Criteria: Drummers are judged by Influence, Innovation, Originality (for both style and drumlines), Creativity, Technical Ability and Stylistic Versatility.
1. John Bonham (Led Zeppelin)
John Bonham is for many the greatest hard rock drummer to have lived. He is arguably the most influential drummer in rock history also. The irreplaceable powerhouse behind Led Zeppelin popularised such widely used techniques, as common as powerful wrist flicks, bass drum triplets, crossovers, and then some. His uniqueness extended to using 4 sticks or hands to achieve different sounds, and his drum solo Moby Dick is quite possibly the greatest rock drumming performance of all time, and almost certainly the most inspirational. Though not blessed with the amazing ability of a Peart or a Bozzio, Bonham at the time of the 1st album pushed rock drumming to new limits with the performance of Good Times Bad Times. Something unheard of before, he pushed single pedal bass drumming to the boundaries, with clever hi-hat and fill overdubs over a cowbell beat. This performance was a massive influence on fellow great Ian Paice of Deep Purple.
Bonham died whilst on a drinking binge in 1980, and Led Zeppelin considered the great man irreplaceable. His legacy lives on.
2. Bill Bruford (Yes, King Crimson)
One of few drummers to be exceedingly important in two huge bands, Bill Bruford was the polyrhythm king. He devised a style unheard of before on drums, where different time signatures were played over each other. Although his career with Yes was alot shorter than his replacement Alan White, the album Fragile (played on by Bruford) is undoubetdly the best drumming album in Yes's vast catlogue. Bruford went on to replace Mike Giles and other Crimson drummers in King Crimson, perhaps becoming the greatest drummer for that band also. Bruford's influence is largely combined to more progressive material, but is perhaps only behind Peart and Palmer in this field. His ability, sense of timing and constant change behind the sticks has won him many admirers.
3. Neil Peart (Rush)
Neil "The Professor" Peart is the greatest rock drummer of all time. He was a phenomenon, influenced heavily from his jazz roots of Krupa and Rich, through to early rock drummers Blaine and Ringo, through to wild
and powerhouse rockers Keith Moon and John Bonham. Mix these with the groove and ability of his number 1 man Steve Gadd and you get Neil Peart, the innovator of such widely used equipment such as roto-toms, a pioneer of progressive rock drumming, with an ability at the time unmatched in the whole of the rock genre. Few have succeeded his ability and creativity combined since. On top of his domination of the drum set is his vast influence. In just one magazine (Modern Drummer), he has won the poll best rock drummer 7 times since 1980, best multi-percussionist 4 times, and was put in the hall of fame in 1983. He would have won so much more, but was made ineligible for any other awards in 1986 due to being one of the few drummers put on the “Honor Roll”
His allmusic.com profile opens with “Ask just about any rock drummer who their influences are and chances are Rush's Neil Peart will be high on the list.”
4. Keith Moon (The Who)
Moonie was the definitive image of a rock drummer. His wild abandon behind the kit was an inspiration to many in the mid 60s and beyond, and allowed drums to an extent to go further in a song than ever before. Like Bonham and Ringo, he was never blessed with incredible skill, but this allowed his uniqueness and passion to develop. Although his sound isn't often directly copied, and was often criticised for his lack of precision, his sound can be heard both indirectly and directly in any open drummer since him, be it the proggieness of Peart, or his straight-playing replacement in The Who and current Oasis drummer, Ringo Starr's son Zak Starkey. Moon is also credited as being the 1st drummer to use double bass in rock. Although strictly not true as Ginger Baker was using them with John Mayall, and subsequently from day one with Cream, there is no doubt that Keith Moon popularised the image of the double bass kit, moreso than anybody else of the time, including the jazz drummers who had used it many years earlier. His official death was "Accidental Misadventure" after taking 32 pills designed to ween him off alcohol. It wasn't classed as suicide. His presence is still strongly felt today in drums and in rock music.
5. Ginger Baker (Cream)
Although rock drumming came about largely thanks to jazz drummers, most rock drummers didn't play with traditional jazz elements in their drumming. Not until Ginger Baker anyway, who's rudimental knowledge, and tasteful prowess in many styles and timings makes him one of the world's most celebrated drummers. The most skilled rock drummer of the mid 60s was also the first person to bring the jazz innovated double-bass pedal work into rock, and although like Keith Moon, it was sparasely used, this has become a major innovation into the development of rock drumming. His influence was big at the time, and was one of John Bonham for example's main influences. His performance of Toad is quite evidently parodied in Moby Dick.
If Baker had more recorded output, the likelyhood is that he could have been on Bonham and Moon's elite level. He has proven that 40 years on from his peak, he still has it, when playing at the Cream reunion.
6. Terry Bozzio (Frank Zappa)
Terry Bozzio is most unique drummer to play the drums, period. His strange appraoch to the kit is exemplified by being Frank Zappa's choice of drummer once discovered, an artist known to be so over the top, that he was too prog for prog at times! Bozzio's handling of time sigs, mastery of strange and exotic equpiment (much of which he also pioneered the use of), mass creativity and insane ability and of course originality makes him a certain top 10. All that really holds him back is top level influence, although he does have several prog drummers to his name, and a modern day great in Danny Carey.
7. Carl Palmer (Emerson Lake And Palmer, Atomic Rooster)
Carl Palmer was THE prog drummer. And still is. At the height of prog in the early to mid 70s, Palmer was second only to Bonham in terms of influence at the time. He has remained one of the most popular drummers to this day. He pushed drum technology to the limit, his kit recently purchased by Ringo Starr weighs 2.5 tons, electronics were put into Palmer's solos, emulated by Bozzio and Peart and many others, and was at the time one of the fastest drummers around. Like his predecessor Keith Moon, his stage show relied heavily on image, and he often drummed while stripping off his top, and whacking gongs behind him, yet still keeping the beat!
Palmer still to this day is going strong and is currently performing with "The Carl Palmer Band".
8. Hal Blaine (Session)
Hal Blaine was the first modern rock drummer. He has played on more hit records than any other drummer, including 40 US number 1 songs, and 150 top 10s. He played for artists as big as Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, Beach Boys, Steely Dan, Simon And Garfunkel, The Byrds, Roy Orbison, Dean Martin, Johnny Cash, The Monkees and many more. He was an important man in the creation of Phil Spector's wall of sound. Due to the bouncing down techniques that Phil Spector came up with, Blaine decided that cymbals didn't help sound quality. He often just placed hard tom and snare sounds into the recordings, which burst through the wall of sound emphasing the beat more so than it would with cymbals. His usage of other louder and treble based equipment was creative to say the least, often using items such as tire chains in songs. Blaine was an early influencer on many big session men, and then Ringo Starr, Charlie Watts, Neil peart, Phil Collins and many more, amazing for a session musician. From the mid 50s right through to the late 70s, he was the most sought after session drummer in California. He was a big innovator in big rolling tom fills, used regularly by John Bonham.
9. Ringo Starr (The Beatles)
To many, Ringo is the greatest of all time, proving his incredible popularity. By this criteria he isn't, but he has done so much for rock drumming that a top 15 place is merited. Like Jimi Hendrix with guitar, Ringo was a left-hander who played a right handed kit. This contributed largely to many of the odder sounding fills he put in place. Ringo was a pioneer of the matchstick grip, which the majority of drummers now use. Although it has always been natural to pick up a drumstick in this way, drummers down the ages were always taught and trained to play with traditional grip, how the jazz drummers drummed. Ringo pioneering this was revolutionary. His influence indirectly extends to every rock drummer since. And directly to countless. His creativity and skill is often underrated too. Abbey Road contains quite a few semi-virtuosic performances for pop-rock music, and his changeups of beats, fills and cymbals is very impressive.
His originality is undeniable also.
10. Ian Paice (Deep Purple)
Ian Paice is in a band often overlooked for its contributions to hard rock/metal, and he possesses exactly the same demons. But not here! His heavyhanded power strokes were 2nd only to Bonham in the very late 60s through to the early 70s, and his style was almost a development of Bonham's, choosing to not base the majority of beats around straightness. The problem Paice faced was that he was always 2nd to Bonham in this field, like Deep Purple were to Led Zeppelin. He was often always overlooked a little thanks to the prowess of other band members including Ritchie Blackmore, Ian Gillan and Jon Lord as well as, later on, Steve Morse. However, he is a well respected powerhouse drummer, with fanstastic chops, rolls, creativity and feel. His influence is quite extensive also. Great drummer, and deserving of his top 10 placement.
11. Bernard Purdie (Session)
Bernard Purdie has played on more songs than anybody else, even Hal Blaine and Earl Palmer, possibly even in rock, despite being a jazz drummer also playing with the likes of Miles Davis, Louis Armstrong and Dizzy Gillespie. This hugely versatile and groovy session man set the standards for swing and groove drumming, and was a HUGE influence on Jeff Porcaro. John Bonham also cites his Led Zeppelin performance of Fool In The Rain as influenced by Bernard "Pretty" Purdie. The great performance of Aja by Steely Dan also wasn't just the work of Steve Gadd, Purdie played on it. In rock, Purdie was the groovemaster behind Arethra Franklin, Jackson 5, James Brown (sometimes accompanying the Funk Brothers), Nina Simone, Percy Sledge, Gladys Knight, Issac Hayes, Cat Stevens and others. His work in blues is big even, with the greatest blues guitarist of them all, B.B King, having Bernard as his number 1 sticksman. Even as a teenager, he was playing with country bands!
12. Tommy Aldridge (Ozzy Osbourne, Whitesnake)
Aldridge took metal drumming and bass pedalling to a new level, building upon the foundations of Bill Ward, and becoming a major influence on the greatest metal drummer, Dave Lombardo.
Tommy came from a relatively poor background, and so is self taught. He was heavily influenced by Ringo admittedly, but you wouldn't tell with the way he played the double bass! Ginger Baker was his inspiration on double bass. Although now eclipsed in speed on double bass, his feel and usage of it has never in many eyes been replicated.
Tommy in the 80s was top of the wishlist for many metal acts, and has played with other big metal artists, such as Aerosmith, Ted Nugent, Black Oak Arkansas, Thin Lizzy and more. He is possibly more famed for his looks, or more for lack of looks, with all due respect!
13. Stewart Copeland (The Police)
Copeland's combination of reggae and pop-rock was hugely original creative, innovative and demanding. With the unmistakeable hi-hat sound, and ability to die for, SC has a cemented top 20 placement. The Police in the 80s were one of the biggest acts around, especially in the UK. Copeland derived many of his assets and trademarks from the carribean island of Montserrat, an island savaged by natural disaster, and the place where The Police often recorded.
His imaginitive style has been heavily adopted by later drummers, especially those involved in popular reggae, for example UB40.
Stewart retired early from drumming, and although he occasionally plays, he is no longer actively involved in playing drums for popular music. He is mostly involved with composing film scores, arranging and other behind the scenes work.
14. Danny Carey (Tool)
With a distinct prog/dark metal style, Carey's virtuosic performances have blessed several Tool albums, and created a cult following. Tool in the USA have had good success also, contributing to Carey's popularity and future influence. His drum tone can be rather tediously flat, but his mastering of timings and his style variation is amongst the very best. Only time will tell if Carey will be hailed as a true great, and if he will ever match the level of the Laterlarus album.
Carey's style is heavily influenced by Terry Bozzio although his sound is alot different and alot of bass is placed on the recordings. Carey has dabbled with other genres also.
Carey's double bass work is well respected, he says himself he treats his feet like his hands, and spends as much time practicing with them both. His bass drumming is considered very tasteful.
15. Dave Lombardo (Slayer)
Metal drumming changed in 1981 when Lombardo came about. Blessed with the speed and power of a minigun, Lombardo took the bass drum ability of Tommy Aldridge, the metallic heaviness of Bill Ward, combined it and added his own touches in. He was the creator of thrash metal, and all extreme metal drummers have alot of thanks to give to Lombardo. Unlike most metal drummers too, his drum tuning and often tasteful playing was magnificent. His dedication, and aspiration to be a good role model made metal drumming more accessible to the masses, and pushed metal drumming to the next level. Also unlike most metal drummers, every track is identifiable. Not only do you know it is him, but you can often know which song is which, or if you don't know the music, at least find huge differences between every different piece. He is also very well versed in jazz.
Arguably the greatest metal drummer to have lived.
16. Earl Palmer (Session)
Rock N' Roll Hall Of Fame member Earl Palmer, was one of the biggest session men of all time. He played for arguably rock's first artist - Fats Domino, Ray Charles, Sam Cooke, The Everly Brothers, Ritchie Valens, Eddie Cochran, Mamas And The Papas, Little Richard, and several other early rock acts. He was a major man in the New Orleans music scene from 1950 and the birth of rock onwards, and for Motown. Little Richard calls him the greatest drummer of all time. He has gained respect from drummers as diverse as Hal Blaine through to Steve Smith.
His shuffle grooving style was hugely innovative, built upon later by the great Bernard Purdie, and then by the masterful Jeff Porcaro, and several others.
17. Carmine Appice (Vanilla Fudge, Cactus, Session)
Carmine Appice is one of the most important drummers to hard rock. His amazingly creative work with Jeff Beck, most notably in the song "Lady" has become a landmark in hard rock drumming. Carmine is also famous for playing with Vanilla Fudge and Cactus, and several others, his demand as a session man was large. He started in 1967, and by some, including a reporter for Modern Drummer magazine, claims Carmine Appice to be the 1st hard rock drummer, before Bonham and Paice. The claim does hold credit, the sound of Appice in 1967 is similar, however the drumming techniques used were a little different. Appice often still used traditional grip at the time. Drummers ranging from and as big as Bonham, Paice, Jerry Gaskill to Alex Van Halen cite this truly great drummer as a major influence on their sound. His image was also very influential to drummers in the glam era.
18. Jeff Porcaro (Toto, Session)
Session Man does not describe this man, he was as well known as a drummer for several acts including artists as big as Toto (whom he co-founded) and Michael Jackson. Jeff has also drummed for Eric Clapton, Dave Gilmour, Steely Dan, Dire Straits, Ray Charles (in his later work), Earth Wind And Fire, Paul Simon, Leo Sayer and many many more. His demand in the 80s was phenominal. As was, more importantly, his INCREDIBLE groove. Not since Bernard Purdie could a drummer groove as well as Porcaro. This was the primary reason why Michael Jackson paid well over $1m, plus royalties from each sale to Porcaro to play on his Thriller album. Porcaro contained everything this criteria requires, skill, versatility, influence, creativity, originality and innovation. Plus his session demand. Jeff tragically died in 1992 after suffering an allergic reaction to a pesticide sprayed in his garden. His legacy lives on, and in Toto, his drumstool has been filled by modern legend Simon Phillips. Jeff Porcaro was a role model to all.
19. Benny Benjamin (Funk Brothers)
African-American Benny Benjamin was in what some argue to be the greatest rhythm section of all time (along with James Jamerson on bass). The first drummer to join Motown was lucky to survive and thrive in his career there. He often didn't even turn up to work, and suffered addiction to drugs and drink throughout his career. It is hard to know which tracks he actually played on as sometimes his fellow Motown musicians replaced him, but Benny's feel, groove and sense of timing was impeccable and irreplaceable. He was Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder's drummer of choice for much of his career, and has been inducted into the Rock n Roll Hall Of Fame as a sideman.
His demand was so high in Motown, that despite his personal problems, many artists and producers simply refused to work with any other drummer.
Benjamin died of a stroke in 1969.
20. Bill Ward (Black Sabbath)
Bill was the first metal drummer. Although not quite as heavy hitting as his counterparts Bonham, Appice, and Paice, he certainly defined the metal style, with the heavy dynamic changes and major usage of the full ride cymbal. Ward has been somewhat influential and was creative, often using overdubs in very original ways. He just misses out on a top 20 placement, but his performance on The Wizard is no less than fantastic.
21. David Garibaldi (Tower Of Power)
Combining funk grooves with powerful and tasteful rock beats, Garibaldi is a pioneer. Often overlooked in the mainstream because of a lack of popularity, Garibaldi's respect within the drum world is on a very high level. David is also widely appreciated for his drum tone and sense of melody. An inspiration to Chad Smith from the Chilli Peppers of all people, David's contributions to funk cannot be ignored. The greatest funk drummer of all time.
22. Mitch Mitchell (Jimi Hendrix Experience)
Although possibly the 'sloppiest' drummer in the top 50, Mitch possessed a feel almost unmatched before him in rock. He possessed a unique style which could sound Keith Moon-esque at times, and a sound that was certainly very popular for the duration of The Experience's existence, Mitch often gets influence credit to his name. The success he has had makes it virtually impossible to keep him out of the top 25 placement, and gives him a place of which he thoroughly deserves.
23. Aynsley Dunbar (Frank Zappa, Session)
Aynsley was another drummer not limited to one major artist. The list he has played with is ridiculous, ranging from Whitesnake to Rod Stewart, to John Lennon, Frank Zappa, Lou Reed, Mick Ronson and many more, most notably Jeff Beck. He has 30 Gold and platinum albums to his name! In 1974, the music industry acclaimed him as the world's leading session man. He has been less active since his son tragically died in 2000, but is still continuing to rock!
24. Cozy Powell (Rainbow, Jeff Beck Group)
The unmistakeable sound and energy that came from Cozy was a phenominon. The raw power and explicit groove defined a hard rock generation of drumming in the 80s, and drove Ritchie Blackmore's band Rainbow to huge success. Cozy was also the man behind the kit for Queen guitarist Brian May's solo work, and became May's favourite drummer. He has also played with Jeff Beck and was right at the top of the shortlist for potential replacements of Led Zeppelin's John Bonham, the main influencer on Cozy's sound. Nobody since Keith Moon seemed to have such amazing spirit and passion as the late Cozy Powell who tragically died in 1998 in a car accident on an English motorway.
25. Mike Shrieve (Santana)
The percussion master! How many other drummers could hold out a 10+ minute solo at a festival and have it classed as one of the festivals highlights? And be Woodstock 69?! Only Shrieve, who's knowledge of all sorts of exotic inter-continental percussion was essential to achieving his and Santana's sound. Although often getting percussionists in, Shrieve devised the bulk of the rhythm section during his time with Santana. He has since drummed for Pete Townshend.
26. Gavin Harrison (Porcupine Tree, Session)
Gavin Harrison is best known as the drummer for Porcupine Tree, a British progressive rock band. One of the more skilled of today's modern drummers, Harrison is well-versed in jazz, progressive rock and progressive metal style drumming, very apparent in songs such as ''Blackest Eyes' and A'nesthetize' He's also the author of "Rhythmic Illusions" and "Rhythmic Perspectives." Although Harrison may not have high influence, he has tons of skill, versatility and creativity, which make him stand out among the great drummers of today and yesteryear. Gavin is currently announced to join King Crimson in 2008 to drum along with Pat Mastelotto. He also has his own successful solo career, especially his new album Drop, with 05ric.
27. Carter Beauford (Dave Matthews Band)
Carter Beauford is a drummer, percussionist, and founding member of the Dave Matthews Band (DMB). He is known for his ability to mix together countless percussion styles, his ambidextrous approach to playing, and is highly regarded for his open hand drumming style, where his left hand leads on the hi-hat and ride cymbal in a conventional right-handed drumset set-up. He’s famous for his distinctively intricate hi-hat patterns, yet, like Billy Cobham, he can groove, and like Dennis Chambers he has a great ‘pocket’. Carter’s blazing technique, lightning fast single stroke rolls, blistering double pedals and flashy cross-hand patterns nightly wow the fans. And the truly remarkable thing is, because the band achieved success on their own terms, Carter’s brilliance is there for all to hear on platinum selling records. A remarkable drummer and a remarkable band.
28. Tim Alexander (Primus)
This Berklee graduate is rightfully regarded as one of the best and greatest drummers of the current era, Primus's hugely distinct rhythm section owes an immeasurable amount to Alexander. Despite often being almost upstaged by one of the very best bassists of all time in Les Claypool, Tim has gained a huge underground following, and his sense of groove and dynamics are virtually unparalleled. A strong range of influence shows heavily in his playing, from the hi-hat and reggae orientated Stewart Copeland, to the big reverbed beats of John Bonham. His innovation credit tends not to be rewarded as it should be also, Drummerworld states him as one of the most innovative drummers in the drumming community.
29. Al Jackson (The MGs)
Often cited as the best beatkeeper to have existed, the versatile and groove-orientated player played for many acts, most notably the band behind "Green Onions" (Booker T and The MGs).
He played for Stax records in his session work, playing on virtually every recording to come out of it, including those for the late great Wilson Pickett.
Al Jackson was murdered at his house in the 70s soon after his reuniting with the MGs after a short breakup. His murderer is still unknown, however many believe it was his wife, not a burglar as assumed at the time.
30. Mike Portnoy (Dream Theater, Liquid Tension Experiment)
Mike Portnoy's status amongst underground and diverse players is incredible considering the relative size of Dream Theater based on sales (although their following is bigger than sales suggest).
Due to this, his influence is already shining through. Portnoy has a big array of influences, most notably Neil Peart, but they do include Ringo Starr, Roger Taylor and John Bonham. His playing has once again pushed the boundaries to the limit of what is achievable. His co-ordination is possibly the best that there has ever been, and his precision at such speeds is impeccable.
Portnoy has experimented with many different styles, and is not limited to prog, he is also a member of Liquid Tension Experiment.
21 years into his professional career, Portnoy doesn't seem to be disappearing anywhere fast, Dream Theater's highest charting album was released just last year.
31. Phil Collins (Genesis)
Although possibly now more famous for his solo career, Phil's drum work has always been highly demanded and respected. There isn't too many big concerts with session drummers where Collins isn't playing, his jamming ability is insanely good. His work with Genesis in their proggier days was also very exceptional and well praised. Despite becoming more successful as a singer/songwriter and often accused of selling out and ruining Genesis when he took over lead vocal duties, his influence stands strong against his ability.
32. Roger Taylor (Queen)
The highly influential and versatile sticksman behind the enormous band Queen has become a household name in many places. His variety used (especially in his early and late days with Queen) ranged from playing caribbean drums, to congas, to timpanies, to being the first drummer to play a completely electric drum solo live, to prog, metal, funk, and what Queen have unfortunatley become largely known for, their pop.
Roger's influence also extends quite far, and big names influenced include Lars Ulrich, Mike Portnoy, Matt Sorum, Taylor Hawkins and many others. His originality is evident, and many of his trademarks are audible in nearly every song, especially his partial opening of the hi-hat on every back beat, creating a louder and more interesting sound. Taylor's ability is often understated thanks to the popularity of many songs where only a backbeat is required. His early work was on the level of many of his prog contemporaries. His influence can only further be estimated, due to the fact Queen are the 3rd biggest selling chart act in the UK of all time, have reportedly sold 500m records worldwide, and are bigger in every continent than North America.
33. Nicko McBrain (Iron Maiden)
The greatest Maiden drummer Nicko McBrain had big shoes to fill when entering the band, the shoes of former drummer Clive Burr. McBrain's metallic virtuosity however instantly won him acclaim with both fans and fellow drummers alike, and has since become one of the bigger influences in the drum world. Nicko is widely acclaimed to have one of the better staminas of the popular drummers, and his electrifying live performances prove this well. His ability is up there with the best.
34. Zigaboo Modeliste (The Meters)
Ziggy was the first ever funk drummer, and has become indirectly influential to every funk drummer since him. he remains the 2nd greatest funk drummer of all time behind only Garibaldi, himself highly influenced by Modeliste, who has released a solo album fairly recently.
Despite being the most technically accomplished of his funk counterparts, his sound is still an integral part of 2nd line funk drumming, and if it wasn't for Ziggy who knows what funk drumming would sound like, assuming it existed.
35. Jim Keltner (Session)
36. Matt Cameron (Soundgarden)
Matt Cameron is best known as the drummer for the major grunge band Soundgarden, though he's also played with Temple of the Dog, and fellow grunge band Pearl Jam. Easily the best drummer of the grunge era, Cameron has one of the greatest separations of his hands and feet to this day. His technical ride work while clicking the hi-hat with his foot is very impressive, and his rolls are shockingly creative for the type of music he plays. Despite being a "rock" drummer, Cameron admits that he wasn't really into rock growing up, but into jazz instead. His jazzy style playing is greatly reflected in his work with Tone Dogs. He's also into psychedelic garage rock, his projects with it being Hater and Wellwater Conspiracy. Some of his best rock performances include 'Jesus Christ Pose', 'Face Pollution', 'Slaves & Bulldozers', and 'My Wave.'
37. Simon Philips (Toto, Session)
Simon Phillips is a prolific jazz and rock drummer who replaced the great Jeff Porcaro in Toto. He has also played for a wide range of musicians, such as The Who, Big Country, Jeff Beck, Jack Bruce, Asia, Jordan Rudess and many more. Phillips Began drumming at the age of twelve in his father's Dixieland band, and was offered a chance to play in the musical Jesus Christ Superstar, after which he quickly became a very sought-after session drummer. His most recent release was a DVD titled Resolution with his jazz band, Vantage Point.
38. Michael Giles (King Crimson, Solo)
Michael Giles was the well-known drummer and co-founder of King Crimson. He also played in Giles, Giles & Fripp and he had a solo career. He has a free and flowing style of playing including a lot of jazzy rhythms and fills, while also drawing styles from fellow rival drummers such as Mitch Mitchell and Ginger Baker. Not many people can mimic the orchestral feel to his playing, and 21st Century Schizoid Man, his finest performance, still stands as one of the greatest drum performances to date.
He has now somewhat withdrawn from the main drumming scene, but he has left behind him some work for which he will be remembered quite a while, still.
39. Gene Hoglan (Death, Strapping Young Lad)
Gene Hoglan is the well-known metal drummer who performed for many bands such as Death, Dark Angel, Strapping Young Lad, Dethklok, and Unearth. Hoglan got started when he was 13 years old as a self-taught drummer. He started as the soundcheck drummer for Slayer until he joined Dark Angel. In 2004 Hoglan filled in for Martin Lopez of Opeth because he was having panic attacks. He also appeared in their music video for "The Grand Conjuration."
Much like Jarzombek, he is most well-known for his technical rather than aesthetic approach to the drums, and doing so, he managed to impress a lot of drummers worldwide because of his creativity in drum arrangements, use of strange devices for percussion effects, and his double-bass drum rhythms, which he calls "kick triplets.
40. Jimmy Chamberlin (Smashing Pumpkins, Jimmy Chamberlin Complex)
Jimmy Chamberlin is the well-known drummer for the Smashing Pumpkins and also has played in Zwan and the Jimmy Chamberlin Complex. Though he played for Alternative Rock bands he started his training as a jazz drummer, his major jazz influences being Gene Krupa, Duke Ellington, and the great Buddy Rich, as well as rock influences such as John Bonham and Keith Moon. He enjoyed major success with the Smashing Pumpkins until their Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness in which he overdosed on heroin and was kicked out of the band. He later rejoined the band and they released the Machina and Machina II albums before breaking up again. After the failure of their supposed super group Zwan, they have rejoined again and hope to continue making albums for the future.
41. Rod Morgenstein (Dixie Dregs, Winger)
Rod can be summed up in the following passage from a cover story in Modern Drummer Magazine: “You can see it in his face; Rod Morgenstein loves what he does for a living. Get him talking about drums and you’ll see those eyes start to crinkle as a warm, sincere smile spreads over his face.
Rod’s professional music career began as a founding member of the groundbreaking group the Dixie Dregs when, as a student at the University of Miami in Florida, he met Steve Morse, Andy West and Allen Sloan. The Dixie Dregs' music combines rock, jazz, bluegrass, folk and classical influences into a rich, ever-changing tapestry of sound. All the while, Rod’s drumming weaves its way seamlessly and colorfully through this swirling musical landscape.
His unique, dynamic and musical drumming style has led to Rod’s winning the Best Progressive Rock Drummer award in Modern Drummer Magazine’s Reader’s Poll 5 years in a row (1986-1990) and Best All-Around Drummer (1999), earning him a permanent position in the magazine’s prestigious Honor Roll.
In addition to his recording and touring credits, Rod is very active in drum education. He is currently an Associate Professor of Percussion at Berklee College of Music in Boston, Mass.
42. Bobby Jarzombek (Rob Halford, Spastic Ink, Demons & Wizards)
Bobby Jarzombek is a heavy metal/progressive metal drummer, born in 1963 in Austin, TX. He began playing drums at the age of ten and got involved with various bands in his early teens. His first real claim to fame was hooking up with Juggernaut. He recorded two albums with that group before leaving them to become the sticks man for the Riot reunion.
He stayed with that group for quite some time, recording with them on a total of seven albums. He eventually hooked up with his brother in the band Spastic Ink, then took the seat behind the drum kit for Halford. Jarzombek's skill level behind the kit is truly frightening – and anyone that's ever seen or heard him play can only echo Halford's sentiments, "the best heavy metal drummer I know." He is currently the drummer for Sebastian Bach, Painmuseum and Demons and Wizards. Bobby was also a member of Iced Earth from 2004 to 2006, replacing Richard Christy on subsequent tours.
43. Kenny Aronoff (Session)
44. Max Weinberg (Bruce Springsteen, Max Weinberg Seven)
Max Weinberg rose to success as a drummer for Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band in 1974 after answering the newspaper ad that requested for "no junior Ginger Bakers" referring to Baker's tendency of doing long solos. Around 1980, however, Weinberg suffered a slump due to repetitive stress injury and tendinitis. He had seven different operations in his hands and wrists. He has since reunited with the E Street Band has toured in 2007. Considering the greatness and fame of Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street Band, it would not be right to say that his most succesful gig was drumming in the sidekick band (The Max Weinberg Seven) for Late Night With Conan O'Brien, though this has brought him back into the spotlights after his issues in the 80's and has made him a household name to many.
He has also played for other bands, such as Meat Loaf's and he was the live drummer for 10,000 Maniacs in 1992 after their drummer was injured.
45. Alex Van Halen (Van Halen)
Alex Van Halen started out playing guitar, but discovered his love for the drums after mastering the pounding rhythm of Wipe Out. He has ever since played together with his brother in Van Halen, and became famous accompanying one of the greatest guitar players ever. Some trademarks of his are the compressed bass and the warm snare sound. Even though he does not quite possess the skill, originality and influence necessary to get him a high spot, he still manages to keep a certain creativity in his playing, especially by his excellent cymbal work.
It was probably until 1984 that Alex was just considered the drummer from Van Halen, but after the release of their album 1984 which featured the song Hot For Teacher, that Alex Van Halen became a household name. Hot For Teacher is of course that song featuring the famous drum intro and the beautiful upbeat bass drum shuffle that catapulted Alex to fame.
Some other very worthy drum performances of his are Me Wise Magic, 5150 and Judgement Day.
46. Sean Reinert (Cynic, Death, Gordian Knot)
47. Jon Theodore (The Mars Volta, One Day As A Lion)
Jon started playing drums in his high school concert band, and was heavily influenced by some of the great rock, jazz and funk drummers like Billy Cobham, Elvin Jones, John Bonham, Keith Moon and Zigaboo Modeliste. Aftr that he joined the band Golden and later Royal Trux, during which time he met Omar Rodriguez-Lopez and Cedric Bixler Zavala and they teamed up to form The Mars Volta, the highly energetic Latin-influenced prog rock.
Jon Theodore has managed to skilfully blend his excellent jazz work into the high-energy metal sound of The Mars Volta, most notably in Roulette Dares, This Apparatus Must Be Unearthed and Cassandra Gemini.
He has for the period of 2001-2006 been the official The Mars Volta drummer, but permanently left the band to work on a solo career.
Jon Theodore is most definitely one of the most creative progressive metal drummers out there and has already influenced many other drummers all over the world, which grants him a Top 50 spot.
48. Brian Downey (Thin Lizzy)
Brian Downey is an Irish drummer,best known for co-founding the rock band Thin Lizzy; along with bassist-singer Phil Lynott, Brian was the only other member of Thin Lizzy to remain with the band from the beginning until the end.
Lizzy found themselves slowly but surely becoming one of the world's top hard rock acts, on the strength of such releases as Nightlife, Fighting, Jailbreak, Bad Reputation, and Live and Dangerous (the latter of which included a tour de force Downey drum solo in the song "Sha La La").
But with bigtime success came hard living, which effected Downey's mental and physical state so badly that he had to take a brief break from the band on the eve of an Australian tour in late 1978 (with session drummer Mark Nauseef filling in). But Downey was able to straighten out his life during the brief break, and returned back to the group for good, playing on such further albums as Black Rose, Chinatown, Rengegade, plus Thunder and Lightning and Life. Lizzy split up soon after, and in 1986, Lynott tragically died from years of substance abuse. Critic Ed Rivadavia argues that Downey was "certainly one of the most underrated rock drummers of his generation."
49. Vinnie Paul (Pantera)
Vinnie Paul is one of the more respected and tasteful of the heavy metal scene, as is evident in both his playing with Pantera and Damageplan. Vinnie might be a little more famous though for being the brother and fellow bandmember of Dimebag Darrell, and was onstage with him when Dime was shot to death in 2004. Vinnie Paul in popular metal during the 90s was ranked amongst or as the best in the business, and his playing abilities have not subsided. Some of his nicest work includes Throes Of Rejection, The Art Of Shredding and Revolution Is My Name
50. Topper Headon (The Clash)
The premier and greatest punk drummer of them all was Clash's Topper Headon. With amazing versatility and style for a punk drummer, Topper has won over many fans. Everything he had was above average, ability, creativity, originality, feel, sound, influence and innovation. He didn't stand out in anything, but he was the best of the punk drummers, only Travis Barker has truly come close.
His break-up with the band due to heroin addiction practically finished The Clash off, he was one of few irreplacable drummers.
A reuniting of the band nearly came around in 2002, but frontman Joe Strummer died. Topper today is clean of drugs, and plays in a local band.
51. Lars Ulrich (Metallica)
The hugely influential figure of Lars Ulrich has popularized double bass and the thrash style in commercial metal more-so than anybody, even Lombardo. Although criticized for being repetitive, and too commercialized for a metal drummer, Lars has built up his name, and huge popularity, every drummer knows who he is. His double bass lines in the song "One" which are followed by the emulation of the line on guitar has become one of drummings greatest and most inspirational moments. Should Lars have beaten Lombardo to success, and carried a larger range of chops/creativity, a top 20, placement would have been an almost certainty.
Recently however, his speaking out against against illegal downloading, and taking action seems to have lost him some fans, but at the same time gained others.
52. Alan White (Yes)
53. Nick Menza (Megadeth)
54. Phil Ehart (Kansas)
55. Steve Flynn (Atheist)
56. Mark Zonder (Fates Warning)
57. Scott Travis (Judas Priest, Racer X)
58. Roger Hawkins (Arethra Franklin, Session)
59. Jaki Liebezeit (CAN)
60. Thomas Pridgen (The Mars Volta)
61. Chad Wackerman (Frank Zappa & Mothers Of Invention)
62. Virgil Donati (Planet X)
63. Bobby Elliot (The Hollies)
64. Deen Castronovo (Session, Journey)
65. Mike Mangini (Extreme)
66. Richard Christy (Death, Iced Earth)
67. Clive Burr (Iron Maiden)
68. Martin Lopez (Opeth)
Lopez was born in Sweden and raised both there and in Venezuela. This explains the two styles of drumming he is most well-known for. The usual twin pedal-fueled death metal beats and his wonderful Latin-style groove. But what makes Lopez so special and worthy of a Top 50 spot in this list, is his undeniable ability to blend the two into a shockingly beautiful progressive death metal drum pattern that fits perfectly with the style of Opeth, the band for which he's most famous drumming for. His tasteful and technically solid playing has made him one of the most interesting death metal drummers out there. Another 'trademark' of his, is his frequent use of 6/8 time signature. Even though the beat is pretty simple, he never plays it in the same way, always managing to fill it up or back it up somehow or another, using the full potential of the kit he has at his disposal (something that can't be said about all drummers)
Sadly, due to panic attacks he suffered while touring and a rare blood disease he has, he left Opeth and hasn't been in a band since.
The song of which his drumming is probably the most well-known is Deliverance, a beautiful sample of his relentlessly heavy yet groovy drumming. Some other great performances of his are The Grand Conjuration, A Fair Judgement and Closure.
69. Damon Che (Don Caballero)
70. Tomas Haake (Meshuggah)
71. BJ Wilson (Procol Harum)
72. Jim Gordon (Derek & the Dominoes, Mothers Of Invention)
73. Brann Dailor (Mastodon)
74. Josh Freese (A Perfect Circle, Desert Sessions)
75. Nick Mason (Pink Floyd)
76. Gregg Bisonette (David Lee Roth, Session)
77. Ralph Humphrey (Frank Zappa & Mothers Of Invention)
78. Jojo Mayer (Nerve, Session)
79. Christian Vander (Magma)
80. Chester Thompson (Santana)
81. John Densmore (The Doors)
82. Steve Shelley (Sonic Youth)
83. Van Romaine (Steve Morse)
84. "Hellhammer" Jan Axel Blomberg (Mayhem, Arcturus)
85. John Weathers (Gentle Giant)
86. Pat Mastelotto (King Crimson)
87. Danny Seraphine (Chicago)
88. Phil Taylor (Motörhead)
89. Mick Fleetwood (Fleetwood Mac)
90. Clive Bunker (Jethro Tull)
91. Richard Allen (Funk Brothers)
92. Vinny Appice (Dio, Session)
93. John Starks (James Brown, Session)
94. Bryan Mantia (Primus, Bucket of Bernie Brains)
95. Todd Sucherman (Styx)
96. Dennis Thompson (MC5)
97. Igor Cavalera (Sepultura)
98. Stanton Moore (Galactic)
99. Robert Wyatt (Soft Machine)
100. Dave Grohl (Nirvana, Queens of the Stone Age, Tenacious D)
101. Scott Rockenfield (Queensryche)
102. John French (Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band)
103. Gar Samuelson (Megadeth)
104. Charlie Benante (Anthrax)
105. Phil Selway (Radiohead)
106. Zak Starkey (The Who, Oasis)
107. Paul Bostaph (Slayer)
108. Larry Mullen Jr. (U2)
109. Jay Lane (Colonel Claypool's Frog Brigade)
110. Travis Barker (Blink 182)
111. Ron Wilson (Surfaris)
112. Derek Roddy (Hate Eternal)
113. Charlie Watts (Rolling Stones)
114. Lee Kerslake (Uriah Heep)
115. Ron Bushy (Iron Butterfly)
116. Jose Pasillas (Incubus)
117. Mickey Hart (Grateful Dead)
118. Jon Hiseman (Colosseum)
119. Bill Kreutzmann (Grateful Dead)
120. Flo Mounier (Cryptopsy)
121. Pete Sandoval (Morbid Angel)
122. Jason Rullo (Symphony X)
123. Pierre Moerlen (Gong)
124. Sean Kinney (Alice in Chains)
125. Pierre van der Linden (Focus)
126. Mike Bordin (Faith No More, Ozzy Osbourne)
127. Tommy Lee (Mötley Crüe)
128. Taylor Hawkins (Foo Fighters)
129. Jürgen Reil (Kreator)
130. Dominic Howard (Muse)
131. Jack Irons (Pearl Jam, Red Hot Chili Peppers)
132. Chris Frantz (Talking Heads)
133. Jason Bonham (UFO)
134. Maureen Tucker (The Velvet Underground)
135. Chad Smith (Red Hot Chili Peppers)
136. Dave Abbruzesse (Pearl Jam)
137. George Hurley (Minutemen)
138. Sandy Nelson (Session)
139. DH Peligro (Dead Kennedys)
140. John Wright (NoMeansNo)
141. Scott Asheton (The Stooges)
142. Mick Woodmansey (David Bowie)
143. Greg Errico (Sly and the Family Stone)
144. George Kollias (Nile)
145. Jeff Campitelli (Joe Satriani)
146. Barriemore Barlow (Jethro Tull)
147. Sib Hashian (Boston)
148. Jon Fishman (Phish)
149. Butch Trucks (Allman Brothers Band)
150. Clyde Stubblefield (James Brown)