Everyone knows who the greatest rock drummers are–Moon, Bonham, Peart, Baker, etc., and we also know their great jazz influences like Buddy Rich and Gene Krupa. These lists could go on and on, however this list in particular will reveal who were the most under-appreciated rock drummers of the 20th century. These are the guys who may or may not have made it big in their profession, but always over looked and over shadowed by either a vocalist, a guitar player or even the music itself. These names are all easily recognizable to music fans, but not as wildly popular as the band they belong to.
5. Ringo Starr The Beatles Please don’t think that this guy belongs in a list of the best ever. The band probably is the best rock band ever, but not because of the drums. If Paul was the “cute” one and George was the “quiet” one, then Ringo was the “lucky” one. John and Paul just needed someone who could lay down some rhythm for their genius talent, and also someone that was more fitting for the personality of the Beatles (which is why Pete Best was unceremoniously fired). Sure, you might remember songs that Richard Starkey sang like, “Yellow Submarine,” “With a Little Help From My Friends,” and “Octopus’s Garden,” but do you remember any significant drumming that he did besides the 10 or 15 seconds the boys let him do at the end of Abbey Road? However, having “Beatles Drummer” on your resume almost instantly puts you on any list regarding rock drummers, be it best of or worst of.
4. Charlie Watts The Rolling Stones Here’s a guy who’s seen some things, man. The only reason Charlie made this list is, sad to say, his lack of personality. Nothing against the guy or his drumming capability, but the only fellow to perhaps say less than this guy is, well, no one. In an era when “bigger was better,” and “excess was best,” Charlie didn’t have to rely on an outgoing personality, just his talent. Obviously having Mick Jagger on one side of the stage and Keith Richards on the other made up for any lack of enthusiasm on the guy’s part. I mean, he almost looks bored and about to fall asleep whenever you see old videos of the Stones playing somewhere, but that doesn’t stop Richards speaking very highly of him in his autobiography–so there must be something else about this tired, bored, un-enthusiastc, brilliant and legendary drummer of one of the best rock acts in history.
3. John Densmore The Doors Whenever you mention the Doors, you automatically think of Jim Morrisson, and you should. The Doors would not have been as successful as they were with some Joe Schmoe of a front man…right? If you ever get a chance to sit down and listen to the Doors and get past Morrisson’s vocals, you will find perhaps one of the greatest bands in the history of rock and roll. One of the reasons for this is because of the drum playing of John Densmore. Densmore, along with Manzarek and Krieger brought a jazzy/swing/bluesy feel to the poems of Jim Morrisson and magic was made. Morrisson was maybe the ultimate rock frontman and completely over shadowed the music with his onstage and offstage antics, which is why Densmore makes this list as the number three most under-appreciated, under-valued and almost forgotten greatest rock drummers ever.
2. Doug Clifford Creedence Clearwater Revival This guy makes the list not only because CCR is one of my all time favorite bands, but also because of his nackname, “Cosmo.” CCR is pretty much the anti-Doors and the anti-Rolling Stones meaning that this was not a band of flash and glamour and leather pants and groupies–this was a band about making hit after hit of easy listening, fun, foot-stomping music and the only way you get your foot stomping is by really listening to what the drummer, Doug Clifford, is bringing to the table. Even though John Fogerty wasn’t a flashy front man, his iconic voice and ability to write classic rock standards (and unfortunately, his ego), severely over powered the greatness of Cosmo’s talents. If you’ve never really thought this way about him or you just don’t believe me, go back and listen to just about anything by CCR and really hone in on the drums–then you might change your mind.
1. Bill Ward Black Sabbath You don’t think this guy belongs on a “rock” list? Wrong. The only reason you never heard of this guy is because of Ozzy Osborne. Or, if by some chance you’ve been living under a rock for the last 30 odd years and have never heard of Ozzy, then it’s because of Tony Iommi. Although these two are forever connected with the genre of heavy metal, in 1970 it was still rock and roll. The absolutly simplistic nature of Ozzy’s vocals and Tony’s guitar riffs are complemented perfectly by Geezer Butler’s frantic bass playing and Bill Ward’s mind-blowing drumming. Only drummers normally know who Bill Ward is–the casual rock fan only knows Ozzy and maybe Tony. Ward’s style and influence are easily recognizable by today’s rock drummers, as he is maybe one of the most revered players in one of the most iconic bands in history. Plus the dude partied with Ozzy and is still alive–that earns him some big points, right there.
There you go–the most under-appreciated, under-valued, and insignificant drummers in rock history. Let me know what you think.