Do you know who the guy in the picture below is? Take a good look at him. Eight out of ten serious musicians don’t know who he is. I’ll bet the farm, ten out of ten lead singers and guitarists definitely don’t know who he is. They grew up on him. They heard him almost every day on their radio, but yet most of us never put the beat with the face, the name or the man.
If you’re a serious drummer, don’t be embarrassed if you’re still stumped. I had no idea up until 10 years ago who this guy was and I started playing way back in 1976. He is Hal Blaine–and he is undeniably the greatest drummer alive. He’s drummed on 50 number one hits, over 150 top ten hits and has recorded on 35,000 pieces of music or more in over four decades. He is the drummer on 6 consecutive Records of the Year. That’s back to back. As in winning six World Series in a row, or six Super Bowls in a row. Hal Blaine doesn’t play football but he is a Hall of Famer. BEAT THAT.
When I was 5 years old I would sit in my bedroom in a red leather chair that had big padded arms. On the stand next to the chair was an AM radio. I would wait every hour on the hour until the DJ on WLS played my favorite song… “This Diamond Ring,” by Gary Lewis and the Playboys. There I would bongo over the beat on the dominating presence of the song. Just the way the snare cracked, it was so prominent–so crisp. More crispy than even the Beatles. When it was over I’d stay seated and wait until the song came around again at the top of the hour. And it did. I was only 5, but I thought, man, Jerry Lewis (the popular comedian at the time) is one funny man, but his son Gary has to be the greatest drummer I’ve ever heard. Gary Lewis was indeed my new favorite drummer in 1965, right behind Ringo Starr. After a very long forty something years in passing I learned one day that I had been tricked. We were all tricked and today many of us continue to be tricked. It wasn’t Gary Lewis at all playing drums in the band that he founded. It wasn’t even his band mates playing on their hit song, This Diamond Ring. It was Hal Blaine and his studio session band mates, known as The Wrecking Crew. But forget about This Diamond Ring. There are many more songs I’ve been fooled on, including, Mrs. Robinson, A Taste of Honey by Herb Albert, Let the Sun Shine In, Help Me Rhonda, Mr. Tambourine Man, I Got You Babe, Good Vibrations, Be My Baby and hundreds more as the beat goes on. Speaking of which, Hal Blaine also drummed on Sonny and Cher’s massive hit, “The Beat Goes On.” Before Neil Peart and Carl Palmer introduced drummers to the roto toms and eight or more rack toms it was Hal Blaine who gave them a roll way back in the ’60’s.
Today, Mr. Blaine is 84 years old and I heard he can still hit them. I am very eager to sit down with him and hear his many stories for our film. I also read he’s a funny guy who’s quick with a joke. Mr. Blaine stars in a documentary called, The Wrecking Crew, which chronicles his band back then who were a small bunch of studio ringers who would come in with their gear, set up, and lay down one hit after another for every popular artist of the day, including Elvis and Frank Sinatra. As well as the countless unpopular artists who after a session backed by The Wrecking Crew, became popular. The Wrecking Crew documentary looks like a fascinating film. Ferocious Drummers could never be complete without the faces and stories from Hal Blaine, Ringo Starr, or another great, Ed Shaughnessy, who came into 20 million living rooms a night through Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show. These are the cornerstones and legends that made drummers become drummers–whether we notice them or not.
Be safe and hit em’ hard. BM