My Drum Heroes

Carl diggin' in!

Thou shalt not play your drums in vain!

What’s the question every drummer hears at one time or another? – Who IS your FAVORITE drummer?

Well I’m sorry to disappoint you, but I don’t have one. There are, however, many players who have influenced me through the years. And I think this is a great time to give a thoughtful list of my drum heroes. I also hope you find this helpful as a reference of players you should listen to as a means to expand your musical horizons.

My first drum inspirations were not drum soloists. Although through the years the greats such as Gene Krupa, Buddy Rich, and Louie Bellson would be added to my list of drum heroes. It seems that I was more influenced by songs than individual musicians. Although it was the drums in those songs that always seemed to draw me.

I still remember my father reaching around to the back seat of the car to stop my pounding out the beat of “Pretty Woman.” The groove blasted from the little speaker hanging on the window at the “drive-in” theatre. Even today my wife, Leann, has to stop me from tapping out rhythms to the music at restaurants or in the car. I guess some things never change. “I got the music in me,,, I got the music in me,,, YEA!”

Anyway, the meshing of drum grooves with great melodies, guitar riffs, piano vamps, and of course, great bass patterns, always inspires me. It was the drums as part of great songs that made me want to play. And so it is today. I’m drawn to great songwriting and arrangements more than drum solos. Although there are a lot of drum records in my collection now.

So who were those early “ear grabbers.” Well on the recording of “Pretty Woman” was Buddy Harmon who has played on thousands of great recordings. There’s also Hal Blaine who was part of “The Wrecking Crew” in L.A. A nickname they were given by the “legit” musicians of the day because it was said these young studio musicians would wreck the music business.  His credits also list in the thousands. I use to sit down and play along with tons of records (*yes, vinyl) that Hal recorded. “Classical Gas”, “Close To You”, “Galveston”; I know they’re just pop hits, but that’s what I grew up on. There’s also Jim Keltner, John Guerin, John J.R. Robinson, Russ Kunkel, and,,, OH,, I know I’ll forget some because the list is huge!

Oooo,,, YES!,,, Jeff Porcaro definitely ranks up there as a favorite. I would buy recordings just because I’d see his name in the credits. All of those great Toto records, Boz Skaggs, Steely Dan, and many more fantastic performances.  It was a sad day when he passed away. I still remember it. It was also the same year we lost another great drummer; Larrie London. I was sad for days when they died. And I didn’t even know them in person.  Just their influence and inspiration made me feel like I was part of the great family of drummers.

Manu Katche, Steve Smith, Greg Bissonette, Phil Collins, Ricky Lawson, and the list goes on and on and on. Oh, wait,,, I can’t forget,,, OH MY GOSH!!… Vinnie Colaiuta, Steve Gadd, and Dave Weckl…  Pause!!! .. You can’t see me,, but I’m shaking my head in amazement!!  These guys are unbelievable!!   Oh yea!!! I want to go put on a CD now just to listen to them.

Crash! Slam!!… Bah da Boom!!!!!!!

The point I’m trying to make here is that you should be influenced by many artists. Don’t fall into the trap of listening to only one player or style. I’ve seen drummers so obsessed with one type of player that they are limited in their ability to play in different settings… which is an absolute “must” for a musician today. Besides your Rock and Pop records there should be other things in your collection. Listen to the jazz greats like Elvin Jones, Tony Williams, Max Roach, and Roy Haynes. Latin icons like Tito Puente or Alex Acuna. Check out some country music with Eddie Bayers, James Stroud, or Paul Leim. Paul can also be heard on tons of pop hits as well as some of your favorite Christian recordings.

The great drummers you hear on Christian music is an extensive list of its own. Steve Brewster, Scott Williamson, Mark Hammond, Dan Needham, and John Hammond are just a few of the players that have laid the foundation to the music that you are probably most familiar. When I first got saved in college my first Christian record was Keith Green’s “For Him Who Has Ears to Hear.” Bill Maxwell was the drummer on all of Keith’s records as well as many Andre Crouch albums. He became my first mentor of drumming for Jesus. Then there was Alex Acuna, Bob Wilson, and Keith Edwards and the others I’ve mentioned. It’s been an honor through the years to work with some of my drum heroes. The main thing I’ve noticed is not only were they gifted players but also humble people. I believe that many talented people know that their skill is a divine gift.

There are so many great drummers. To pick a favorite would be impossible… well, at least for me. Through the years I realize my list just keeps getting bigger and so should yours.

So go out and add some stuff to your collection that will expand your musical horizons. A good way to start is to buy a greatest hits CD of a certain artist or era. You know, one of those “K-tel presents” series or a Rhino Records compilation. I recently purchased one of Stevie Wonders Greatest Hits collections. Not every song was exciting for me, but it was a great study in the development of his talent. That’s what it’s all about. Learning and growing. Being faithful to the talent the Lord has placed in you.

Also check out Modern Drummer Magazine or and see what’s going on in the drum community. It’s the best reference I’ve seen for what drummers need to know and learn. You can also buy videos or DVD’s of so many great players. They share their skill and insight in a lesson format rather than just watching them in concert. Although that can be very educational as well. Again the main idea is to keep expanding your musical vocabulary.

UPDATE: Recently I’ve really been “woodshedding” some classic Steve Gadd stuff… especially his use of triplets – the “Aja” solos still amaze me… I play my version of it, BUT I’ve been making myself study a transcription to get it as close to his performance … What are you learning to challenge & push your limits?? — Here’s a Gadd example (there are tons)… the intro is long – start viewing at :38- ENJOY


Listen & Learn,




Groove is Everything:
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About Carl

Carl has been a professional drummer & percussionist for over 30 years. He has played on over 80 Integrity Music projects; Maranatha Praise Band recordings 7 thru 10, & numerous other Christian, Pop, Country, Jazz, & Commercial projects.


  1. MIke Shepherd says

    Hey guy,

    I didn’t think you were old enough to know about Krupa, Bellson and Rich. Actually I got to see Bellson and Rich at a band contest in Enid Ok. Louie let me play around on his double bass set for awhile. Needless to say, they were very quick handed boys.. Buddy would play the single stroke roll as fast as anyone then pull one hand out of the process.

    blessings to you and Leann
    Mike and Linda Shepherd
    Blackwell, Ok.

  2. Country music??? Did you say listen to Country Music??? 🙂 Being the same “relative” age as you, i also find your list at the center of my biggest influences also. Keep up the great work. Love the communication to the Christian Musician folks. I’m wondering if some day I’ll look weird drumming for worship services in my 90’s…

  3. Hey Carl,
    Being born in 59 and drumming from the hi-chair as my mom always said I too give the same answer when people ask me who my fav drummers are. I listened to everything and from the old vinyls my parents played, watching Hee-Haw every weekend, having a brother 8 year older listening to the 60″s, 70’s in my teens I was exposed by then to just about every genre of music. And it served me well back in the day when I played gigs with bands locally, for weddings, polish and portugese clubs, and other dance halls the band leader turns around and says next one is a waltz or a rumba, swing, whatever. Of course I love to rock out and I practiced to Tower of Power, Average white band, Chaka Kwan and others. It was about the the groove.
    What you’re saying is the very thing I tell my students. Not to just focus on what band is their flavor of the month but go back and play to the oldies. They are classics for a reason and have stood the test of time. Saw Buddy Rich on my 16th birthday, then Ed Shaunessy and Hal Blaine grew up five miles from me so I studied him and many others. His veristility was amazing.

    Great article

    Blessings to you,

  4. Ronald Lindsay says

    must agree with the sentiment of listening to many various people and styles – this goes for all musicians – I’m a guitarist and have continually encouraged any musician who ask to listen to as many players and styles as they can – even getting into trouble once for telling a young guitarist to ‘borrow’ some of his dad’s music collection to play along with as it was styles that he’d never think of buying himself – if did this without asking first and his dad thought they’d been robbed as his entire cd collection disappeared one day – though it’s made a massive difference in his playing

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