50 greatest drummers of all time: part 1

22nd Oct 2009 | 12:31

50 greatest drummers of all time: part 1
Matt Cameron
In Las Vegas marking the 10th anniversary of Pearl Jam's first public performance, 2000

For the top 25, check out 50 greatest drummers of all time: part 2

A couple of months back, our stick-wielding friends at Rhythm Magazine launched their biggest ever poll to find the greatest drummers of all time.

While those perennial drum chart toppers are mostly present and correct, it’s the order of greatness - and the inclusion of the lesser-known at the expense of more-established sticksman - that will inevitably please and infuriate at the same time. But that’s the beauty of community-compiled lists!

This is a gallery of the first half of your results (50-25) - you can see the second half here. You can also pick up a copy of Rhythm for the full list plus those reader comments which helped secure their drumming heroes a place. First up: Pearl Jam’s Matt Cameron.

Why is he great?

A stalwart of the Seattle scene, he exuded confidence and power on Soundgarden’s classic Superunknown before taking his pounding, inventive chops to Pearl Jam.

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Recommended listening

Soundgarden – Superunknown (1994)
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50 greatest drummers of all time: part 1
Elvin Jones
During Freddie Hubbard's Ready for Freddie recording process, 1961

Why is he great?

His hard-driving style was impossible to ignore and his flowing playing demanded to be heard on John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme.

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Recommended listening

John Coltrane – A Love Supreme (1965)
Buy here: Amazon | HMV | Play

50 greatest drummers of all time: part 1
Chris 'Daddy' Dave
The 'Daddy' circa 2004

Why is he great?

His fresh blend of jazz, world and hip-hop techniques on records by the likes of Me’Shell Ndegéocello and Maxwell have marked Dave out as a pioneer in his field.

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Recommended listening

Me’Shell Ndegéocello – Comfort Woman (2003)
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50 greatest drummers of all time: part 1
Alex Rodriguez
Performing with Saosin in Atlanta, 2009

Why is he great?

On Saosin’s self-titled debut album, Rodriguez demonstrated clearly why modern hardcore requires drumming mastery to hit the spot. Check out Voices to hear what we mean.

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Recommended listening

Saosin – Saosin (2006)
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50 greatest drummers of all time: part 1
Andols Herrick
At Download Festival 2003

Why is he great?

Rejoining Chimaira for their Resurrection album (and song of the same name), Herrick showed why he’s one of the most highly-rated metal drummers today.

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Recommended listening

Chimaira – Resurrection (2007)
Buy here: Amazon | HMV | Play

50 greatest drummers of all time: part 1
Brian Bennett

Why is he great?

The Shadows drummer’s film and TV work (the BBC Golf Theme, New Tricks) provides further proof of his all-round musicality.

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Recommended listening

The Shadows – Out Of The Shadows (1962)
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50 greatest drummers of all time: part 1
Tomas Haake
Warming up before a Meshuggah gig in Sweden, 2005

Why is he great?

Listen to Meshuggah’s Nothing album (start with Rational Graze) and you’ll understand why you’ll probably never play like Tomas Haake. You need eight arms, for a start.

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Recommended listening

Meshuggah – Nothing (2002)
Buy here: Amazon | HMV | Play

50 greatest drummers of all time: part 1
Stanton Moore
With the Stanton Moore Trio onstage in Atlanta, 2009

Why is he great?

The spirit of New Orleans runs through every note Moore plays. Just check out his sublime grooves on Emphasis! (On Parenthesis). Obligatory drum solo here.

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Recommended listening

Stanton Moore - Emphasis! (On Parenthesis) (2008)
Buy here: Amazon | HMV | Play

50 greatest drummers of all time: part 1
Jeff Porcaro

Why is he great?

Dullards smirk about his ‘bizarre gardening accident’; drummers remember the session wizard for his brilliance in every context, from Toto IV to Jacko’s Thriller.

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Recommended listening

Toto – Toto IV (1982)
Buy here: Amazon | HMV | Play

50 greatest drummers of all time: part 1
The Rev
Avenged Sevenfold's The Rev backstage at the Gibson Amphitheatre in LA, 2006

Why is he great?

Jimmy Sullivan, as he’s never known, is a hard-hitting, charismatic drummer - just how we like our rock stars. On Avenged Sevenfold’s City Of Evil, he’s on fire.

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Recommended listening

Avenged Sevenfold – City Of Evil (2005)
Buy here: Amazon | HMV | Play

50 greatest drummers of all time: part 1
Thomas Pridgen
Performing in the Roy Wilkins Auditorium, Minnesota

Why is he great?

Having found the perfect band with which to flex his awesome technical muscles (check out The Mars Volta’s Octahedron – start with Cotopaxi), this child prodigy is finally fulfilling his potential.

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Recommended listening

The Mars Volta – Octahedron (2009)
Buy here: Amazon | HMV | Play

50 greatest drummers of all time: part 1
Charlie Watts
Onstage with The Rolling Stones at London's Saville Theatre, 1969 (from L-R: Mick Jagger, Charlie Watts and Keith Richards)

Why is he great?

Charlie Watts was a blues and jazz fan who drafted the template for hard rock. He gave classic Rolling Stones recordings like Beggars Banquet a hefty jolt of punch and pocket. Let’s start with Sympathy For The Devil

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Recommended listening

The Rolling Stones – Beggars Banquet (1968)
Buy here: Amazon | HMV | Play

50 greatest drummers of all time: part 1
Art Blakey
Live at the Cork & Bib, New York in 1958

Why is he great?

Wildly explosive and a key innovator of hard bop, Blakey could swing with style or rip out a solo with dangerous abandon.

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Recommended listening

Jazz Messengers – Moanin (1958)
Buy here: Amazon | HMV | Play

50 greatest drummers of all time: part 1
Terry Bozzio

Why is he great?

A technical wizard and trailblazing maverick, Bozzio’s work with Frank Zappa is justly celebrated and his collaboration with Jeff Beck on Guitar Shop is pure brilliance.

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Recommended listening

Jeff Beck – Jeff Beck’s Guitar Shop (1989)
Buy here: Amazon | HMV | Play

50 greatest drummers of all time: part 1
Steve White

Why is he great?

He recorded classic after classic with Paul Weller, and the irresistible funk of Trio Valore is testament to his matchless groove.

--

Recommended listening

Trio Valore - Return of the Iron Monkey (2008)
Buy here: Amazon | HMV | Play

50 greatest drummers of all time: part 1
Carl Palmer
Onstage for Emerson, Lake & Palmer's final tour in 1998

Why is he great?

A drive for excellence is the hallmark of Carl’s musical philosophy that reached its apogee with Emerson, Lake & Palmer, especially on their 1971 album Pictures At An Exhibition (check out Nutrocker of Tchaikovsky's March of the Wooden Soldiers fame).

--

Recommended listening

Emerson, Lake & Palmer - Pictures At An Exhibition (1971)
Buy here: Amazon | HMV | Play

50 greatest drummers of all time: part 1
Billy Cobham
Jazz drummer Billy Cobham in 1987

Why is he great?

Cobham was the open-handed, jazz/rock pace setter, first with Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew, then with The Mahavishnu Orchestra on The Inner Mounting Flame and finally his solo classic Spectrum.

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Recommended listening

Billy Cobham – Spectrum (1973)
Buy here: Amazon | HMV | Play

50 greatest drummers of all time: part 1
Carmine Appice
Performing with Vanilla Fudge in West Palm Beach, 2005

Why is he great?

The original power drummer, Carmine Appice was a major influence on John Bonham. Listen to Vanilla Fudge’s Rock & Roll and you’ll see why.

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Recommended listening

Vanilla Fudge – Rock & Roll (1969)
Buy here: Amazon | HMV | Play

50 greatest drummers of all time: part 1
Dominic Howard
With Muse at the Giants Stadium in New Jersey, 2009

Why is he great?

Howard anchors Muse’s classical and prog influences with robotic precision as well as flamboyant brilliance. Start your listening with Time Is Running Out from the album Absolution.

--

Recommended listening

Muse – Absolution (2003)
Buy here: Amazon | HMV | Play

50 greatest drummers of all time: part 1
Tre Cool
Cool onstage with Green Day in Miami, 2009

Why is he great?

With defining albums such as Dookie and American Idiot, Cool proved he could do speed and power as well as stadium-sized anthems. Try When I Come Around and American Idiot.

--

Recommended listening

Green Day - Dookie (1994)
Buy here: Amazon | HMV | Play

50 greatest drummers of all time: part 1
Tommy Lee
Drumming with Motley Crue circa 1986

Why is he great?

Known for his extra-curricular antics as much as for his work on classic Mötley Crüe albums like Dr. Feelgood, Lee is a much underrated drummer.

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Recommended listening

Motley Crue – Dr. Feelgood (1989)
Buy here: Amazon | HMV | Play

50 greatest drummers of all time: part 1
Gene Krupa
Terry Cryer/Corbis

Why is he great?

The first and greatest drumming superstar, Krupa’s wild tom-tom beat on ‘Sing, Sing, Sing’ was the sound that launched the golden era of swing.

--

Recommended listening

Complete Benny Goodman Carnegie Hall Concert 1938
Buy here: Amazon | HMV | Play

50 greatest drummers of all time: part 1
Bernard Purdie

Why is he great?

The self-proclaimed ‘World’s Most Recorded Drummer’ created his own signature shuffle (hear Steely Dan’s ‘Home At Last’) and backed Aretha Franklin on her early ’70s classics.

--

Recommended listening

Steely Dan – Aja (1977)
Buy here: Amazon | HMV | Play

50 greatest drummers of all time: part 1
Tony Royster Jr

Why is he great?

From winning the Guitar Center National Drum-Off aged 11 (see it, believe it) to gracing the world’s stages with Jay-Z, positivity and graft has made Royster a fine role model.

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Recommended listening

11-year-old Tony Royster Jr (again)

50 greatest drummers of all time: part 1
Brann Dailor

Why is he great?

Mastodon’s Crack The Skye is their densest and most esoteric album yet - and metal sensation Dailor steered it every step of the way. Hear it on Oblivion.

--

Recommended listening

Mastodon - Crack The Skye (2009)
Buy here: Amazon | HMV | Play

50 greatest drummers of all time: part 1
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