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Anton Fig
Portrait of a man (Anton Fig) wearing dark glasses and a purple shirt, playing a cymbal that appears in the foreground.
Fig in 2014
Background information
Also known as The Thunder from Down Under
Born (1952-08-08) 8 August 1952 (age 71)
Cape Town, South Africa
Occupation(s) Session musician
Instruments
  • Drums
  • percussion
Associated acts

Anton Fig (born 8 August 1952), known as "The Thunder from Down Under", is a South African session drummer, perhaps best known as the drummer and second-in-command for Paul Shaffer and the World's Most Dangerous Band. David Letterman, for whom the band served as house band on his late-night talk shows, often referred to Fig as "Anton Zip" or "Buddy Rich Jr." Fig is also well known for his work with Kiss, Ace Frehley and Joe Bonamassa.

The World's Most Dangerous Band 1980s (cropped) - Anton Fig
Anton Fig in the 1980s

Early career

Fig began playing drums at the age of four. After performing in numerous successful local rock bands in Cape Town, becoming locally respected with bands like Hammak, he moved to Boston to further pursue his musical interests. His formal education included studies at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston, where he studied jazz and classical disciplines, and graduated with honors in 1975. In 1976, he moved to New York City, where he began to establish a career as a freelance musician.

Fig was a member of the band Spider during both their album releases in 1980 and 1981 as well as on their 1982 album as newly renamed band Shanghai, together with famed producer Beau Hill and songwriter Holly Knight.

Fig was the drummer on Ace Frehley's 1978 eponymous solo album and subsequently became a member of the then ex-Kiss lead guitarist's solo project Frehley's Comet from 1984 to 1987. ..... Eric Carr took over drumming duties following Criss's departure.

Other artists with whom he has worked include Bob Dylan, Warren Zevon, B. B. King, Peter Frampton, Joan Armatrading, Cyndi Lauper, Link Wray, John Waite, Robert Gordon, Eric Johnson, Beth Hart and Kix.

David Letterman

Fig was the drummer for the Paul Shaffer-led house band of David Letterman's late night television shows since 1986, when he debuted with "The World's Most Dangerous Band" on NBC's Late Night with David Letterman. When Letterman's show moved to CBS in 1993 and became Late Show with David Letterman, the band (and Fig) moved as well, adding a horn section and becoming known as the "CBS Orchestra".

During this tenure, Fig and the rest of the band have played with scores of artists including Miles Davis, James Brown, Bruce Springsteen, Steve Winwood, Bonnie Raitt, and Tony Bennett. Fig also played parts in several of the show's comic sketches, including the recurring gag, "Anton Fig's Guess The Expiration Date", in which Fig would be blindfolded and fed a perishable food product and attempt to guess the expiration date on the item solely from tasting it. The CBS Orchestra has also backed up a host of artists in other venues, such as Stevie Wonder, Faith Hill, Little Richard, and also B. B. King at the closing ceremonies of the summer 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta. They also backed Al Green, Gloria Estefan, 'N Sync, and Eric Clapton for VH1's Save the Music concert at the White House.

The World's Most Dangerous Band is also the house band for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Additionally, they were the backup band for The Concert for New York City where they performed with David Bowie, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, Eric Clapton and Buddy Guy, Macy Gray, and James Taylor.

On occasions when Paul Shaffer has been absent from The Late Show or has guest-hosted, especially since the death of previous substitute bandleader Warren Zevon in 2003, Fig has filled in as bandleader.

Other projects

Some of the many recordings Fig has made include selections with Bob Dylan, Mick Jagger, Cyndi Lauper, Madonna, Gary Moore, Shanghai, Ace Frehley, Joan Armatrading, Rosanne Cash, Joe Cocker, John Phillips, Warren Zevon, Sebastian Bach, Oz Noy, Jed Davis, Joe Satriani, Paul Butterfield, Link Wray and Chris Spedding.

He replaced Peter Criss on the Kiss albums Dynasty (1979) and Unmasked (1980), playing drums on all tracks for both albums (except Criss' song from Dynasty, "Dirty Livin'"). Due to Kiss' management attempting to cover up any personnel problems within the band, Fig would not be credited until years later, and Criss appears in the video for "Shandi" off the Unmasked album.

As a freelance drummer, Fig has also played live with Paul Simon, Booker T and the MG's, The Thompson Twins at Live Aid, and Jim Keltner for Bob Dylan's 30th anniversary concert celebration. In 1996, Fig released a drum instructional video and book titled In the Groove and Late Night Drumming, respectively.

In 2002, Fig completed his first solo record, Figments. Produced and co-written by Fig, the record represents three years of work and includes - among others singers and musicians - Richie Havens, Brian Wilson, Ivan Neville, Sebastian Bach, Ace Frehley, Al Kooper, Chris Spedding, Donald "Duck" Dunn, Blondie Chaplin, Paul Shaffer, Chris Botti, Randy Brecker, and Richard Bona.

In 2006, Fig worked with Blackmore's Night on The Village Lanterne. In 2007, Fig worked with Joe Bonamassa on his Sloe Gin album, in 2009 on his Ballad of John Henry album, and in 2014 on Different Shades of Blue.

On 4 May 2009, Fig joined Joe Bonamassa's band for their debut appearance at the Royal Albert Hall in London, where Eric Clapton made a guest appearance. A DVD capturing this performance was subsequently released. Fig was featured on Ace Frehley's album Anomaly, released on 15 September 2009.

Discography

With Joan Armatrading

  • Me Myself I (A&M, 1980)

With Frank Black

  • Honeycomb (Black Porch, 2005)

With Joe Bonamassa

  • Sloe Gin (J&R, 2007)
  • The Ballad of John Henry (J&R, 2009)
  • Black Rock (J&R, 2010)
  • Dust Bowl (J&R, 2011)
  • Driving Towards the Daylight (Provogue, 2012)
  • Different Shades of Blue (Provogue, 2014)
  • Blues of Desperation (J&R, 2016)
  • Redemption (Provogue, 2018)
  • Royal Tea (Provogue, 2020)
  • Time Clocks (J&R, 2021)

With Martin Briley

  • Dangerous Moments (Mercury, 1984)

With Paul Butterfield

  • The Legendary Paul Butterfield Rides Again (Amherst, 1986)

With Rosanne Cash

  • Rhythm & Romance (Columbia, 1985)

With The B. Christopher Band

  • Surfing With A Vintage Lady (2021)

With Clarence Clemons

  • Hero (Columbia, 1985)

With Joe Cocker

  • Cocker (Capitol, 1986)

With Steve Cropper

  • Fire It Up (Provogue, 2021)

With Rodney Crowell

  • Street Language (CBS Records, 1986)

With Karla DeVito

  • Is This a Cool World or What? (Epic, 1981)

With Bob Dylan

  • Empire Burlesque (Columbia, 1985)
  • Knocked Out Loaded (Columbia, 1986)

With Europe

  • Bag of Bones (Edel, 2012)

With Peter Frampton

  • Rise Up (A&M, 1980)

With Ace Frehley

  • Ace Frehley (Casablanca, 1978)
  • Trouble Walkin' (Atlantic, 1989)
  • Anomaly (Bronx Born, 2009)
  • Spaceman (Entertainment, 2018)
  • 10,000 Volts (MNRK Music Group, 2024)

With The Graces

  • Perfect View (A&M Records, 1989)

With Josh Groban

  • Awake (143, 2006)

With Beth Hart

  • Bang Bang Boom Boom (Provogue, 2012)

With Beth Hart and Joe Bonamassa

  • Don't Explain (J&R, 2011)
  • Seesaw (J&R, 2013)
  • Black Coffee (J&R, 2018)

With Mick Jagger

  • She's the Boss (Columbia, 1985)

With Garland Jeffreys

  • American Boy & Girl (A&M, 1979)

With Kiss

  • Dynasty (Casablanca, 1979)
  • Unmasked (Casablanca, 1980)

With Al Kooper

  • Rekooperation (Music Masters, 1994)
  • Black Coffee (Favored Nations, 2005)
  • White Chocolate (Sony, 2008)

With Cyndi Lauper

  • She's So Unusual (Portrait, 1983)
  • True Colors (Portrait, 1986)
  • Hat Full of Stars (Epic, 1993)

With Andy LaVerne

  • Severe Clear (SteepleChase, 1990)
  • Standard Eyes (SteepleChase, 1990)

With Madonna With Delbert McClinton

  • Never Been Rocked Enough (Curb, 1992)

With Gary Moore

  • After Hours (Charisma, 1992)

With Jennifer Rush

  • Heart over Mind (Columbia, 1987)

With Joe Satriani

  • Engines of Creation (Epic, 2000)

With Paul Shaffer

  • Coast to Coast (Capitol, 1989)
  • The World's Most Dangerous Party (SBK, 1993)

With Patty Smyth

  • Never Enough (Columbia, 1987)

With Billy Squier

  • Hear & Now (Capitol, 1989)

With Henry Lee Summer

  • Henry Lee Summer (Epic, 1988)

With Chris Thompson

  • High Cost of Living (Atlantic Records, 1986)

With John Waite

  • Rover's Return (EMI, 1987)

With The Williams Brothers

  • Two Stories (Warner Bros., 1987)

With Warren Zevon

  • My Ride's Here (Artemis, 2002)

See also

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