The Junior Drummer Kit: Notable Drummers

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Warren "Baby" Dodds was born December 24, 1898, New Orleans, La., U.S. He combined his knowledge of military rudiments and his influences from his African ancestry to establish the roots of swing drumming. Mr. Dodds began his career as a parade drummer. He went on to record with Jelly Roll Morton's Red Hot Chilis, 'King' Oliver's Creole Jazz Band, Louis Armstrong, and Bunk Johnson, among others. He is noted as the first drummer to use a jazz 'swing' pattern on the ride cymbal. He died February 14, 1959, Chicago, Ill. Learn more about Baby Dodds:

Gene Krupa was born on January 15, 1909, in Chicago, Illinois. Behind his driving drum style and a dynamic sense of showmanship was a very serious and self-disciplined musician. He played the first known recording of the bass drum in jazz music with Mckenzie's and Condon's Chicagoans (1927). After moving to New York in 1934 he worked in a pit band and then went on to tour and record with many Big Bands including Benny Goodman (Sing, Sing, Sing), Tommy Dorsey and his own Big Band. He died October 16, 1973 in Yonkers, New York. Mr. Krupa was known as "The Chicago Flash"--the most charismatic and innovative drum legend of the Swing Era. Learn more about Gene Krupa:

Buddy Rich has been called the best jazz drummer of all time. He was born in 1917 and was playing drums by the time he was 18 months old. He toured with his vaudeville parents when he was 3 years old starring in his own solo stage act "Traps the Drum Wonder". His jazz career began in 1937 when he began playing with Joe Marsala. By 1939, he had joined Tommy Dorsey's band. Mr. Rich later went on to play with Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Ventura, Louis Armstrong and Harry James. He rejuvenated Big Band music when he formed the Buddy Rich Big Band in 1966. He played with this band until his death in 1987. He received many awards for his exceptional drumming talent, was a regular on talk shows, and appeared in several movies. Learn more about Buddy Rich: The Official Web Site of Buddy Rich and

Max Roach (January 10, 1924 – August 16, 2007) is generally considered one of the most important drummers in history. He worked with many of the greatest jazz musicians, including Coleman Hawkins, Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, Duke Ellington, Charles Mingus, Sonny Rollins and Clifford Brown. As a young man, Mr. Roach, a percussion virtuoso capable of playing at the most brutal tempos with subtlety as well as power, was among a small circle of adventurous musicians who brought about wholesale changes in jazz. He was also known for making numerous musical statements relating to the civil rights movement of African-Americans. Learn more about Max Roach:

D.J. Fontana As the longtime drummer behind Elvis Presley, D.J. Fontana was a seminal force in the development of rock & roll, joining guitarist Scotty Moore and bassist Bill Black in the supporting cast of some of the most enduring and influential records ever created. Bridging the gap between the swing of the big band drummers and the raw power of their British Invasion counterparts, Fontana was explosive yet efficient, establishing the rhythmic foundation upon which successive generations of popular music is built. No less an authority than the Band's Levon Helm once stated "Elvis and Scotty and Bill were making good music, but it wasn't rock & roll until D.J. put the backbeat into it." Learn more about DJ Fontana:

Earl Palmer was born into a showbusiness family in New Orleans and raised in the Tremé district. He began his career at age five as a tap dancer. Earl Palmer was the first-call drummer on the New Orleans R&B recording scene from 1950 to 1957. Talk about a supreme recommendation -- in a city renowned for its second-line rhythms and syncopated grooves, Palmer was the man, playing on countless sessions by all the immortals: Little Richard, Fats Domino, Smiley Lewis, Dave Bartholomew, and too many more to list here. Read more about Earl Palmer:

Sandy Nelson was the biggest — and one of the few — star drummers in the late 1950s and early 1960s era in which instrumental rock was at its peak. He landed two Top Ten hits, "Teen Beat" (1959) and "Let There Be Drums" (1961), which surrounded his Gene Krupa-inspired solos with cool, mean guitar licks that were forerunners of the surf sound. Nelson had only one other Top Forty hit, "Drums Are My Beat" (1962). He ground out a quick series of instrumental albums in the early 1960s — eight within 18 months, as a matter of fact — with several other top Hollywood rock and pop session musicians. His principal importance is that he found a place for drum rock solos in hit instrumental singles, and the more reckless elements of his style no doubt influenced other musicians, such as surf drummers and, later, Keith Moon. Read more about Sandy Nelson:

Hal Blaine may be one of the most heard drummers of all time. He was considered the busiest recording session drummer in Los Angeles in the 1960s and 1970s, playing the drums on — by his count — tens of thousands of recordings; from Elvis Presley, as well as Phil Spector's Wall of Sound productions, to Frank Sinatra and Brian Wilson's productions of the Beach Boys. In 2000, he was inducted into the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame and in 2007 was inducted in to the Musicians Hall of Fame. Learn more about Hal Blaine from his website:, his book published in 1990: Hal Blaine and the Wrecking Crew, and check out the award-winning, soon-to-be-released film, The Wrecking Crew.

Ringo Starr, born Richard Starkey, was the drummer in the band the Beatles from 1962 to 1970 and thus one of the most famous musicians of the '60s. Though the least prominent member of the quartet, he distinguished himself as an occasional singer of good-natured material and as an actor. Upon the group's split, Starr went solo with two projects: the first, an album called Sentimental Journey, found him covering pre-rock standards, and the second, Beaucoups of Blues, was a country music collection. He then scored Top Ten hits with two non-album singles in 1972. Ringo Starr continues to tour with his "All-Starr Band." Check here for his schedule:

Sheila E (Escovedo) was born into a musical family. She started playing with the family instruments at the age of 3. At 5 years old, she made her concert "debut" at the former Sands Ballroom in Oakland, as she was invited on stage by her father (Bandleader of Azteca) to play a solo in front of an audience of 3,000. At that moment, Sheila knew exactly what she wanted to do: she was going to be a percussionist. By the time she was in her early twenties she had accompanied the likes of George Duke, Lionel Richie, Marvin Gaye, Herbie Hancock, and Diana Ross. She is known for her work with Phil Collins, Prince, Ringo Starr, Beyoncé, and many more. Learn more about Sheila E here: and her music foundation: Elevate Hope Foundation


More information about most of these drummers can be found at A highlighted name indicates that this drummer maintains an independent website. Other important drummers include:

Charlie Adams
Carmine Appice
Kenny Aronoff
Louie Bellson
Art Blakey
John Bonham
Mickey Hart

Richie Hayward
Levon Helm
Elvin Jones
Papa Jo Jones
Jim Keltner
Abe Laboriel, Jr.
Paul Leim

Mitch Mitchell
Danny Seraphine
Chad Smith
Steve Smith
Charlie Watts
Chick Webb



Check out our Recommended Drum Books page for additional informative resources about drummers.





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