The drums. The spine and pulse of a band. A bad drummer loses an audience. A good drummer keeps the flow going in unison. A great drummer owns the stage. Being a bass player, I have always been intrinsically tied to drummers as we both have the duty of keeping things “in the pocket.”
It is out of love that I share with you my Top 10 Drummers of all time.
10 – Josh Freese (The Vandals, A Perfect Circle, Devo, Nine Inch Nails, all over Modern Rock radio) – One of the most sought out studio drummers in Rock music, Freese — a Florida native — cut his teeth in a Disneyland band when he was 12. At 15, he was already touring with the seminal/joke/genius punk band, The Vandals. Freese has appeared on close to 300 records.
9 – Neil Peart (Rush) – Drummer and lyricist for Rush, Peart is hailed in many circles as THE drum god. He drew most of his inspiration from drummers such as Keith Moon and John Bonham, but his over-the-top, complex, syncopated drumming has its own distinct flavor. You always know when it’s Peart playing.
8 – Steward Copeland (The Police, Oysterhead, many movie soundtracks) – Copeland is known for precise, energetic, and creative fusion of rock, reggae, middle eastern and jazz rhythms. As the skins man for the Police, he brought dynamics and agitation to Sting’s melodies. After The Police stopped touring in 1984, Copeland established a career composing soundtracks for movies Airborne (1993), Talk Radio, Wall Street, See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Highlander II: The Quickening, She’s Having a Baby and many more.
7 – Ringo Starr (The Beatles) – If I didn’t have Ringo in here, I would be skinned alive by you people. Not that I am not a fan. Ringo’s subtle style was the perfect pulse behind the Lennon/McCartney hit machine. Starr described himself as “your basic offbeat drummer with funny fills”, technically limited by being a left-handed person playing a right-handed kit.
6 – Dave Grohl (Nirvana, Foo Fighters, Tenacious D, Them Crooked Vultures, Probot, Queens of the Stone Age) – We all know this guy. Due to his skyrocket to fame as the drummer for Nirvana, Grohl became the mold for all aspiring rock stars since 1991. His hard-hitting, Bonham-esque beating of the skins is legendary and a sight to witness. No wonder EVERYONE wants to jam with him.
5 – Carter Beauford (The Dave Matthews Band) – Often under appreciated, this maestro of the drums has been the breath of the Dave Matthews Band since back in the day. Beauford’s style, a mix of Dennis Chambers and Buddy Rich. He is known for his ambidextrous skills and his open hand drumming style, where his left hand leads on the hi-hat and ride cymbal in a conventional right-handed drumset set-up. He creates a splendid visual fabric with his flashy fills and sleek grooves.
4 – Vinnie Colaiuta (Frank Zappa, Sting, Jeff Beck, Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea, Megadeth) – Colaiuta is known for his technical skill and his musical versatility, having played with many artists from a wide variety of genres. Colaiuta has been known to pwn complex pieces of music, most notably Zappa’s “The Black Page”. There are so many stories about Colaiuta that you would not believe it if I told you. He is among the sickest of all time. Colaiuta has won a total of 18 Drummer of the Year awards from Modern Drummer Magazine’s annual reader polls.
3 – John Bonham (Led Zeppelin) – Bonzo was renowned for his velocity, intensity, speedy right foot and “feel” for the groove. He is considered to be one of the greatest drummers in the history of rock music by anyone with taste. He first learned how to play drums at the age of five, making a drum kit out of containers and coffee tins, imitating his idols Gene Krupa and Buddy Rich. Bonham initially used Premier drums, but in the late 1960s he was introduced to Ludwig drums, of which he was a major endorser of for the rest of his career.
2 – Tony Williams (Miles Davis, Lifetime, sideman to many) – At 17 Williams found fame with Miles Davis. Williams was a vital element of the group, called by Davis in his autobiography “the center that the group’s sound revolved around”. His inventive playing helped redefine the role of jazz rhythm section through the use of polyrhythms and metric modulation.
1 – Buddy Rich (Artie Shaw, Tommy Dorsey, Nat King Cole, Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong) – Rich was billed as “the world’s greatest drummer” and was known for his virtuosic technique, power, groove, and speed. Starting his career in 1919, he began playing drums in vaudeville when he was 18 months old, billed as “Traps the Drum Wonder.” At the peak of Rich’s childhood career, he was reportedly the second-highest paid child entertainer in the world. Rich’s technique has been one of the most standardized and coveted in drumming. His dexterity, speed and smooth execution are considered “holy grails” of drum technique and has been considered almost next to impossible to duplicate.
Hope you enjoyed the list. Who did I miss?