The "E" derives from Escovedo, the royal family of percussion. Always a noted figure in the drum community, Sheila rocketed to prominence during her tenure with Prince, with whom she was a full collaborator in the studio and on tour. Her charisma and shining excellence has kept her at the forefront of contemporary percussion. A true star, Sheila E. believes in "given a little something back", a sentiment she backs with considerable energy and resources. She is drawn particularly to ventures addressing the plight of women, the Hispanic community, children, AIDS victims, and other disadvantaged and oppressed factions. Even a casual look at her impressive playing and track record reveals that Sheila E. could have rested on her laurels, but her definition of artistry embraces outreach to those who struggle for a voice.
Judged in those terms, it is perhaps no wonder that Toca, her chosen percussion manufacturer, has created a Sheila E. trilogy, a distinguished configuration that breathes her spiritual values and manifests her mastery of percussion. The Toca Sheila E. Signature Congas, Bongos and Timbales have set new standards in terms of tonality and aesthetics. Seeking to draw children into rhythmical activities, Sheila E. designed the Toca Players Series line, perfect for kids.
Born in Oakland, California, Sheila was immediately surrounded by rare opportunities to collaborate musically with her legendary father, Pete Escovedo, and her siblings and extended family (her uncle is Coke Escovedo). Music enveloped her from the cradle and much of her training was gained at home from the greats. In fact, her godfather was none other than Tito Puente! By age three, Sheila began assimilating Latin and pop rhythms, performing her first show at age five. Adolescence marked her decision to commit to a career in music. It helped that she was becoming known as a prodigy on each instrument she took up—percussion, drumset, guitar and even violin. By her mid twenties, she had performed with the top artists of the era, including George Duke, Alphonso Johnson, George Duke, Lionel Richie, Herbie Hancock and Dianna Ross.
Sheila thrust forward even more into the public eye when she opened for Prince on his legendary Purple Rain tour.This led to Sheila joining Prince. Thereafter, she abbreviated Escovedo to "E" and a new persona, Sheila E., came to life. On Prince's arguably most acclaimed album, Sign O' the Times, the artist invited Sheila to play drums and percussion on three tracks-an enormous endorsement of her abilities, given that eighties studio trends dictated that pop tracks be laid with the flavor-of-the-month Linn Drum, a computerized sequencer/sound module. Choosing Sheila E.'s grooves and fresh sounds over the Linn Drum Machine was a coup for her. And it provided a glimmer of hope for the swelling ranks of unemployed "real" acoustic drummers: their ticket back to the stage was asserting unique personalities and performing with consistently excellent technique.
Sheila's various facilities gelled in the premiere album under her own name, the runaway hit The Glamorous Life. Several other Sheila E. titles followed. Meanwhile, she kept up session and live work with Beyoncé, Gloria Estefan, Babyface, Jennifer Lopez, and Ringo Starr, with whom Sheila has enjoyed a long association. Her own projects included the ensemble C.O.E.D. and E-Train. Meanwhile she toured as feature performer and MC with Sisters in the Spirit. In addition, Sheila co-founded the Gospel group Bride of Christ. Interludes included a Prince reunion and Sheila's debut as an actress in several major movies including Chasing Papi and Krush Grooove.
Sheila's deep compassion for the less fortunate in society drove her to create the Elevate Hope Foundation, which she co-chairs. Her benefit performances and relentless initiatives to better the lot of youth, the dispossessed, and those ravaged by stigmatizing disease have garnered many awards including Woman of the Year, the Imagen Foundation's Humanitarian Award, Angels Across America Award, and Woman of Soul Award.