Bernard Purdie was born June 11, 1939 in Elkton, Maryland as the eleventh of fifteen children. Purdie began already as a six-year-old to bang out rhythms on improvised equipment. At 14 years of age he purchased his first real drum set and became the most important provider for the family - earning his pay with country and carnival bands. This "schooling" enabled Purdie to "feel my way into nearly every kind of music, 'cause I had to know all styles and was never afraid to try something new."
Purdie moved to New York in 1960 after finishing high school and played with (among others), Lonnie Youngblood before landing his first hit with King Curtis