“Top 10” lists are difficult to narrow down in the talent-infested drumming community. None the less, some just stand out. This ranking focuses on drummers who serve as golden standards of achievement. Although they are no longer with us, we continue to acknowledge their contribution and implement their practices. Whether its talent, ambition, innovation, or inspiration, they have changed music for the better. I would have been pulling my hair out to find a level playing field in a non genre-specific ranking, so this list focuses on rock drummers:
10. John Rutsey: It is tough to imagine that Rush actually existed without Neil Peart’s special sauce, but the reality is the band was founded by a different drummer. John Rutsey occupied the position between 1968 and 1974. Rutsey quit the band just before their first tour due to health problems. He was a rock drummer who filled the part nicely, without glamorous embellishments. His playing was never critiqued as spectacular, but his signifigance as a musician is massive – based largely on the idea that he founded Rush. Rutsey has unfortunately become “the guy who was in the band before Neil Peart” but gets credit for setting the stage for one of the greatest rock bands ever. He died in 2008 from Diabetes complications. If his greatest musical contribution was forming a legendary band he didn’t continue playing with, he was more successful than many who have failed trying.
9. Nicholas “Razzle” Dingley: British born Nicholas Dingley was the drummer for Hanoi Rocks, a glam-rock band out of Finland known for an explosive live performance. In the 1980s, Hanoi Rocks were considered the most successful Finnish band to achieve an International reputation. Today, they maintain most of their popularity in the United States, Japan, and England but never quite got to mega-rock star status. Dingley was said to have played a large role on the creation of Hanoi Rocks’ sound, at times also contributing vocals. He was known for playing drum sets with “Razzle” printed on the bass drum, causing confusion for those who expected to see the bands name displayed this way. His reasoning, unaware that his life would be cut tragically short, was that he didn’t think he would stay with Hanoi Rocks for long… Thought by many to have died way to early, Dingley is considered an extraordinarily talented drummer who missed out on what could have become a very successful career. He was killed in a drunk driving accident with Motley Crue singer Vince Neil in December of 1984, having never experienced the opportunity to perform in Arenas as he had hoped to.
8. Eric Carr: Not the name you think of when someone mentions Kiss….. Carr covered himself in makeup and called himself Kiss’ drummer in the early 80s, following the band’s fallout with Peter Criss. As an accomplished singer, bassist, and guitarist, he was able to play a vital role in the band’s songwriting process. His anonymity was a crucial part of his involvement, seeing how the Kiss’ public persona was such a mystique. Even his parents were supposed to keep it on the DL. As Kiss embraced an image without makeup, Carr was able to become known and liked on a more personal level by fans who previously had no idea who he was. Carr admired drummers such as John Bonham, Keith Moon, Lenny White, Ringo Star, and Ginger Baker. He is said to have contributed to a heavier sound than the jazz-inspired Peter Criss, forcing the band’s sound to flow nicely with the hard-hitting rock sound of the 80s. In November 24, 1991, Carr suffered a brain hemorrhage caused by cancer cells transported in his bloodstream to the head. He died the same day as Freddie Mercury.
7. Jimmy “The Rev” Sullivan: The Rev showed up on the scene several years ago and forced us to listen. His speed and accuracy worked hand in hand, resulting in a complex but very articulated style. He almost sounded like a drum machine, cranking out impressive rhythms with amazing precision. Having been expelled from 2nd grade, arrested countless times, a porn star’s fiance, and an excessive drug user, The Rev fit the rock and roll model nicely. His tattoo smothered, extreme heavy metal appearance mixed with his recalcitrant attitude created a madness that could only be interpreted as pure genius through his drumming. His drug overdose at age 28 was an extreme misfortune and one that will not be forgotten amongst drummers and music fans who idolized him through his short-lived career.
6. Jeff Porcaro: High school dropouts have their opportunities too. Porcaro is one of the lucky few who left high school to pursue a career that flourished. His credentials include TOTO, Sonny and Cher, Dire Straits, Michael Jackson, Seals and Crofts, Boz Scaggs, Elton John, Steely Dan, and more. Known mainly as a rock drummer, Percaro was also a seasoned display of versatility. This ability to adapt along with his impeccable sense of rhythm are defining traits of his legacy. Another one of the more stunning traits was his modesty. Never having aspirations to be “the world’s greatest drummer” and putting low pressure on himself were probably huge mental advantages to his career. He is valued as a Rock drummer, but holds weight in genres such as jazz and funk too. His contribution as a teacher was also significant and can be observed on videos scattered across the internet. He died in 1992 after an allergic reaction to pesticides. The autopsy led to the discovery of a serious heart condition perviously undiagnosed.
stay tuned for the top 5