Famous drummers who stole the show

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Famous drummers who stole the show

Keith Moon
Words by Jack O'Shea Ayres

Sitting humbly in the heat of the rhythm section, where beats and grooves come to life, a select few individuals rise above the rest, shaping the very essence of a song's soul with their exceptional talent and boundless creativity behind the drum kit. 

Famous drummers

Behind every great band are great, often famous drummers sat at their drum kit who carry the show, the groove, the heart and the soul of all the favourite tracks of the rock genre and its many variations. 

Charlie Watts – The Rolling Stones

English born drummer Charlie Robert Watts kept the sticks moving for Rock and Roll Hall of Famers The Rolling Stones from 1963 right through to his death in 2021. 

Originally trained as a graphic artist, Watts developed a passion for jazz at a young age, going on to join the band Blues Incorporated. 

Watts is laid back and cool in his style, he simply sits and plays, keeping the legendary band made up of guitarist Keith Richards, singer Mick Jagger, and bassist Ronnie Wood in check at all times, especially after Jagger had the nerve to refer to Watts as ‘my drummer’. 

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Charlie really knew the swing of things, keeping time while letting the groove guide the direction of each track he played on and was never afraid to give the band direction. 

Chad Smith – The Red Hot Chili Peppers 

Drumming for the Chili Peppers since 1988, Chad Smith seamlessly carried the group to their Rock and Roll Hall of Fame of Fame induction in 2012. 

Backing some of the band’s greatest hits, like 1991’s “Under The Bridge”, “Californication” and “Can’t Stop”, Smith drums with precision and heart, keeping pace with masters of the craft Flea on bass and John Frusciante on electric guitar. 

Chad Smith is not just a great drummer, but an amazing performer, too, providing a class-act show for all fans not only when RHCP are performing live and for studio recordings, but his iconic drumming can be heard on popular tracks, much like on Dua Lipa’s “Break my Heart”. 

Dave Grohl – Nirvana, Foo Fighters

Dave Grohl’s musical journey is nothing short of legendary. As the drummer for the iconic rock band Nirvana, he laid down the thunderous rhythms that underpinned their groundbreaking sound. 

However, it was his transition to frontman of the Foo Fighters which showcased his remarkable versatility. In a true testament to his talent, Grohl recorded all the drum, bass, guitar, and vocal tracks for the Foo Fighters’ debut album entirely on his own, long before the band had any other members or even formally existed

This solo endeavor laid the foundation for the Foo Fighters’ meteoric rise to rock stardom, solidifying Dave Grohl’s status as a multi-talented musician and one of the most influential figures in contemporary rock music.

Travis Barker – Blink 182 

Drumming for American rock band Blink-182 since founding drummer Scott Raynor left the group in 1998, Travis Barker is the quiet and laid back type, all until he gets behind the kit. 

Barker has incredible range for a drummer of a pop-punk and alternative rock band. From high-energy and loud beats behind “First Date” to wielding a pair of brushes most common with jazz drummers for “I Miss You”, the tattooed punk is an expert of his craft and isn’t afraid to show it. 

The drummer fits into the band perfectly and can match bass player and vocalist Mark Hoppus rhythmically to deliver some of the greatest pop-punk tracks which remain synonymous of the early 2000s. 

Meg White – The White Stripes 

Meg White’s rise to drumming stardom is a testament to raw talent and authenticity. With no formal training, she stepped into the world of rock and roll when her husband, Jack White, asked her to be the drummer for The White Stripes after finding her mucking around on his drum kit in the nineties. 

Her unorthodox approach and primal drumming style became a defining element of the band’s sound. Meg’s minimalist yet powerful rhythms helped catapult The White Stripes to international fame, winning the infamous 2000s band 6 Grammy Awards and proving that passion and creativity can transcend formal training . 

Her unique contribution to the music world continues to inspire aspiring drummers and remains an indelible part of rock history as a key artist of the noughties. 

Stewart Copeland – The Police 

Stewart Copeland’s legacy as the drummer for The Police is etched in the annals of rock history. With his distinctive style and impeccable timing, he provided the rhythmic backbone to the band’s iconic sound. 

Copeland’s fusion of punk, rock, and reggae rhythms was instrumental in shaping The Police’s unique and influential music. His intricate, high-energy drumming brought to life hits like “Roxanne” and “Every Breath You Take,” making him a driving force behind the band’s massive success. 

Stewart Copeland’s contribution to The Police remains an enduring inspiration for drummers and music enthusiasts alike, earning him a well-deserved place among rock’s most celebrated percussionists.

Keith Moon – The Who

Keith Moon’s tenure as the drummer for The Who was nothing short of legendary. Known for his wild and uncontainable energy both on and off the stage, Moon redefined what it meant to be a rock drummer. His frenetic, explosive drumming style brought a sense of chaos and exhilaration to The Who’s live performances, earning him the nickname “Moon the Loon”, as well as famously trashing his drum kit.

With classics like “My Generation” and “Baba O’Riley,” Moon’s powerful and unpredictable drumming became an integral part of The Who’s sound. His innovative approach to the drums and his larger-than-life personality left an indelible mark on rock music, making him an icon in the world of drumming and a central figure in The Who’s unparalleled success.

Pete Thomas – Elvis Costello and the Attractions 

English rock drummer Pete Thomas is best known for his collaboration with singer Elvis Costello, as a part both of his permanent backing band The Attractions and with Costello as a solo artist. 

Thomas provided the backing beats for some of Costello and The Attractions’ hit songs, including the energetic and crashing beat to the 1977 track “(I Don’t Want To Go To) Chelsea” the more laid back and cruisy beat to the 1979 release “Oliver’s Army”, and especially the reggae inspired thumping rhythm that makes the 1978 release of “Pump it Up”. 

Referred to as “one of the best rock drummers of all time” by musician Tom Waits, Pete Thomas is in a league of his own, with the ability to hit the drum kit with a heavy hand to deliver a high energy and loud backing beat or lay it back and let the others take hold. 

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