Sully Erna started playing drums at the tender age of 3½ and was literally raised under the piano. Sully’s father, a professional trumpet player, would rehearse in their home’s basement with his jazz bands, and Sully would fall asleep in the empty acoustic guitar cases watching them practice.
As he began banging on everything and haunting his mother for drums and lessons, they slowly found that no instructors would take him. They all felt it was a phase Sully was going through and that he would grow out of it. Sully’s mother finally found a guy named Dave Vose from Berklee who was teaching at a local music store in Lawrence, MA, and agreed to take on Sully. By the time he was 5, he was playing the classic song "Wipeout." From that point on, Vose believed Sully had what it took to be a drummer.
By the time he was 11, Sully had bounced around with several different instructors until his current teacher found that Sully had a much easier time just hearing something and playing it than trying to read sheet music. With that in mind and being at the age where he was starting to get into rock music, Sully quit taking lessons and would just sit at home and rehearse to records by Aerosmith and Led Zeppelin most of the time.
By the age of 14, he was turned on to Neil Peart, who became his idol. Sully rehearsed to Rush records constantly. Bonham and Peart became his new instructors. Bonham showed Sully how to hit hard and have a great single foot, while Peart showed him how to have great hands and challenge himself. Soon afterwards, Sully started meeting different musicians and began playing in cover bands.
After years of playing in numerous bands, he signed his first record deal in 1993 with a band called Strip Mind on Sire/Reprise records. The band’s debut album What’s in Your Mouth sold less than 50,000 units, and the band self-destructed shortly after. Two years later, Sully started a new project under the name Godsmack. "And the rest," Sully says, "has been my dream come true."
Although he fronts Godsmack as the lead vocalist, Sully has also played the drums on the first two albums and has always recorded with Yamaha drums, including the Strip Mind record. "The sound and the feel has always been consistent, and they never let me down," stated Sully. "And as you can hear on my records, my influences through Bonham and Neil still shine through. I still like to challenge myself at times with intricate beats and killer fills, but I always enjoy the basic grooves being hard and heavy."
With more than 30 years behind the kit, who would have thought that Sully had to start singing to become successful??