5 February 1929 (age 90)
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!"
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.
"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
Baja Marimba Band
The Beach Boys
Bob B. Soxx & the Blue Jeans
Sam Butera and the Witnesses
Captain & Tennille
Nat King Cole
Sammy Davis, Jr.
The Everly Brothers
Frizzell and West
The Grass Roots
Hamilton, Joe Frank and Reynolds
Jan and Dean
Jay and the Americans
Gary Lewis and the Playboys
Jerry Lee Lewis
The Mamas & the Papas
The Partridge Family
Gary Puckett & The Union Gap
Paul Revere & the Raiders
The Rip Chords
Simon & Garfunkel
Sonny & Cher
Spanky and Our Gang
Ike and Tina Turner
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