Born in New York in 1946, Appice grew up playing drums alongside his younger brother, fellow drummer Vinny Appice. Initially inspired by big-band and jazz players like Gene Krupa, Buddy Rich, and Max Roach, he eventually gravitated toward rock & roll. By the '60s, he was playing professionally, working in various groups including the cover band Thursday's Children. It was while playing with Thursday's Children that he caught the attention of bassist/singer Tim Bogert, who invited him to join his psych-rock band the Pigeons (they changed their name to Vanilla Fudge in 1967). Appice played on the group's early albums including Vanilla Fudge, Renaissance, and Rock Roll, all of which showcased the group's expansive reworkings of pop tunes like the Beatles' "Eleanor Rigby," the Zombies' "She's Not There," and the Supremes' "You Keep Me Hangin' On."
By late 1969, Appice had left Vanilla Fudge along with bassist Bogert to form a group with famed Yardbirds guitarist Jeff Beck. They had previously befriended Beck in 1967, impressing the guitar virtuoso with their bold, jazz-influenced interplay. However, in November of 1969 Beck was in a car accident that left him in the hospital with a fractured skull. Unable to move forward with their musical plans with Beck, Appice and Bogert chose instead to put together another group, forming the hard-rocking proto-heavy metal outfit Cactus with former Amboy Dukes vocalist Rusty Day and ex-Detroit Wheels/Buddy Miles guitarist Jim McCarty. Over three albums, including 1970's Cactus, 1971's One Way... Or Another, and 1971's Restrictions, Cactus built a cult following for their bluesy, high-octane sound,pre-figured the stoner rock movement, and offered an American response to the rising wave of British hard rockers like Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, and Black Sabbath. Cactus came to an end with 1972's 'Ot 'N' Sweaty, which found Day and McCarty leaving the band to be replaced by ex-Leaf Hound and Atomic Rooster singer Peter French, guitarist Werner Fritzschings, and keyboardist Duane Hitchings.
During Cactus' run, Beck recovered from his accident and put together a second version of his Jeff Beck Band. He recorded two albums with the group before disbanding the project and reconnecting with Appice and Bogert to give their earlier plans another try. The resulting power trio debuted with 1973's eponymous Beck, Bogert Appice. A bluesy, riff-heavy album with production by the band and Don Nix, it found Appice taking on most of the lead-vocal duties, although Beck sang on the lead-off single "Black Cat Moan." Several of the album's covers tunes, including the trio's bold reworking of Stevie Wonder's "Superstition" with Bogert on lead vocals, were reminiscent of Vanilla Fudge's expansive covers approach. BBA toured throughout much of the following year, resulting in the 1973 Japan concert album Beck Bogert Appice Live. According to rumor, while on tour Appice introduced Beck to the jazz fusion of bands like John McLaughlin's Mahavishnu Orchestra, Chick Corea, and others. BBA also began work on a follow-up album before breaking up in 1974 and never officially releasing the album.
Purportedly, Appice and Beck continued working together for several months after the end of BBA, even going so far as to record tracks with producer George Martin. However, unable to come to a contractual agreement they parted ways. Following his time with Beck, Appice recorded with guitarist Mike Bloomfield in the blues-rock outfit KGB, as well as guitarist Tommy Bolin, before finally joining Rod Stewart's band in 1977. Over the next four years, the drummer toured and recorded with the former Faces' singer, becoming an integral member of his ensemble. During this period he played on four of Stewart's albums and even contributed co-writes on several of the singer's biggest hits including "Do Ya Think I'm Sexy" off 1978's Blondes Have More Fun and "Young Turks" off 1981's Tonight I'm Yours.
With Stewart's move toward a more commercial pop sound, Appice left the band to record his debut 1981 solo album Rockers, on which he played drums and sang lead vocals. The album featured his group at the time with guitarist Danny Johnson, keyboardist Duane Hitchings, and bassist Jay Davis. Rockers hit number 38 on the Billboard Rock Albums chart. He then paired with guitarist Rick Derringer for the one-off album Party Tested in 1983, after which he joined Ozzy Osbourne on tour. Also during this period, he reunited with his Vanilla Fudge bandmates for 1984s Mystery, and guested on Jeff Beck's 1985 album Flash.
After his time with Osbourne, Appice formed the glammy heavy metal band King Kobra with vocalist Marcie Free, guitarist David Michael-Philips, guitarist Mick Sweda, and bassist Johnny Rod. They signed with Capitol and released two albums with 1985's Ready to Strike and 1986's Thrill of a Lifetime, the latter of which included the tracks "Iron Eagle (Never Say Die)," which was used as the theme song to the 1986 Air Force action film Iron Eagle. Lineup changes found Appice and Michael-Phillips putting together another lineup with singer Johnny Edwards, guitarist Jeff Northrup, and bassist Larry Hart for 1988's King Kobra III on New Renaissance Records before calling it quits.
Over the next few years, Appice stayed active recording with ex-Whitesnake guitarist John Sykes in his band Blue Murder. He also toured and recorded with Pink Floyd, the Edgar Winter Group, Jeff Watson, Mother's Army, and others. In 1996, he returned to his own work issuing the first volume in his ongoing all-star guitar series Guitar Zeus, featuring Queen's Brian May, Slash, Yngwie Malmsteen, and Ted Nugent, among others. Guitar Zeus, Vol. 2: Channel Mind Radio arrived in 1997 and featured C.C. Deville, Richie Sambora, Neal Schon, and others. Along with his performance work, Appice was one of the first musicians to begin holding drum clinics and symposiums while on tour. This led to more fruitful educational endeavors including publishing his popular 1972 instructional book Realistic Rock Drumming. Over the years, he continued to issued more instructional books and videos, some with his brother Vinny, detailing his drumming expertise.
In 2001, he teamed again with guitarist Rick Derringer and bassist Tim Bogert as Derringer, Bogert Appice for the album Doin' Business As.... He also collaborated with guitarist Pat Travers, issuing 2004's It Takes a Lot of Balls and 2005's Bazooka. There were also further reunions with Vanilla Fudge including the 2007 Led Zeppelin tribute Out Through the In Door. In 2011, he toured and recorded with Spanish guitarist Javier Vargas and Tim Bogert, issuing Vargas, Bogert Appice. A reunion album with King Cobra also appeared that year. 2014's Drum Wars Live! found the drummer going head-to-head with his brother Vinny. In 2017, the siblings debuted their band Appice with the album Sinister. Also that year, Carmine published his memoir Stick It!, which featured a foreword by Rod Stewart. In 2018, he joined Shuggie Otis on the singer's first studio album since the '70s, Inter-Fusion. ~ Matt Collar, Rovi
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