The Top 20 Drummers in Rock History

Each member of a band contributes to the overall sound, regardless of whether they are a vocalist or a musician. In rock bands, there is often more than one musician with each member of the band playing just one instrument each. These often include the guitar, the bass, and the drums. Sometimes, the drummer is overlooked with fans focusing more on the talents of the vocalist. However, the tracks wouldn’t be the same without the sounds created by the drummer. Some of the most famous and loved rock bands in the world also have the most talented drummers. The sounds they create with their drumsticks have contributed to creating some of the best-loved rock anthems in the world. Here are 20 of the top rock drummers of all-time.

20. Joey Kramer

Joey Kamer is best-known as the drummer of the hard rock band Aerosmith. He was born in New York on June 21, 1950, and has been a professional drummer since 1970. He is often credited with thinking of calling his band Aerosmith and is also credited with writing many of their tracks. Some of the Aerosmith songs penned by Kramer include ‘Closer’, ‘Can’t Stop Loving You’, ‘Kings and Queens’, ‘Pandora’s Box’, and ‘The Movie’. Other members of Aerosmith include Steven Tyler, Joe Perry, Brad Whitford, and Tom Hamilton. Aerosmith is the best-selling American hard rock band of all-time. They have also sold over 150 million albums worldwide.

19. Roger Taylor

Roger Taylor was born in Norfolk, England, on July 26, 1949. He is best-known as the drummer for the rock band ‘Queen’. However, he was originally a drummer for a group called ‘Smile’ before forming ‘Queen’ in 1969. Other members of this group are Freddie Mercury, Brian May, and John Deacon. They were one of the most successful rock bands of all-time. Their singles included ‘We Are the Champions’, ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, ‘Under Pressure’, We Will Rock You’, and ‘Radio Gaga’. Taylor wrote many of the groups tracks. Each of the members of Queen was individually inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2003. They had already been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2001. Drums are not the only instrument that Taylor can play as he is a talented musician. He can also play guitar, bass, and keyboard. Furthermore, he sang vocals on many of Queen’s tracks.

18. Carmine Appice

Generally associated with rock music, Carmine Appice is best-known for playing with a variety of groups, including Cactus, Vanilla Fudge, Beck, Bogert & Appice, Blue Murder, and King Kobra. He was born in New York on December 15, 1946, and began his professional music career in 1966. Most of his music falls into the genres of hard rock, psychedelic rock, heavy metal, glam metal, and blues-rock. In 2013, he was inducted into the Classic Drummer Hall of Fame. And the following year he was inducted into the Modern Drummer Hall of Fame. Many later drummers credit Appice with influencing their work, such as Aerosmith, Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Kiss, and Queen. Carmine Appice’s younger brother, Vinnie Appice, is also a drummer.

17. Dave Grohl

Dave Grohl is a musician, singer, songwriter, film director and record producer. He is usually associated with genres of music including punk rock, alternative rock, hard rock, grunge, and heavy metal. Grohl was born in Ohio on January 14, 1969, and is famous as the longest-serving drummer of grunge band ‘Nirvana’. Furthermore, he is the founder and frontman of the rock band the ‘Foo Fighters’. In addition to this, he has frequently recorded and toured with rock band ‘Queens of the Stone Age’ and is the co-founder and drummer of the supergroup ‘Them Crooked Villains. His diverse career spans four decades as he first worked professionally in the music industry in 1981. He has been married twice and has three daughters.

16. Danny Carey

Danny Carey is best-known as the drummer of progressive rock band ‘Tool’. He was born in Kansas on May 10, 1961. His style of drumming is influenced by jazz techniques and is known for his excellent foot control while drumming. His band won a Grammy Award for their music. In addition to being a member of a band, Carey also contributed to the tracks of many famous artists. These have included King Crimson, Green Jelly, Lusk, Zaum, Pigface, Carole King, the Wild Blue Yonder, and the Melvins.

15. Steve Gadd

Steve Gadd is an American drummer, percussionist, and session musician. He was born in New York on April 9, 1945, and began his career in 1958. He has played drums for many artists during his career rather than being known as one member of a band. Some of these artists have included James Taylor, Kate Bush, Joe Cocker, Al Di Meola, Simon & Garfunkel, Steely Dan, Eric Clapton, and Chick Corea. Many professional drummers have said they want to play like Gadd and he has influenced many modern drummers. In 1984, Steve Gadd was inducted into the Modern Drummer Hall of Fame.

14. Levon Helm

Levon Helm is a singer and musician who is typically associated with rock and Americana music. He was born in Arkansas on May 26, 1940, and became a professional musician in 1957. He is best-known as the drummer and vocalist of the ‘Band’. His creative drumming style combined with his soulful country singing voice are what made him famous. Although he is a multi-instrumentalist, it was his skills as a drummer that are highlighted on most of his tracks. Sadly, Helm died from throat cancer on April 12, 2012.

13. Ian Paice – Deep Purple

There are some who argue that without Ian Paice, there would never have been any heavy metal drumming. Ian Piace is best-known as the drummer of Deep Purple. He was born in Nottingham, England, on June 29, 1948. He began his professional career as a musician in 1965. Deep Purple were formed in 1968 and consisted of Paice, Ian Gillan, Jon Lord, Roger Glover, and Ritchie Blackmore. In 2008, the band received the Legend Award at the World Music Awards. They were then inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2016. Paice was the only constant member of the group from when they formed to when they split.

12. Nick Mason – Pink Floyd

Pink Floyd were formed by a group of students in London in 1965 and they brought a whole new sound to rock music by focusing on the genres of psychedelic and progressive rock. The band consisted of Syd Barrett on lead vocals and guitar, Nick Mason on the drums, Roger Waters playing bass and providing some vocals, and Richard Wright who played the keyboard and was another vocalist for the group. They became well-known for their philosophical lyrics and unusual arrangements. Another reason the band stood out was Nick Mason’s amazing talent on the drums. The drummer was born in Birmingham, England, on January 27, 1944. He is the only member of the band to have featured on every album they released and also wrote some of their songs. In 2010, it was estimated that this band had sold 250 million albums worldwide.

11. Terry Bozzio – Various Acts

Best-known for his work with ‘Missing Persons’ and ‘Frank Zappa’, Terry Bozzio was born in San Francisco on December 27, 1950. The genres of music with which he is typically associated include rock, jazz fusion, new wave, new rock, progressive rock, and alternative rock. In addition to drumming in bands, he has also completed a solo tour as a drummer and percussionist and worked as a drummer for a variety of other artists. Drumming must run in the family as his stepdaughter, Marina, is also a drummer in the heavy metal band ‘Aldious’. Likewise, his son, Raanen, is also a drummer. Bozzio has played the drums since the age of six.

10. Bill Bruford- Yes and King Crimson

Bill Bruford is a drummer, percussionist, guitarist, producer, and record label owner. He was born in Kent, England, on May 17, 1949. He first rose to prominence as the drummer of the band ‘Yes’ for whom he played between 1968 to 1972. He then became the drummer for ‘King Crimson and remained with them throughout the 1970s. He then joined ‘Genesis’ before forming his own group called ‘Bruford’. He was inducted into the Modern Drummer Hall of Fame in 1990. In 2017, as a member of ‘Yes’, Bruford was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

9. Ringo Starr – Beatles

People can often name the band and maybe the lead vocalist, but the drummer is often the member of the band who people cannot name. This was not the situation for Ringo Starr, however, as he was just as famous as the rest of the members of the ‘Beatles’. In fact, if asked to name famous drummers, he is often the first name that springs to mind. His real name is Richard Starkey and he was born in Liverpool, England, on July 7, 1940. During the 1960s, he was one of the most famous rock and pop drummers of the era. In addition to playing the drums for the group, he also occasionally sang lead vocals and wrote some of their tracks, including ‘Octopus’ Garden’ and ‘Don’t Pass Me By’. He was inducted into the Modern Drummer Music Hall of Fame in 1998.

8. Charlie Watts – Rolling Stones

The Rolling Stones are one of the most famous rock groups of all-time and their music is still loved to this day. Charlie Watts is best-known as the drummer of this group. He was born in London on June 2, 1941, and began his career in the music industry in 1959. He formed the Rolling Stones in 1963 with his bandmates Mick Jagger, Brian Jones, and Keith Richards. Watts was inducted into the Modern Drummer Hall of Fame in 2006 in recognition of his musical talent. Prior to playing drums for the Rolling Stones, Watts had played for ‘Blues Incorporated’ who were an established band. Watts is married to Shirley Ann Shepherd who he met before he was famous and the couple hace one daughter, Serafina, together.

7. Stewart Copeland – Police

Stewart Copeland was born in Alexandria, Virginia, on July 16, 1952. He is best-known as the drummer for the ‘Police’ and is typically associated with rock, pop, and new wave genres of music. He played drums for ‘Police’ from 1977 until 1986 and again for their reunion from 2007 to 2008. Although he is most associated with this band, he is also a talented songwriter and has written music for ballets, operas, and orchestras. He also worked on the soundtrack for ‘Spyro the Dragon’. Although drums were the instrument he was most passionate about, he could also play guitar, bass, keyboards, percussion, and provided vocals for many tracks.

6. Mitch Mitchell – Jimi Hendrix Experience

Mitch Mitchell is an English drummer who has worked for a variety of acts and is usually associated with music genres including rock, psychedelic rock, hard rock, blues rock, and jazz fusion. Mitchell is best known for playing the drums for the Jimi Hendrix Experience. He was born in Middlesex, England, on November 12, 1946, and was active in the music industry between 1960 and 2008. His music is identifiable by the creative use of riffs and for the way he made full use of his drumkit in a ferocious manner. While Jimi Hendrix played guitar with a heavy groove, Mitchell complemented this perfectly with his fluid style of playing.

5. Hal Blaine -Various Acts

Hal Blaine was born in Massachusetts on February 5, 1929. He began his career in the music industry in the 1940s and his talent and individual style had a big impact on the rock and roll scene during this era. Although he is best-known for being the drummer ‘Wrecking Crew’, he played the drums for numerous acts. Some of the artists he played for included Jan and Dean, Nancy Sinatra, Simon & Garfunkel, John Denver, the Monkees, the Carpenters, the 5th Dimension, Elvis Presley, and Steely Dan. Blaine has played the drums on over 150 top ten singles, including 40 that have reached number one. In 2010, he was inducted into the Modern Drummer Hall of Fame. He is also a member of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and the Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum.

4. Neil Peart – Rush

In 1974, Neil Peart auditioned for ‘Rush’ and his talent blew his bandmates away. He had an active way of playing his instruments and hit the drums hard and precise. In fact, many consider him the most precise player in the rock genre. Peart was born in Ontario on September 12, 1952, and had a successful career as a drummer and percussionist from 1968 until he retired in 2015. He was inducted into the Modern Drummer Hall of Fame in 1983 and he was the youngest person to ever receive this honor. Prior to joining Rush, he played with several other regional bands, but it is his music with Rush for which he is best-known. He is married to photographer Carrie Nuttall and has one daughter.

3. Ginger Baker – Cream

Ginger Baker was the founder of the rock band ‘Cream’. His real name is Peter Edward Baker and he was born in South London on August 19, 1939. He has often been credited with being rock’s first superstar drummer and had a very individual style. He had a background in jazz music that he applied to playing music in the rock genre. He also added African rhythms to his music that made him stand out against other drummers of his era. Cream were a 1960s rock power group that consisted of Baker, Eric Clapton on guitar and vocals, and Jack Bruce on bass and vocals. The group was widely recognized as the world’s first successful supergroup. When they released their third album ‘Wheels of Fire’ in 1968, it became the world’s first platinum-selling double album.

2. Keith Moon – The Who

Keith Moon was born in Middlesex, England, on August 23, 1946. He is best-known as the drummer of the English rock band, the ‘Who’. Moon became known for developing his own style of drumming as he hated the repetition of rote rock drumming. He often smashed at his drum kits with ferocity and showed a passion for his instrument like few other musicians. He once described himself as the greatest Keith Moon-type drummer in the world. He played melodic breaks and added drum rolls in places they were not originally intended for adding a unique feel to his band’s music. Moon had originally played with a local band called the ‘Beachcombers’ before he joined the ‘Who’ in 1964. The other member of the ‘Who’ were lead vocalist Roger Daltrey, singer and guitarist Pete Townshend, and bass guitarist John Entwistle.

1. John Bonham – Led Zeppelin

John Bonham is considered by many to be the best rock drummer of all time and one reason for this is that he changed drumming from the second he played on the first Led Zeppelin LP. Nicknamed Bonzo, listeners were delighted by the bass-drum hiccups in the track ‘Good Times Bad Times’. According to his bandmates, Bonzo had the ability to make fans believe he was playing two bass drums when he was, in fact, simply plying one in an unusual way. People who saw him on tour described him as mesmerizing. He was well-known for his power, his speed, and distinctive sound. Bonham was born in Worcestershire, England, on May 31, 1948. Rolling Stone ranked him at number one in their list of the 100 Greatest Drummers of All-Time.

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