Erskine was born in Somers Point, New Jersey, U.S. He began playing the drums at the age of four. He graduated from the Interlochen Arts Academy in Michigan, then studied percussion at Indiana University.
His professional career started in 1972 when he joined the Stan Kenton Orchestra. After three years with Kenton he joined Maynard Ferguson for two years. In 1978 he joined Weather Report, joining Jaco Pastorius in the rhythm section. After four years and five albums with Weather Report and the Jaco Pastorius big band Word of Mouth, he joined Steps Ahead. His big band recordings with the Bob Mintzer Big Band are modern big band jazz/funk performances studied by many students of drums and drumming.