Hal Blaine

Born: February 5, 1929 in Holyoke, Massachusetts

Of all the pioneering sidemen in rock’n’roll, the name that is probably most recognizable to drummers of today is Hal Blaine, the Hollywood session master who could make a case (along with several others in this book) for being the most recorded drummer of all time. As a core member of the legendary Wrecking Crew, Blaine’s name and grooves have become synonymous with the sound of sun-drenched pop that emanated from L.A.’s many recording studios in the 1960s and ’70s.

Born in Holyoke, Massachusetts, Hal Blaine relocated with his family to Southern California at the age of 15. After a stint in the military and three years of study at the legendary Roy C. Knapp School of Percussion in Chicago, he returned to L.A. just in time to witness the explosion of rock’n’roll. An early association with teen idol Tommy Sands introduced Blaine to many of the key players on the scene, and by the early ’60s his crack reading skills, easygoing personality, and solid rock chops made him a favorite among upcoming producers. Ironically, many established studio players of the day refused to play rock, considering it a lightweight fad unworthy of their time or attention. This shortsighted attitude opened the door for Blaine and his fellow young upstarts—dubbed the Wrecking Crew—to mount a full-frontal assault on the studio scene.

For the next two decades, Hal Blaine was considered the number-one studio drummer in Los Angeles, beating his way to a stellar résumé that includes hundreds of smash hits with the likes of the Beach Boys, Jan and Dean, Patti Page, Elvis Presley, the Carpenters, Johnny Rivers, Barbra Streisand, and Simon and Garfunkel. With his compatriots in the Wrecking Crew, Blaine was a major asset in helping producer Phil Spector establish his famous “Wall of Sound.” He was also the first to experiment with larger multi-tom racks, developing a studio kit known as “the monster.”

Blaine’s contributions came at a time when sidemen were finally being appropriately credited on albums, and as a result he has enjoyed not only the fruits of a successful career, but also the adulation of generations of drummers who grew up listening to his masterful drum parts.