Who are rock's great drummers?

The threads on Rush and why they do or don’t suck has made me realise that not everyone appreciates Neil Peart. So, who do you think are the greatest rock drummers? For me, it’s:

  • Danny Carey, of Tool. I no longer listen to Tool, as I found it uncomfortable to enjoy the work of drummer who claims Lucitferian influence on his drumming, but one can’t deny he’s got considerable technical skill.

  • Chris Acland, of Lush. What a shame he died young. The performances he left behind are amazing, like on “De-Luxe” and “Undertow” Even Neil Peart found his drumming worthy of imitating, as Peart’s drumming on the Rush song “Animate” was Acland-inspired.

  • Chris Cooper, of Pale Saints. While little-known, I find him a fantastic drummer, when an excellent sense of timing and a way of bringing a whole array of sounds out of a simpler drum set.


Jimmy Chamberlain from Smashing Pumpkins has quite the chops, and I’ll always have a soft spot in my heart for that wizened old man, Stewart Copeland.

Oh, and Frank Todd … friend of mine … you wouldn’t know him…

I agree that Danny Carrey is the best drummer in rock. Modern drummers just blow the oldies away- though I still like Bonzo and Keith Moon.

I used to be a big Tool fan, their subject matter was a little too weird for my tastes, though.

Gil Moore of Triumph… Although I may well be alone on this one… I just love the way he plays…


Lars Ulrich of Metallica.

Carter Beauford (or is that Beaufort?) of the Dave Matthews Band is pretty talented, especially on Before These Crowded Streets, where he makes some pretty complex rhythms sound totally smooth and natural.

Ringo Starr.

And any drummer who ever played with Frank Zappa.

Iron Maidens Nicko McBrain

Chad Wackerman- formerly of FZ’s band and the master of the “quaalude thunder”
Terry Bozzio-formerly of FZ’s band
Alan White-Yes

and “the man”
Bill Bruford-King Crimson (not rock you say, listen to “Red”, loud!)


I concur about any drummer who played with Zappa – looking at the scores of his music is frightening. It’s hard for me (a non-drummer) to imagine anything more complicated.

Keith Moon (RIP)


Dave Grohl. Pounding rhythms and good skills.

I’d vote for:

Van Romaine. He is solid and incredably talented. He can play anything and do it with ease.
Mike Portnoy: Dream Theater and Liquid Tension Experiment. He is a huge talent. Amazing chops and great style. The intro on LTE’s CD is one of the most impressive things I have ever heard. On top of that the LTE CD was writen and recorded in one week.
Lee Kirslake: Ozzy. He wrote the most recognisable(sp?) drum intro to any song ever (Over the Mountain).
Peart: He has skills and Rush has a way of creating complex songs with multiple time sigs yet they always flow.


I’ll second that vote for Bonzo!!

Keith Moon

His performance on “The Real Me” alone is a masterpiece.

I dunno… good ol’ John Bonham was pretty sweet too. And Santana had a 16 year old drummer with them, Mike Shrieve, who played what I think is definately one of the greatest drum solos in rock history.

Bonzo, Hal Blaine, Jim Gordon.

Knowledgeable session drummers amongst us will be familiar with Abe Laboriel Jr - the huge man who is currently playing with Paul McCartney on his live shows.

Abe is regarded as being one of the great “current crop” of session drummers around the place. As is another great talent by the name of Joey Waronker. If you get the chance to watch “American Pie” again, at the end of the film a really choice rock song is played during the closing credits by a band called “Tonic”. The song is called “You Wanted More”. That’s Joey on the kit - he was brought in as a session drummer for that album and he’s generally regarded as the new “Jim Keltner” - great feel and flair without the need for “showoffy fills” etc.

My personal faves are Phil Collins, Stewart Copeland, John Bonham, and Keith Moon.

Of the current crop, Taylor Hawkins, Dave Grohl and Jimmy Chamberlain are right up there.

As are two Australian drummers - Rob Hirst from “Midnight Oil”, and the guy from “The Living End” - sorry I don’t know his name but check him out! Whoah!

Ultimately though, I personally feel the greatest rock drummer doing the traps at the moment is Matt Cameron - formerly of Temple of the Dog, Soundgarden, and now, Pearl Jam.

Some missing names so far:
Charles Connor and Earl Palmer who between them (playing for Little Richard) invented rock drumming.
Clyde Stubblefield (one of James Brown’s more influential drummers)
Bonham gets a lot of plaudits, but I reckon Ian Paice (Deep Purple) is the better and more influential player.