Beat goes on for drummer Hal Blaine

At one time, Blaine was the most famous studio drummer working in the music business. Now a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Blaine played on numerous number one hits by Frank Sinatra and The Carpenters.

Who was the most famous and relied upon musician in the music business in the '60s and '70s? Without a doubt, drummer and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee Hal Blaine is the man.

The Palm Desert resident was once the ringleader of a group of top level session musicians called "The Wrecking Crew" and they were the ones who played on many of the hit singles and albums, not the groups themselves.

"Studio time was very expensive, so producers relied on guys like us who could get it right in one take," said Blaine, who is now retired but still very active in his Palm Desert-based life, away from the glow of Hollywood.

"I had the busiest show business career of any top actor. I would often do six or seven recording sessions in one day. I love that now here (in Palm Desert) I can take it a lot easier and actually listen to a lot of the records I made," Blaine said.

Blaine and his drums were heard on tons of hit and often Number One records such as: "These Boots Are Made For Walking" by Nancy Sinatra, "Up, Up, and Away" and "Aquarius (Let The Sun Shine In") by the Fifth Dimension, "Bridge Over Troubled Water" by Simon and Garfunkel, (They Long To Be) "Close To You" by The Carpenters, and many of the Phil Spector produced hits like "Da Doo Ron Ron" by the Crystals and "Be My Baby" by the Ronettes.

"I was so busy working back then (in the '60s and '70s) that I rarely had time to listen to the music I made, except maybe on the car radio on the way to the recording studio, which really was my home life," he said.

Now, Blaine enjoys a more casual, relaxing existence in the desert going to restaurants like and Las Casuelas for dinner. He participates in occasional drum clinics where he is in demand around the world.

"I love teaching the young kids coming up the tricks of the trade," Blaine said. "I think learning to play real drums and not relying on computerized drum beats is what will keep the music alive. You know the beat of a song is everything."

Blaine was born Harold Belsky in Holyoke, Mass. in 1929, and by the 1950s he was a working musician and got his big break playing on Elvis Presley's "Can't Help Falling In Love With You," Blaine's first of many No. 1 hits.

"When the demand for rock music exploded at the very start of the '60s, record companies had to churn out tons of music with a big beat and a tight sound," Blaine said. "Many of the popular groups of the day, like The Byrds, The Mamas and Papas and Beach Boys did not perform the music on their own records.

"We were the musicians behind them. The groups could perform on their live gigs, but on record, buyers expected much more precision performances, which we could deliver."

Blaine and group of co-horts were known as "The Wrecking Crew" in the 1960s as "we were thought to be wrecking the music business by playing on so many of the group's hit records instead of the actual members," he said.

Producers like Phil Spector came to rely heavily on Blaine's beat for creating the 'hooks' of their records, like Blaine's famous "boom cha boom, boom cha boom" beat on The Ronettes classic 1963 record, "Be My Baby."

Blaine points out that Palm Desert has become "a playground for a lot of young people today "not just the oldsters."

"I love my life here. It keeps me healthy."

Visit Hal Blaine's web site at HalBlaine.com and see a discography of the amazing amount of records he played on there.

John August 07, 2011 at 05:48 PM
Hal is classic, played with The Beatles also. Great article on the worlds greatest drummer.
herb pedersen August 07, 2011 at 09:48 PM
I worked with Hal for many years in the studio and on the road. He's the most professional musician I learned from, in many ways. His humor? He'll kill ya!
B. Urbina August 09, 2011 at 08:23 PM
It's amazing what Hal Blaine did day in and day out in the '60s and '70s. What incredible musical history he's been a part of! So glad to know he shares it with younger musicians.


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