It can be difficult to answer the quite common question I get of who are my favorite drummers, particularly in an ordered list, as there have been so many drummers who’ve influenced me, and also drummers I simply admire.
But this is my top three:
The drummer from Led Zeppelin, one of the hardest hitting, larger-than-life, drummers I can possibly think of. He wasn’t just a rock drummer, though; he brought so much to the world of drums and added it all to Led Zeppelin’s music.
His grooves on “Fool in the Rain” and”When the Levee Breaks” show his impeccable taste. The signature ‘Bonham fills’ on “Good Times, Bad Times” are so inspirational. I don’t know any drummer who hasn’t spent time trying to master the ‘Bonham shuffle’ on “Fool in the Rain” and tried to incorporate his style into their playing.
When I was growing up and learning to play drums, Stewart Copeland from the Police was the drummer I most aspired to be. He’s one of the tastiest drummers, always putting the groove first, while bringing so much color and syncopation to his playing.
He drew inspiration from world music and brought it to the rock world. “Walking on the Moon”and “Message in a Bottle” are my favorite Police tracks. His hi-hat work is always fantastic.
My very first band used to cover “Can’t Stand Losing You,” and Stewart’s playing on that track inspired a lifetime of four-on-the-floor bass drum grooves for me.
The most underrated drummer in rock is Brian Downey from Thin Lizzy. Most people associate Thin Lizzy with the dual lead guitars, but Brian Downey is one of my favorite drummers. Even before I started playing drums, I was blown away by the drum breaks on “Bad Reputation.” His shuffle on “The Boys Are Back In Town” is classic and often emulated. I love his work on the tracks “Emerald” and “Black Rose.” Listen to Thin Lizzy and pay attention to Brian Downey’s hi-hat control and his ride cymbal work, and you’ll understand why I think he’s the most underrated drummer.