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  • Born

    5 February 1929 (age 90)

  • Born In

    Holyoke, Hampden County, Massachusetts, United States

Hal Blaine (Harold Simon Belsky, Holyoke, Massachusetts, U.S., February 5, 1929 - March 11, 2019) was an American drummer and session musician. He is widely regarded as one of the most prolific drummers in rock and roll history, having "certainly played on more hit records than any drummer in the rock era". He is most known for his work with the Wrecking Crew in California. Blaine played on numerous hits by popular groups, including Nancy Sinatra, Jan and Dean, Elvis Presley, John Denver, the Ronettes, Simon & Garfunkel, Carpenters, the Beach Boys, the Grass Roots, the 5th Dimension, the Monkees, the Partridge Family, and Steely Dan. He has played on 40 number one hit singles, 150 top ten hits and has performed on, by his own accounting, over 35,000 recorded tracks. He is widely regarded as one of the most prolific drummers in rock and roll history, having "certainly played on more hit records than any drummer in the rock era". Blaine is a member of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum, and the Percussive Arts Society Hall of Fame. He was inducted into the Modern Drummer Hall of Fame in 2010.

Blaine was born to Jewish Eastern European immigrants, Meyer and Rose Belsky, in Holyoke, Massachusetts.
He moved with his family to California in 1943. The following year, aged 15, Blaine survived the Hartford circus fire - one of the worst disasters in American history. In the 1940s, Blaine learned drums from Roy Knapp, who had also taught jazz drummer Gene Krupa. He played as part of Count Basie's big band and toured with Patti Page and Tommy Sands before taking up session work. Unlike many of his jazz contemporaries, Blaine enjoyed playing rock 'n' roll and this meant he played on numerous such sessions during the 1950s. He was a key member of The Wrecking Crew, the close-knit group of Los Angeles session musicians that played on hit records during the 1960s.

"Hal Blaine Strikes Again" is a rubber stamp used by Blaine to mark music scores and places where he has played. Drummer and author Max Weinberg, in his introduction to the chapter on Blaine in his book, writes:

Eleven years later our band played Wembley Arena, near London. After the show, while we were relaxing backstage, Bruce asked me to come into his dressing room. I went in, he pointed to the wall and said, "Look at that." I looked at the wall but didn't see anything except peeling wallpaper. "Look closer," he said. Finally, I got right down on the spot he was pointing to. and right there, in a crack in the paper, rubber stamped to the wall, it said HAL BLAINE STRIKES AGAIN. When asked to explain about the stamp Blaine replied, "I always stamp my charts. And there's a reason why I started that; it wasn't all ego." He went on to describe that occasionally he would need to find a particular chart amidst "five hundred pieces of music in a pile" and he needed some mark to do so. "Eventually I had a rubber stamp made up, and from that day on I've always stamped every piece of music I play, whether it's a demo or something I play at a friend's house."

Another drummer, Mike Botts, then with the band Bread, recalled: "Every studio I went to in the late sixties, there was a rubber stamp imprint on the wall of the drum booth that said, 'Hal Blaine strikes again.' Hal was getting so many studio dates he actually had a rubber stamp made. He was everywhere!"

Grammy Awards
A little known Grammy Awards record held by Blaine is that he played on 6 consecutive Record of the Year winners:

Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass in 1966 for "A Taste of Honey";
Frank Sinatra in 1967 for "Strangers in the Night";
The 5th Dimension in 1968 for "Up, Up and Away";
Simon & Garfunkel in 1969 for "Mrs. Robinson";
The 5th Dimension in 1970 for "Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In"; and
Simon & Garfunkel in 1971 for "Bridge over Troubled Water".

Blaine died on March 11, 2019 aged 90.

#1 hits
"Johnny Angel" – Shelley Fabares (03/03/62)
"He's a Rebel" – The Crystals (10/06/62)
"Surf City" – Jan & Dean (06/22/63)
"Everybody Loves Somebody" – Dean Martin (07/11/64)
"Ringo" – Lorne Greene (11/07/64)
"This Diamond Ring" – Gary Lewis & the Playboys (01/23/65)
"Help Me, Rhonda" – The Beach Boys (05/01/65)
"Mr Tambourine Man" – The Byrds (06/05/65)
"Eve of Destruction" – Barry McGuire (08/28/65)
"My Love" – Petula Clark (01/15/66)
"These Boots Are Made for Walkin'" – Nancy Sinatra (02/05/66)
"Monday Monday" – The Mamas & the Papas (04/16/66)
"Strangers in the Night" – Frank Sinatra (07/02/66)
"Poor Side of Town" – Johnny Rivers (10/08/66)
"Good Vibrations" – The Beach Boys (10/29/66)
"Somethin' Stupid" – Frank & Nancy Sinatra (03/25/67)
"The Happening" – The Supremes (04/15/67)
"Windy" – The Association (06/03/67)
"Mrs. Robinson" – Simon & Garfunkel (05/04/68)
"Dizzy" – Tommy Roe (03/15/69)
"Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In" – The 5th Dimension (04/12/69)
"Love Theme from Romeo and Juliet" – Henry Mancini (05/24/69)
"Wedding Bell Blues" – The 5th Dimension (10/04/69)
"Bridge Over Troubled Water" – Simon & Garfunkel (02/14/70)
"(They Long to Be) Close to You" – The Carpenters (06/27/70)
"Cracklin' Rosie" – Neil Diamond (08/29/70)
"I Think I Love You" – The Partridge Family (10/31/70)
"Indian Reservation" – The Raiders (05/29/71)
"Song Sung Blue" – Neil Diamond (05/13/72)
"Half Breed" – Cher (09/01/73)
"Annie's Song" – John Denver (06/15/74)
"Top of the World" – The Carpenters (10/20/74)
"The Way We Were" – Barbra Streisand (12/22/74)
"Thank God I'm a Country Boy" – John Denver (04/05/75)
"Love Will Keep Us Together" – Captain & Tennille (05/24/75)
"I'm Sorry"/"Calypso" – John Denver (08/30/75)
"Theme from Mahogany (Do You Know Where You're Going To)" – Diana Ross (01/24/76)

1963 "Deuces, T's, Roadsters and Drums
1966 Drums! Drums! A Go Go
1967 Psychedelic Percussion
1968 Have Fun!!! Play Drums!!!

Hal Blaine's drums can be heard as part of the Wall of Sound on the Ronettes' 1963 No. 2 hit "Be My Baby", produced by Phil Spector at Hollywood's Gold Star Studios. Max Weinberg wrote, "If Hal Blaine had played drums only on the Ronettes' "Be My Baby", his name would still be uttered with reverence and respect for the power of his big beat." Rolling Stone magazine listed the song as No. 22 on The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

In March 2000, Hal Blaine was one of the first five sidemen inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. (One of the other inductees was Hal's long-time friend and drumming colleague, Earl Palmer.)
Some of the famous musicians with whom Blaine has worked include:

The 5th Dimension
Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass
Nancy Ames
Paul Anka
The Association
Frankie Avalon
Hoyt Axton
Baja Marimba Band
The Beach Boys
Bob B. Soxx & the Blue Jeans
Pat Boone
Elkie Brooks
Sam Butera and the Witnesses
The Byrds
J.J. Cale
Glen Campbell
Freddy Cannon
Captain & Tennille
The Carpenters
Mel Carter
The Cascades
Johnny Cash
Rosanne Cash
David Cassidy
Ray Charles
Petula Clark
Leonard Cohen
Nat King Cole
Sam Cooke
Johnny Crawford
The Crystals
Bobby Darin
James Darren
Sammy Davis, Jr.
Doris Day
John Denver
Jackie DeShannon
Neil Diamond
Patty Duke
Judith Durham
Duane Eddy
The Everly Brothers
Jose Feliciano
Connie Francis
Frizzell and West
Art Garfunkel
Bobby Gentry
Lesley Gore
The Grass Roots
Lorne Greene
Roosevelt Grier
Hamilton, Joe Frank and Reynolds
Albert Hammond
Emmylou Harris
Richard Harris
Neal Hefti
The Hondells
Thelma Houston
Jan and Dean
Jay and the Americans
Frankie Laine
Michael Landon
John Lennon
Gary Lewis and the Playboys
Jerry Lewis
Jerry Lee Lewis
Bob Lind
Jackie Lomax
Trini Lopez
The Mamas & the Papas
Henry Mancini
The Marketts
Dean Martin
Barry McGuire
Scott McKenzie
The Monkees
Hugo Montenegro
Gerry Mulligan
Juice Newton
Wayne Newton
Jack Nitzsche
Roy Orbison
Patti Page
The Partridge Family
Bernadette Peters
Elvis Presley
Louis Prima
Gary Puckett & The Union Gap
Helen Reddy
Paul Revere & the Raiders
The Rip Chords
Johnny Rivers
Howard Roberts
Tommy Roe
The Ronettes
Diana Ross
The Sandpipers
Tommy Sands
Paul Simon
Simon & Garfunkel
Frank Sinatra
Nancy Sinatra
Keely Smith
Sonny & Cher
Spanky and Our Gang
Dusty Springfield
Steely Dan
Barbra Streisand
The Supremes
Tanya Tucker
Ike and Tina Turner
Leslie Uggams
Jerry Vale
Bobby Vee
The Ventures
The Vogues
Shelly West
Andy Williams
Mason Williams

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