Under Rated or Fairly Unknown Drummers

trickg

Silver Member
There's another thread on here that has kind of devolved into the subject of what constitutes "good" drumming, and that immature drummers tend to screw things up by over-playing, adding unnecessary fills, and that kind of thing. Out of that discussion, one of the names that popped up as a drummer who played great time without adding a bunch of superfluous nonsense is Roger Hawkins.

Roger who? I'd go out on a limb and say that many people have no idea who he is or what he drummed on, but he is, IMO, one of the great unsung drummers of the 20th Century. He was part of the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, known as the Swampers, and played on such hits as:

Old Time Rock & Roll - Bob Seger
I'll Take You There - The Staples Singers
Chain of Fools - Aretha Franklin
Respect - Aretha Franklin
Land of 1000 Dances - Wilson Pickett
When a Man Loves a Woman - Percy Sledge

This is of course not by far an inclusive list, but it illustrates that Roger Hawkins is one of those drummers who isn't well known, even though his session catalog is well known.

There are a lot of other less-known drummers out there too - Hal Blaine is probably one of the most obvious ones most of us know, but who isn't really known of outside of musician's circles.

Who are some other drummers who come to mind - guys like country legend Lonnie Wilson, John "JR" Robinson, or Russ Kunkle - guys who have worked with just about everyone. List some of your favorite unsung drummers and some of what they've played on. I'd love to dig in to some more of that.
 

Dr_Watso

Platinum Member
I think we should just talk more about how insanely over-rated Ringo and Bonham are. Followed by some spirited big kit versus small kit debate and finish up with some chops versus groove discussion.
 

eddypierce

Senior Member
There's another thread on here that has kind of devolved into the subject of what constitutes "good" drumming, and that immature drummers tend to screw things up by over-playing, adding unnecessary fills, and that kind of thing. Out of that discussion, one of the names that popped up as a drummer who played great time without adding a bunch of superfluous nonsense is Roger Hawkins.

Roger who? I'd go out on a limb and say that many people have no idea who he is or what he drummed on, but he is, IMO, one of the great unsung drummers of the 20th Century. He was part of the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, known as the Swampers, and played on such hits as:

Old Time Rock & Roll - Bob Seger
I'll Take You There - The Staples Singers
Chain of Fools - Aretha Franklin
Respect - Aretha Franklin
Land of 1000 Dances - Wilson Pickett
When a Man Loves a Woman - Percy Sledge

This is of course not by far an inclusive list, but it illustrates that Roger Hawkins is one of those drummers who isn't well known, even though his session catalog is well known.
Yeah, Roger Hawkins is wonderful. In addition to the tunes you listed, I especially like the stuff he did with Paul Simon, e.g., "Kodachrome," "Take Me to the Mardi Gras," and "Still Crazy After all These Years."

Speaking of Paul Simon, another lesser known drummer who is amazing is Winston Grennan--he played the amazing drum track on "Mother and Child Reunion." I don't know that much about him, but from what I've read he was one of the main innovators of reggae drumming. I think he played a ton of sessions on tracks coming out of Jamaica in the 60's and 70's, but (like so many other session musicians of that era) he doesn't get a lot of credit on album covers for the tunes he played on.

I don't know how underrated Al Jackson, Jr. is, but I'll mention him here because he's my favorite. He's on almost everything by Otis Redding and Sam and Dave, as well as great tunes by Wilson Pickett ("Midnight Hour"), Aretha Franklin ("Oh Me Oh My"), Albert King ("Born Under a Bad Sign"), Bill Withers ("Ain't No Sunshine"), Eddie Floyd ("Knock on Wood"), and Donny Hathaway "Giving Up").
 
I'll toss a few out: Larry Mullen Jr and Bill Berry. Drummers in two of the biggest bands of the 80s/90s, so not exactly toiling in obscurity, but I don't think either gets (these days) the props they deserve.

Neither were ever monster technicians but both were inventive, had great feel, and were extremely reliable—in fact, according to Brian Eno, Mullen's sense of time was almost supernatural. Most of all, both drummers played to the song brilliantly. I don't think I've ever heard either guy play something I couldn't play but I've heard each guy play stuff that really hit me as absolutely perfect for the song in question and, in the case of Mullen, at least, came up with a part that I never would have thought of.
 

trickg

Silver Member
Good stuff! I've now got some solid stuff to listen to and dig into.

I think we should just talk more about how insanely over-rated Ringo and Bonham are. Followed by some spirited big kit versus small kit debate and finish up with some chops versus groove discussion.
You may be right - it may yet devolve, especially into a "big kit vs. small kit" debate because a lot of these session guys didn't use big kits, or if they had them, they kept things pretty simple.

I got to hear Danny Seraphine and his band CTA at the Modern Drummer festival about 10 years ago. I thought he was really solid - not only did he play great time with a great feel, but he could mix it up without sounding like he was over-playing. IIRC, they opened up with an instrumental version of "Make Me Smile" and he just slayed the whole song. It was pretty cool.
 

Bo Eder

Platinum Member
There's another thread on here that has kind of devolved into the subject of what constitutes "good" drumming, and that immature drummers tend to screw things up by over-playing, adding unnecessary fills, and that kind of thing. Out of that discussion, one of the names that popped up as a drummer who played great time without adding a bunch of superfluous nonsense is Roger Hawkins.

Roger who? I'd go out on a limb and say that many people have no idea who he is or what he drummed on, but he is, IMO, one of the great unsung drummers of the 20th Century. He was part of the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, known as the Swampers, and played on such hits as:

Old Time Rock & Roll - Bob Seger
I'll Take You There - The Staples Singers
Chain of Fools - Aretha Franklin
Respect - Aretha Franklin
Land of 1000 Dances - Wilson Pickett
When a Man Loves a Woman - Percy Sledge

This is of course not by far an inclusive list, but it illustrates that Roger Hawkins is one of those drummers who isn't well known, even though his session catalog is well known.

There are a lot of other less-known drummers out there too - Hal Blaine is probably one of the most obvious ones most of us know, but who isn't really known of outside of musician's circles.

Who are some other drummers who come to mind - guys like country legend Lonnie Wilson, John "JR" Robinson, or Russ Kunkle - guys who have worked with just about everyone. List some of your favorite unsung drummers and some of what they've played on. I'd love to dig in to some more of that.
I get this. OTOH I thought you were gonna talk about drummers nobody knew at all. Because on the one hand, yes, you can be underrated, but they were already rewarded with getting to play on hit songs. So industry people know who they are, but the average radio listener has no clue.
 

opentune

Platinum Member
Hmmm.. 'unknown' to who though is difficult to judge For example, I would have thought Roger Hawkins was a household name on this site...a collection of drummers who pass around names all the time.....Kinda like James Gadson, Gary Malaber. These folks are on many records people know but only drummers know who they are, because they caught on to or tried to cop their beats and licks.

"Under-rated" to me seems a little more tangible. One can really go down a rabbit-hole here. I'd say Mick Fleetwood, Roger Pope, Nigel Olsson....all under-rated (and English!). Sound simple but they are not.
Clive Bunker (Tull), Topper Headon (Clash), Jerry Shirley (Humble Pie).
Allan Schwartzberg...look him up.....originator of the disco beat but few know his name (I think) and he is on tons of well known 70's records.
 

trickg

Silver Member
I get this. OTOH I thought you were gonna talk about drummers nobody knew at all. Because on the one hand, yes, you can be underrated, but they were already rewarded with getting to play on hit songs. So industry people know who they are, but the average radio listener has no clue.
I'll give you one almost no one knows, but he's one of the best drummers I know or that I've worked with, and that's a friend of mine named Cliff Darrow, who played in a Reggae Rock band called Colouring Lesson.

Cliff's time is literally metronomic, yet he doesn't come across as sterile or mechanical. On recordings, he's unbelievably consistent. I've heard stories about him where in the studio they'll cut the click in his headphones, but leave it going in the control room, and he literally never comes off of it.

Unfortunately the band has been defunct for a good bit now, and this is the only studio recording of them I could find on Youtube.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_mFuwz2yzwo
 

williamsbclontz

Silver Member
Sandy McKee of cold blood was a really amazing drummer that doesn't get a lot of recognition anymore, my uncle told me about him and I've ever only heard his name one other time in a steve Jordan interview. Some of the fastest and cleanest fills I've ever heard
 

gf2564

Junior Member
Good stuff! I've now got some solid stuff to listen to and dig into.


You may be right - it may yet devolve, especially into a "big kit vs. small kit" debate because a lot of these session guys didn't use big kits, or if they had them, they kept things pretty simple.

I got to hear Danny Seraphine and his band CTA at the Modern Drummer festival about 10 years ago. I thought he was really solid - not only did he play great time with a great feel, but he could mix it up without sounding like he was over-playing. IIRC, they opened up with an instrumental version of "Make Me Smile" and he just slayed the whole song. It was pretty cool.
Danny has always been one of my all time favorites for sure. I saw CTA for the third or fourth time a few months ago outside of Orlando. His band is tighter than ever and even had his former Chicago band mate Bill Champlin on keys, vocals and some guitar! Danny had a tendency to "overplay" by many people's standards perhaps but the early Chicago tunes allowed for that and it really enhanced the music; not so much when the sappy love ballads became their norm. Since he came back to playing around 11-12 years ago, he has seemed to focus more on the groove. Even at 70 he is still a great talent!
 
I have two contributions from the UK.

The first is Ralph Salmins. Amazing drummer in both the worlds of jazz and pop. A lot of emotion in his playing and a groove to die for. Wonderful drummer and person (I've been lucky enough to have him as my drum teacher the last few years). Here's him playing with The Waterboys, it's brilliant stuff: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ff9OX1letxU

And the second is The 1975's George Daniel. What an absolute monster, I really do consider him to be one of the best pop/rock drummers ever. Endless creativity, groove and taste in his playing. I love the way he uses chops but only exactly the amount the music needs. Also his use of electronics and sampling is exceptional too. Just check out pretty much anything from this live show to see what I mean: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5kiY87XLahk
 

lefty2

Platinum Member
Roger Earls of Foghat was on my radar for many yrs. I've always thought that his drumming fit the music perfectly. I have a 90 min. cassette tape of nothing but Foghat that I played along to for many yrs. also. I think I have 8 albums of theirs. One of the things that impressed me about my wife when I met her in 77 was that she had a Fool For The City eight track and she was old enough to buy beer. 18 back then.
 

Bo Eder

Platinum Member
Hmmm.. 'unknown' to who though is difficult to judge For example, I would have thought Roger Hawkins was a household name on this site...a collection of drummers who pass around names all the time.....Kinda like James Gadson, Gary Malaber. These folks are on many records people know but only drummers know who they are, because they caught on to or tried to cop their beats and licks.

"Under-rated" to me seems a little more tangible. One can really go down a rabbit-hole here. I'd say Mick Fleetwood, Roger Pope, Nigel Olsson....all under-rated (and English!). Sound simple but they are not.
Clive Bunker (Tull), Topper Headon (Clash), Jerry Shirley (Humble Pie).
Allan Schwartzberg...look him up.....originator of the disco beat but few know his name (I think) and he is on tons of well known 70's records.
Allan Schwarzburg was a huge deal throughout the 80s. That man has done alot of stuff.

I think drummers especially should know who's out there, and if you know about them, then they aren't overrated or overlooked. There's ALOT of players out there. If you're hearing anybody's name, it's because they were able to get out in front. Like people should know Larry Bunker, Joe Porcaro, Emil Richards, Jim Gordon, Earl Palmer.....it's ironic to see that in Los Angeles, there's only maybe SIX percussionists that do everything. I suppose NYC is the same way. There's a reason their names always pop-up. Whether or not they're underrated is a different discussion.
 

JustJames

Platinum Member
Pick Withers, who played on Dire Straits albums up to (and including) Love Over Gold.

I'd always known that Pick Withers was a bit of a special drummer, but until I started playing the drums myself, I didn't realise just how good he was, and how much special sauce he brought to the Dire Straits sound.
 

trickg

Silver Member
FWIW, I think that Josh Freese is amazing too. I got hooked into him on Chris Daughtry's breakout album. (Phil Xenidis - AKA Phil X too - he did all the guitar work on that record, except for Slash's solo, obviously)
 
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