I guess I’m in denial, but I just read that Ringo turned 68 yesterday, which basically means he’s old. (Sorry, mom.) And, of course, when your heroes get old, you can’t help but feel a little gray yourself.
Anyway, in honor of Ringo’s aging (but still living!), I figured I’d list my five favorite drummers. So here goes:
5.) Don Henley
Yeah, yeah, drum snobs. I hear you. But read again what I wrote — “my five favorite drummers.” Not to be confused with the best five. While not known as one of the great drummers, the Eagles front man always matched the drum part with the song, and in the end that’s what really counts.
4.) Ringo Starr
You’re not going to hear a lot of Ringo solos. In fact, that short one from “Abbey Road” is the only one they ever recorded for an album. But Ringo was remarkably innovative — and creative drumming was definitely needed when working for a band like the Beatles. Where normal drummers might put a simple beat to a song, Ringo always came up with an inventive piece, like on “Strawberry Fields Forever,” for example.
3.) Kenny Aronoff
You could accuse me of being biased since Aronoff lives in my former hometown, Bloomington, IN. But, really — this guy’s that good. I’ve seen him give clinics in San Luis Obispo twice, and the guy amazed me. He’s loud, energetic and fast. Yet, he’s a solid rhythm guy. Which is why John Mellencamp’s former drummer is now one of the most popular session guys out there.
2.) Mitch Mitchell
I’ve heard several drummers (attempt to) cover “Fire,” but none who could play it like Mitch Mitchell. I guess you’d have to be good to keep up with Jimi Hendrix. And Mitchell was good.
1.) Keith Moon
This guy was crazy — which explains why he once drove a car into a swimming pool. As a drummer, he crammed as many notes as you could into a song. But yet it always worked. One of his finest is the solo on “Won’t Get Fooled Again.”
Now, if you were to ask me about the best drummers, then, yeah, John Bonham would have to be in that top five. But Buddy Rich would probably top the list. Even in his older years, he was remarkable. I’ve watched this video several times, and I still can’t figure out exactly what he’s doing, let alone how he does it.
An honorable mention in any drummer list would be Jim Gordon, a great session guy, who is currently serving a life prison term at the California Men’s Colony here for murdering his mother. Before slipping deep into mental illness, Gordon was a member of Derek and the Dominos with Eric Clapton (Gordon actually wrote the piano part to “Layla”), and he was a highly sought after session drummer.
Another noted drummer with local connections is Johnny Barbata, the SLO High grad who went on to drum for the Turtles, Jefferson Airplane and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young.
While I’m on the topic of drums, I have to mention one of greatest songs with drum solos: “Frankenstein” by the Edgar Winter Group. You might not know this, but the solos are actually played by two drummers, including Winter.
And while I’m on drum solos, here’s another favorite from then-Santana drummer Michael Shrieve, who was the youngest person (19) to perform at Woodstock.
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