HAL BLAINE: Hall of Fame Session Drummer Dies

Hal Blaine, the drummer on dozens of hit records that came out of L.A. in the 1960s and '70s, has died at age 90.

Blaine, who was born Harold Belsky, played on nearly 40 number-one records and had an incredible streak between 1966 and '71 during which he was oneveryGrammyRecord of the Year. He is closely associated with the loose group of L.A. session musicians known as The Wrecking Crew and was among the first group of sidemen inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2000. Blaine was named to the Grammy Hall of Fame last year. 

Blaine's ability to supply the right feel for a wide range of musical styles enabled him to play on records by traditional pop singers like Frank SinatraDean Martin and Barbra Streisand, do mammoth Phil Spector sessions for girl groups like The Ronettes and The Crystals, accompany pop-soul groups The Supremes andT he Fifth Dimension,underpin The Beach Boys,Mamas and the Papas and The Byrds and accompany soft rock from Simon and Garfunkel andT he Carpenters.

Blaine died today (Monday). His family wrote in a statement: “May he rest forever on 2 and 4. The family appreciates your outpouring of support and prayers that have been extended to Hal from around the world, and respectfully request privacy in this time of great mourning. No further details will be released at this time.”

Variety quotes an article in Modern Drummer that estimates that Blaine played on over 35,000 recordings, about 6,000 of them singles.

Hal Blaine talks about making records with The Beach Boys, Righteous Brothers, Sonny and Cher, Nancy and Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley:

"You know, in those days, we made records that felt good. That was the whole thing. Today, with electronics, you know, they set a button and that's the tempo and it never varies and that's it. The word rhythm -- the definition is to flow -- and that does not mean a straight, absolute perfect, robotic... which kind of, records are today. The key word in those days was 'feel.' Make you feel good. If a song felt good, if it was a good song, it had a great chance of getting airplay and becoming a hit, because it felt good."

Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Hal Blaine played drums on almost every session Phil Spector produced during the '60s:

"I never saw any drugs around the Phil Spector sessions. Everybody was drinking cokes. Phil used to have Manischewitz wine. He just liked his Manischewitz wine and that's what he drank. I heard all the talk about the guns and the craziness and the lunacy. And I was just about every session. I wasn't there when it was over, when I went home. I don't know what went on in that studio -- it could have been anything. I mean, I was in the studio the next day, I didn't see any bullet holes anywhere. People are talking about all this kind of stuff. I mean, it was crazy."

When Hal Blaine played on The Byrds' "Mr. Tambourine Man," he met resistance from the band's drummer, Michael Clark:

"The Byrds, when I did 'Tambourine Man,' that was the only drummer that was ever that upset. He wanted to do the record. I don't blame the guy. He was their drummer. And he did the rest of their... he did their other records. But 'Tambourine Man' or whatever that album, that first album that we did, they had to have me do it. Chris Hillman and that whole outfit, David Crosby... and they're thrilled. I saw Chris Hillman recently and he said, 'Hal, you realize if you hadn't played on that record, I'd probably be selling shoes today.'"

Here's a list of the number-ones he played on:

  • "Johnny Angel" –Shelley Fabares
  • "He's a Rebel" –Crystals
  • "Surf City" –Jan & Dean
  • "I Get Around" –Beach Boys
  • "Everybody Loves Somebody" –Dean Martin
  • "Ringo" –Lorne Greene
  • "This Diamond Ring" –Gary Lewis and the Playboys
  • "Help Me, Rhonda" –Beach Boys
  • "Mr Tambourine Man" –Byrds
  • "Eve of Destruction" –Barry McGuire
  • "My Love" –Petula Clark
  • "These Boots Are Made for Walkin'" –Nancy Sinatra
  • "Monday Monday" –Mamas & the Papas
  • "Strangers in the Night" –Frank Sinatra
  • "Poor Side of Town" –Johnny Rivers
  • "Good Vibrations" –Beach Boys
  • "Somethin' Stupid" –Frank and Nancy Sinatra
  • "The Happening" –Supremes
  • "Windy" –Association
  • "Mrs. Robinson" –Simon and Garfunkel
  • "Dizzy" –Tommy Roe
  • "Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In" –5th Dimension
  • "Love Theme FromRomeo and Juliet" –Henry Mancini
  • "Wedding Bell Blues" –5th Dimension
  • "Bridge Over Troubled Water" –Simon and Garfunkel
  • "(They Long to Be) Close to You" –Carpenters
  • "Cracklin' Rosie" –Neil Diamond
  • "I Think I Love You" –Partridge Family
  • "Indian Reservation" –Raiders
  • "Song Sung Blue" –Neil Diamond
  • "Half Breed" –Cher
  • "Annie's Song" –John Denver
  • "Top of the World" –Carpenters
  • "The Way We Were" –Barbra Streisand
  • "Thank God I'm a Country Boy" –John Denver
  • "Love Will Keep Us Together" –Captain and Tennille
  • "I'm Sorry"/"Calypso" –John Denver
  • "Theme FromMahogany(Do You Know Where You're Going To)" –Diana Ross

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