 1975 onward. “I try to recreate that feeling when playing those songs and replicate the parts as authentically as possible, adding our own energy onstage.”
Clufetos’ tenure with Cooper was brief, as he joined Rob Zombie in 2005. He made his recorded debut with Zombie on 2006’s Educated Horses (which, ironically, also featured contributions from Tommy Lee) and went on to play on 2007’s Zombie Live and 2010’s Hellbilly Deluxe 2. Zombie proved Clufetos’ longest and highest-profile gig to date, but that would change in 2010 when he got hired by Osbourne.
Watch Tommy Clufetos Play ‘Live Wire’ With Motley Crue
The promotion was not without precedent — or friction, as Osbourne had poached Zombie bassist Rob “Blasko” Nicholson a few years earlier. “I think there’s ways to do things and I think there’s ways to not do things, and I think the way they’ve chosen to do things is not how I would do things; I think it’s kind of rude,” Zombie told Artisan News Service in 2010. “I mean, if my guys that I have wanna go play with other people, that’s fine; I don’t own them. But I think there’s ways to do things in a respectful way and there’s ways to just be shitty, and I feel that the way things have gone down lately has been pretty shitty.”
Nevertheless, Clufetos didn’t regret his decision. “In life, you get certain opportunities and you have to make a choice: Am I gonna go with this opportunity or am I gonna stay in the situation that I’m in?” he told Rocking With Jam Man. “So when Ozzy called, I had to go in that opportunity.” Clufetos continued touring with Osbourne, and in 2012, he filled in for drummer Bill Ward with a reunited Black Sabbath. This led to him touring with the metal legends in 2013, though he did not play drums on their 2013 comeback album, 13. (That job fell to Brad Wilk of Rage Against the Machine.)
“Everything I’ve done has been a tremendous honor, but this is the peak of it all, not just because they’re Black Sabbath, but because of how they approach the music and still have the drive,” Clufetos told the Great Frog. “It’s respect out of that, more so than the myth of it all, if that makes sense. I see how much work and dedication they put in, and that’s where my respect and admiration comes from.”
Clufetos continued to play with Black Sabbath through their The End farewell tour and performed with Osbourne as recently as 2018 when Osbourne played his most recent solo shows. He did not, however, play on Osbourne’s latest studio album, 2020’s Ordinary Man; those duties fell to Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Chad Smith.
Watch Tommy Clufetos Play With Black Sabbath on The End Tour
There’s no ill will between Clufetos and Zombie either, as the two reunited last year in L.A. Rats, the supergroup also featuring Zombie guitarist John 5 and Motley Crue’s Nikki Sixx. The quartet released its first single, a cover of the Geoff Mack-penned country standard “I’ve Been Everywhere,” last May.
With so much synergy between the rockers, Clufetos was an obvious choice to fill in for Lee on Motley Crue’s long-awaited Stadium Tour. But despite his myriad high-profile gigs over the years, he hasn’t let rocking tens of thousands of fans a night go to his head.
“I’m still just a drummer, I’m not a rock star,” he told the Great Frog. “I play drums for rock stars. I like going up onstage, playing the best I can, and get the thrill out of that. After that, I’ll go home and take my dog out for a walk, pick up dog poop, bring my wife coffee, stuff like that.”