Basic Background Info

Birth: Unknown
Location: Queens, New York
Band: Four Seasons
Genres: Rock, Latin
Instruments: Drums, Percussion
Occupation: Musician, Educator, Author


For Richie Gajate-Garcia, percussion was the natural choice. He says, “I’m Puerto Rican, and percussion instruments are found all throughout our culture.” Richie Gajate-Garcia was born in Queens, New York, and raised just blocks away from Tito Puente’s childhood home, until his family moved back to Puerto Rico. Richie Gajate-Garcia stayed in Puerto Rico until he graduated from high school. Richie Gajate-Garcia moved back to the U.S. and enrolled at Illinois’s Springfield College.

Richie started out as a business administration major in emulation of his businessman father. Richie credits his father with teaching him how to deliver effective speeches, a skill that would serve him later as a clinician. Eventually, Richie discovered that business was not for him, so he transferred to Chicago’s American Conservatory of Music and earned his BA in Music Education. While he studied in Chicago, Richie also dedicated himself to playing music full time.

Following graduation, Richie got together with Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons to go on tour. When the band relocated to California, Richie went with them. Richie left the band, but stayed in California, where he easily made a name for himself as a session musician.

Over the next twenty years, Richie worked on everything from soundtracks, to educational materials, to huge career-defining gigs—including a tour with Phil Collins performing music for Walt Disney’s “Tarzan,” a gig backing Celia Cruz at the VIDA Awards, another one backing Tito Puente, playing drums on the Paul Rodriguez show, accompanying Sting, performing with Juan Gabriel at the Universal Amphitheater, traveling through France with Veronique Sanson, touring with Diana Ross, Don Henley, Hiroshima, Patti LaBelle, and performing Latin percussion with John Denver. Richie also got the opportunity to sit on a panel at a fundraiser for the Democratic Party and speak directly with President Clinton and Vice President Gore. Of the experience he said, “I got along great with President Clinton. I then got to play for them. I was sitting on stage next to Art Garfunkel, and the President was sitting in front of the stage. He leaned to the side, ignored Art and waved to me. I again spoke with President Clinton after the performance and got pictures. He spoke to me like I was an old music buddy.”

However, of all his experiences as a musician, Richie says, “I have to say that doing clinics has been one of the most rewarding things for me. I went to Columbia to do the first clinic there and 600 people came. And I’m thinking, ‘Why are all these people coming to see me? They have all the music they could ever want.’ And they said, ‘Richie, thanks to you and your video, I was able to start.’ And it’s so amazing if you can reach people and inspire them, even if it’s just to play a cowbell, you know you’ve reached them and that’s the great reward of the videos.”

Latin Percussion began its line of educational videos in the early 70s. The first video, Understanding Latin Rhythms Vol. 1, featured Richie Gajate-Garcia teaching Latin percussive techniques. Over thirty years later, the series still endures all around the world. More recently Richie has seen Latin music becoming more integrated in the American music market. Of the trend, Richie says, “…in every club I play, I see as many Anglo-Americans as I see Latinos dancing and dancing great. With some of the dance steps these people do, I'm going to have to go and take lessons.” A newer series of instructional DVDs focuses on how to learn Latin percussion and perform in the American music industry.

In addition to everything else, Richie Gajate-Garcia has also performed on several high profile film soundtracks including Maid in Manhattan, I-Spy, and The Mummy Returns. He also has a catalogue of solo albums, including the critically acclaimed Entre Amigos. In regards to his amazing genre blending career, he says, “I constantly look for new sounds and I’m not completely partial to any one instrument, which I feel adds color and appeal to my playing.”


Album Year Album Name Album Band
1981 Reunited Live Frankie Valli & the Four Seasons
1988 Plays Gerald Wilson: Gerald's People Mike Wofford
1989 Family Time Justo Almario
1989 Third Time Around David Becker Tribune
1990 20 Greatest Hits: Live Frankie Valli & the Four Seasons
1991 Different Directions John Denver
1991 Love Is the Reason Marcos Loya
1992 Heritage Justo Almario
1992 Morning 'n' Night Craig & Company
1992 Providence Hiroshima
1992 Psycho City Great White
1993 Sunny Wilkinson Sunny Wilkinson
1993 Tales From Home Ciro Hurtado
1994 Exempt Garsed/Helmerich
1994 L.A. Hiroshima
1994 Mi Isla Tropical Ilyana
1995 In from the Storm Various Artists
1995 Somewhere in the World Word of Mouth
1995 Wondrous Love Jay Leach
1996 Americano JosÈ Feliciano
1996 In Harmony with the Homeless Various Artists
1996 Urban World Music Hiroshima
1997 Bacio Paul Ventimiglia
1997 Latin Jazz Christmas Bobby Rodriguez
1997 Romances Luis Miguel
1998 Algun Dia 9IID
1998 Groovin' High: The Drums Project on the 3 Various Artists
1998 Todos Los Romances Luis Miguel
1998 Tropical Nights Calido
1999 Between Black and White Hiroshima
1999 Mala Hierbe Jose Manuel Figueroa
2000 Acuarela de Tambores Alex Acuna
2000 Please Thank You May I Cross Connected
2000 Spanish Kiss Luis Villegas
2001 Musicos Juan Carlos Quintero
2001 Romances [DVD Audio] Luis Miguel
2002 Spirit and Soul June Kuramoto
2003 Bridge Hiroshima
2003 Extreme Heat Pat Longo
2003 Heads Up Sampler Various Artists
2003 Italian Job [Original Score] John Powell
2003 Salsa Pop L.A. Carpool
2004 Sin Palabras Nestor Torres
2004 Spirit of the Season Hiroshima
2004 West Coast All Stars: Live Sessions [CD & DVD] West Coast All-Stars
2005 Guitarra de Pasion, Vol. 2 Various Artists
2005 Guitarra de PasiÛn Guitarra de Pasion
2005 III Otis Hayes
2005 Mr. and Mrs. Smith [Original Score] John Powell
2005 Multiplicity Dave Weckl
2005 Obon Hiroshima
2005 Robots [Original Score] John Powell
2005 Time to Love Stevie Wonder
2006 Discotheque Marcia Hines
2007 Hersey Sensin Yalin
2007 Little Tokyo Hiroshima
2007 Romancing the '60s Frankie Valli
2007 XM Watercolors - Silver [Circuit City Exclusive] Various Artists
2008 Life/DiscothËque Marcia Hines
2008 Tequila Moon Jessy J
2009 True Love Jessy J
2009 Live at Mt. Fuji Al McKay
2011 Voices from the Water Jim Horn
2013 Second Chances Jessy J
2013 A Night In Paris Christopher Cross


  • The Latin Percussion Gajate Bracket was named after Richie.
  • In addition to being the Director of Tourism in Puerto Rico, Richie's father was also a percussionist with The Xavier Cugat Orchestra.
  • Richie's nickname is "El Pulpo," meaning octopus in Spanish, because of his amazing independence and ability to play multiple percussion instruments at once.
  • Modern Drummer's readers voted Richie one of the top Latin percussionists.
  • DRUM! Magazine readers voted Richie one of the top rock percussionists in 2000.
  • Richie has performed more than 450 clinics. He is one of the most demanded instructors in the world.
  • Richie's stepfather gave Armando Peraza (Cuban percussionist) half his salary so he could work with a band in San Francisico until Armando got famous enough to support himself.

Instruments of Choice



Drums: Drum Workshop
Cymbals: Sabian
Percussion: Latin Percussion

Pics & Clips