Our 10 Drummers Whose Sound And Groove Became Legendary article presents a list of drummers that music fans all fell in love with. This is a listing of drummers whose inescapable energy and passion highlighted their work across the board both in the studio and on stage. Some of these drummers like John Bonham and Keith Moon celebrated their careers in pretty much just one band during their too short careers. Others like Steve Gadd and Jeff Pocarro served as both band members while also enjoying stunning careers as session drummers on hundreds of separate projects. What connects all these drummers on this list is their own uniqueness in the grooves they employed as musicians and the sound of their drums that made them easily identifiable on record.
# 10 – Hal Blaine
We open up our 10 Drummers Whose Sound And Groove Became Legendary list with one of the most important drummers in music history. While there may be many more drummers who are famous in name, it would be hard to find a drummer who played on as many historical singles and recordings as Hal Blaine. The man shaped the sound culture of rock and roll and pop music in the 19th century. As a legendary member of The Wrecking Crew, Hal Blaine would go uncredited for years on so many hit records that showered the soundtracks of our lives. You may not know him, but let me tell you my friend, yes you do.
# 9 – Buddy Rich
Back in the old days of the 20th century in the 1950s, 1960s 70s and even ’80s most drummers who took their first drum lesson wanted to be as good as Buddy Rich. He was the standard, he was a legend, and he put drummers in the front for the first time. Everyone loved Buddy Rich, as long as you weren’t in a band with him. He was known to be pretty tough on musicians. Nonetheless, his playing, his performances have become legendary. Born in Brooklyn, New York, Buddy Rich’s career began in the 30s playing in all the big bands of that era. He would become his own bandleader in the 1960s. His popularity continued to rise as he was a frequent guest on many of the late-night talk shows including many appearances on the Johnny Carson show. He may be the most famous drummer of all time across the board. Don’t miss the video below that showcases many of his Tonight Show appearances.
# 8 – Stewart Copeland
In the number eight spot on our 10 Drummers Whose Sound And Groove Became Legendary list, we present the phenomenal Stewart Copeland. There is no doubt that the success of the Police and their legendary status should very much be credited in large part to Stewart Copeland’s rhythms and sound that helped the Police become one of the most loved bands of all time. Stewart Copeland’s hi-hat and snare drum play along with the sound he developed has long been studied by many drummers trying to imitate what he did.
# 7 – Steve Gadd
In the 1970s the sound of slick jazz fusion meets pop rock became very popular. One of the reasons behind the success of that sound was the sensational performances of Steve Gadd. He was the man in the 1960s and 1970s. Steve Gadd’s career actually started playing drums in the United States Army. After getting out of the Army, he became a very well-known session drummer on tons of jazz recordings. His playing became legendary in the pop and rock world from his performance on Steely Dan’s “Aja.” It’s all drummers and musicians talked about in the 1970s. Of course, Steve Gadd would continue defining the sound of drumming mastery by playing with hundreds of artists including Eric Clapton, Chick Corea, Jim Croce, Aretha Franklin, Quincy Jones, Paul McCartney, Michael McDonald, Bonnie Raitt, Return to Forever, Paul Simon, Frank Sinatra, and so many more.
# 6 – Jeff Pocaro
When Bruce Springsteen fired his band in the early 1990s, it was Jeff Pocaro he turned to to play drums on his Human Touch album. This was a big deal. Bruce knew he needed the best to represent his music in the studio and he turned to Jeff Pocaro to be the man. That’s the story behind much of Jeff Pocaro’s musical career. When artists and record companies wanted the best drummer they could get to supply the groove to songs they would hope become hits, they turned to Jeff Pocaro. The legendary drummer was one of the most sought after studio musicians in the music business. He also celebrated many years of success in his own band we all knew as Toto. Listen to the sound of his drums and groove on the spectacular Toto song “Pamela.”
# 5 – Charlie Watts
At the halfway point on our 10 Drummers Whose Sound And Groove Became Legendary list, we present the first of two drummers who played the same exact role in their perspective legendary bands. Both Charlie Watts of The Rolling Stones and Ringo Starr of The Beatles were immeasurable in the sound they created that fueled each group’s tons of radio-friendly hits. Charlie Watts was clearly inspired by jazz and blues. He took his love of that music and incorporated a swing feel even into straight ahead 4 by 4 rockers that lifted those songs into the stratosphere of rock and roll groove.
# 4 – Ringo Starr
At the number four spot on our 10 Drummers Whose Sound And Groove Became Legendary list, we bow our heads to one of the most important drummers of all time. The sound of Ringo Starr’s drums on all those classic Beatles records puts his work as a drummer into platinum legendary status. Ask any great drummer to talk about Ringo Starr and they all pretty much will tell you that he’s one of the greatest drummers of all time. Why? Simply because Ringo Starr always put the song first. Ringo’s drumming was fueled by the style of the songs and of course, the grooves he came up with fit with the melody and chord changes of the song perfectly. He played a small simple kit but created a sound and groove that has inspired countless drummers for generations.
# 3 – Neil Peart
Have you ever met a Rush fan before? You may be married to one. There is a good chance you are. When the subject of Rush comes up with a Rush fan, odds are within the first sentence spoken the name Neil Peart is mentioned. No one musician in any band in history has been as much loved as Neil Peart was among Rush fans.
Neil Peart’s power was in his precision. He was the ultimate craftsman at his trade. He sounded like ten men at once. He was a complete orchestra behind the drums. His playing was definitely inspired by the lyrics he wrote and the out-of-world bass playing and musical compositions supplied by the stunning Geddy Lee. Rush was one of the most unique trios in classic rock history because they did not sound like a trio. They sounded like an orchestra. It all started with the man behind the kit. Neil Peart has left behind a body of work that will both be enjoyed and studied for years.
# 2 – Keith Moon
Just off the top spot on our 10 Drummers Whose Sound And Groove Became Legendary list we celebrate the powerhouse insanity of Keith Moon. If there ever was an original in rock and roll it was Keith Moon. The man played drums that defined his personality. Was he as crazy as the image he portrayed? The answer seems to be yes. When we interviewed Kenny Passarelli who had hung out with Keith Moon, Kenny pretty much said that Keith was the craziest person he had ever met.
Keith Moon’s drumming was distinguished by his madhouse energy. There was no space in Keith Moon’s playing. His grooves were fueled by fills. No one had ever played like that before. Sadly, Keith Moon left us way too soon. Keith Moon passed away in 1979 after completing The Who’s album Who Are You. The cover displayed Keith Moon sitting in a chair that read “Not To Be Taken Away”…..
# 1 – John Bonham
We close out our 10 Drummers Whose Sound And Groove Became Legendary list with a man who stands easily as the favorite among classic rock fans. If you weren’t a fan of Led Zeppelin’s John Bonham then you were not a fan of classic rock. Hands down, John Bonham shaped the sound of Led Zeppelin. Of course, this is no slight on the other members of Led Zeppelin who all had their own distinctive sound and stood as the best in their own categories. However, when John Bonham passed away unexpectedly, his loss was so great, that Robert Plant stated there was no way that the band could go on without him. They just could not replace the power of John Bonham.
John Bonham stands at the top of this list for many reasons. First off, no one ever hit a bass drum like John Bonham did. Bonham played bass note triplets with such brute force, that he left all his peers wondering how he did it. Many fans wondered what kind of drums John Bonham played to make them sound so good. The answer had nothing to do with the drums, it was in John Bonham’s spirit, his edge, and his love of all music that he brought together creating his own distinctive sound. There was also the space in between the drum hits that helped create his sound.
The old blues saying less is more seemed to be a powerful force in his playing. John Bonham was the complete opposite of Keith Moon. Yet, both men’s styles fueled the sound of their bands that propelled The Who and Led Zeppelin to become the greatest rock groups of all time. That’s what it was all about.
10 Drummers Whose Sound And Groove Became Legendary article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2023
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