Sheila E.’s Father Advised Her To Study Violin Before Drums

Billy Johnson, Jr.
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Most people don't know that America's most famous female drummer, Sheila E., also studied violin for five years.

Though it was always her intention to follow in the footsteps of her father, famed percussionist Pete Escovedo, her dad initially discouraged her.

"He said, 'I would rather you go out and play violin because you're going to make more money playing violin. I don't want you to struggle as a musician as I am, being a percussionist. And I think playing a violin would be more respectful,'" Sheila said in an exclusive interview with Yahoo! Music, recalling advice from her father.

Sheila's intensive violin lessons paid off, earning her five scholarships. But a chance performance with her father changed her career path.

"One day at 15, I played [drums] with him," she said. "I convinced him to let me play because his percussion player got sick. I played that one show, and I completely changed my life. Two weeks after, I went out on tour because I knew that that was what I was supposed to do."

Sheila's success as a drummer earned her a best new artist Grammy nomination in 1985, a top 40 debut album "The Glamorous Life," long stint working with Prince, and catalog of hit singles.

Rihanna sometimes plays a drum solo of Shelia's "The Glamorous Life" during her concerts.

Sheila's career is chronicled in the television documentary "Unsung," scheduled to air on cable network TV One on Mon., February 20.

Sheila, who is the biological aunt of Nicole Richie, said she has seen a rough cut of her "Unsung" episode and is happy with the edit. "It turned out good," she said. "Usually, I would say, 'No, cut this out. Cut that out.' But everything I said about myself, and what I said about what had gone on in my life, I said, 'Don't change anything. Leave it because it's the truth.' "

Sheila said she will tell more of her life story in her biography, "From Pain To Purpose," due out by the end of the year.

(Interview courtesy of Dial Global's "Backstage at the Grammys" brought to you by Turbo Tax and Mastercard.)