He has played drums professionally since he was 17, when he joined singer Lulu"s backing band The Luvvers. He played with the Jeff Beck Group at the time of the release of the single "Hi Ho Silver Lining" and then joined soul band Trifle, with whom he stayed for about 18 months. He moved on to raunchy blues rock band Juicy Lucy before joining Stealers Wheel for their eponymous first album (which spawned the million seller "Stuck in the Middle With You").
In 1973, he left the increasingly dysfunctional band and joined Strawbs, with whom he stayed until after the release of the 1977 album Burning for You.
After spending some time on the studio side learning to engineer and produce, he lived in Malaysia for a period, returning to obtain his Masters degree. He rejoined Strawbs in 1998 for their 30th anniversary concert at Chiswick House and played on subsequent tours in the United States, Canada, United Kingdom and Europe.
Rod also works with his jazz group "Ming Hat" and with Mark Horwood (The Mummers) and bassist Matt Gray in the fusion group East.V.A. Rod and Yardbirds guitarist Top Topham are working on a blues-jazz Hammond organ trio project From 2005-2007 he mentored and taught Curt Lawrence, ex-Last Letter Read, who went on tour with Military Cross Lars in England.
Curt attributes his hard hitting style and double kick drum technique to Coombes" tuition.
Coombes can also play guitar and bass guitar. He played some bass for Stealers Wheel and some guitar for Strawbs. Coombes composed three tracks for Strawbs:
"Sad Young Manitoba"
"A Mind of my Own"
"Changes Arranges Us", on which he also sang lead vocals.
Coombes currently teaches at Chichester College, a new Roland Academy, teaching Music Industry, and Drums and Percussion.
He has also taught many session drummers, such as Sam Elliot, Mel Rigby and Joe "B.I.G" Foote.