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The Hal Blaine Collection Vol. 1

April 24th, 2014 Leave a comment Go to comments

Hal Blaine Collection Vol. 1

In the past few months we”ve encountered great session drummers and the songs they played on: Bernard Purdie, Ricky Lawson and Jim Gordon (see links at the end of the post). The godfather of all session drummers, by force of the number of classic hits he played on, probably is Hal Blaine. Bruce Gary, the late drummer of “70s band The Knack, memorably said that he was disappointed to learn his 10 favourite drummers were all Hal Blaine.

You”ll have heard Blaine on at least 40 number one hits (some of which are featured on this and the upcoming second mix), and he appeared on more than 150 top ten hits (ditto). By his own estimate, he has played on more than 35,000 songs, scores and jingles. Blaine also holds a special record. He appeared on six consecutive Grammy Records of the Year, from 1966-71: Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass” “A Taste of Honey”; Frank Sinatra”s “Strangers in the Night”; The 5th Dimension”s “Up, Up and Away”; Simon & Garfunkel”s Mrs. Robinson”; The 5th Dimension”s “Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In”; and Simon & Garfunkel”s “Bridge Over Troubled Water”.

Blaine, it is said, gave the collective of LA-based session musicians the name The Wrecking Crew, though bass guitarist Carol Kaye disputes this, or that the collective was ever even known by the name. The Wrecking Crew had other great drummers in the already featured Jim Gordon, Jim Keltner (favourite drummer of both Lennon and Dylan) and the very great Earl Palmer, but Blaine”s CV towers above them all.

Born Harold Belsky in 1929 into modest circumstances in Holyoke, Massachusetts, and growing up in Hartford, Connecticut, Blaine learnt his craft from watching great jazz drummers like Gene Krupa and Buddy Rich performing live. Surviving a fire in a circus in Hartford at the age of 15, and tending to its victims, propelled young Hal to pursue his great dream: to become a musician. Soon after the fire, the Belsky family moved to California. While the parents stayed in Santa Monica, Hal moved in with his sister in San Bernardino. There, he formed a band with high school buddies, playing his first gigs. As a professional he would musically return to San Bernardino by way of a hit song he played on: Jimmy Webb wrote “Up, Up And Away” about a balloon ride he took in that town.

At the age of 19, Blaine became a professional drummer. That is, he did so as a soldier, serving two years in Korea in an army band. Coming home, he made the most of the G.I. Bill, which subsidised ex-soldiers” further education, and enrolled in the Roy C. Knapp School of Percussion in Chicago, where he learnt the technical skills of drumming as well as to read music “” a most useful skill for a drummer who wanted to play as part of an arranged assemble.

After graduation he played on Chicago”s club circuit before returning to California in 1957, where he joined a respected jazz combo, the Carol Simpson Quartet. This engagement led to a big break: he was asked to join the band of teen idol Tommy Sands, as drummer and road manager. He stayed with Sands for three years, gaining much experience both on the road and in the studio. Hanging around the Capitol studios led to recording gigs with the likes of Connie Francis (he played on her hit “Where The Boys Are”) and Patti Page.

The next big break came in 1961: playing on Elvis Presley”s “Can”t Help Falling in Love”. He”d go on to play on Elvis” records throughout the 1960s. You can see him drumming behind Elvis in the marvellous clip of “I Don”t Wanna Be Tied” from Girls! Girls! Girls!.

Blaine and colleagues during a Spector session.

Blaine and colleagues during a Spector session.

Soon Blaine became a key component in the development of Phil Spector”s Wall of Sound. Few drum beats have been as influential and instantly recognisable as those Blaine played to open The Ronettes” “Be My Baby”. It was one of those happy accidents: Blaine says he actually played the wrong beat at the beginning, and just stuck with it throughout the recording. He also played on Spector classics such as The Crystals” “He”s A Rebel” (with Darlene Love uncredited on vocals), The Ronettes” debut hit, “Walking In The Rain”, and the greatest Christmas pop album of all time, A Christmas Gift for You from Phil Spector.

From Spector”s studios, Blaine moved on to The Beach Boys, who had always drawn from Wrecking Crew players. One of them, guitarist Glen Campbell, even joined them as a temporary member on tour.. Blaine”s first record with them was “Little Deuce Coupe” in 1963, giving Dennis Wilson more free time for surfing. Blaine played on all but three tracks on Pet Sounds “” the title track, “Here Today,” and “I”m Waiting For The Day” on which young Jim Gordon got his break “” as well as on hits such as “Good Vibrations”. He also drummed for Beach Boys” soundalikes and Brian Wilson pals Jan & Dean, including on their classic hits “Surf City” and the eerily prophetic “Dead Man”s Curve” (Jan Berry was seriously hurt in a car crash, not far from the actual Dead Man’s Curve, in 1966).

In between, Blaine and other members of the Wrecking Crew, served as the house band at the famous T.A.M.I. Show, backing many of the acts appearing on the bill of the 1964 concert that was turned into one of the great concert films (though he didn”t back the Rolling Stones nor James Brown). Blaine and fellow collective members also played for Elvis on his 1968 “comeback” TV special.

Blaine”s incredible run of hits kept coming through the 1960s and early “70s. The last big hits, in 1975/76, were Captain & Tenille”s “Love Will Keep Us Together” (which it did, until recently), John Denver”s “I”m Sorry” and Diana Ross” “Do You Know Where You’re Going To?”.

As gigs dried up for the Wrecking Crew, Blaine kept going doing unglamorous work, such as playing on ad jingles. But he was never a forgotten man. In 2000 he (and Earl Palmer) were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

cover gallery

As always, the mix is timed to fit on a standard CD-R, and includes home-kicked covers. PW in comments.

1. Nancy Sinatra – Drummer Man (1969)
2. The Mamas & The Papas – I Saw Her Again Last Night (1966)
3. Simon & Garfunkel – A Hazy Shade of Winter (1968)
4. P.F. Sloan – From A Distance (1966)
5. The 5th Dimension – Stoned Soul Picnic (1968)
6. The Association – Windy (1967)
7. Sonny & Cher – The Beat Goes On (1967)
8. The Grass Roots – Midnight Confessions (1967)
9. Barry McGuire – Eve Of Destruction (1965)
10. Beach Boys – Wouldn’t It Be Nice (1966)
11. Jan & Dean – Dead Man’s Curve (1964)
12. The Ronettes – Be My Baby (1963)
13. The Supremes – The Happening (1967)
14. Duke Baxter – I Ain’t No School Boy (1969)
15. Ike & Tina Turner – River Deep, Mountain High (1966)
16. Thelma Houston – I Just Gotta Be Me (1969)
17. Dusty Springfield – The Other Side Of Life (1973)
18. Carpenters – Goodbye To Love (1972)
19. Partridge Family – Brown Eyes (1971)
20. Spanky And Our Gang – Like To Get To Know You (1967)
21. Johnny Rivers – By The Time I Get To Phoenix (1966)
22. Bobby Darin – Don’t Make Promises (1966)
23. Dean Martin – Houston (1965)
24. Petula Clark – My Love (1965)
25. Elvis Presley – Bossa Nova Baby (1963)
26. Kenny Rogers & The First Edition – Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Is In) (1968)
27. T Bones – No Matter What Shape (My Stomach Is In) (1966)


Previous Session Musicians:
The Roy Bittan Collection
The Larry Carlton Collection
The Hal Blaine Collection Vol. 1
The Hal Blaine Collection Vol. 2
The Steve Gadd Collection Vol. 1
The Steve Gadd Collection Vol. 2
The Steve Gadd Collection Vol. 3
The Jim Gordon Collection Vol. 1
The Jim Gordon Collection Vol. 2
The Bobby Graham Collection
The Louis Johnson Collection
The Jim Keltner Collection Vol. 1
The Jim Keltner Collection Vol. 2
The Bobby Keys Collection
The Ricky Lawson Collection Vol. 1
The Ricky Lawson Collection Vol. 2
The Joe Osborne Collection
The Bernard Purdie Collection Vol. 1
The Bernard Purdie Collection Vol. 2
The Ringo Starr Collection

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  1. halfhearteddude
    April 24th, 2014 at 06:42 | #1

    PW = amdwhah

  2. April 24th, 2014 at 07:50 | #2

    be sure to include Mississippi from john Philips,wolf king of la,great drums there

  3. Dave
    April 24th, 2014 at 16:33 | #3

    Ah, what a coincidence! I just rewatched “the Wrecking Crew” last night; the great doc about the west coast session players. It made me think I should do a radio show about Hal Blaine and….lo and behold, look at this! I’m with the Knack drummer – for years I’ve heard songs with great drumming that turns out to be Hal Blaine’s work. Elenore, A Taste Of Honey, Love Will Keep us Together…can’t wait for part two.

  4. Clarence
    April 24th, 2014 at 22:08 | #4

    My gosh, you could put out 10 vols. of this & still not get a bum track! Thx so much! (& I second “Mississippi”)

  5. Rhod
    April 24th, 2014 at 23:50 | #5

    Great share

    Wow this guy played on every thing



  6. GarthJeff
    April 25th, 2014 at 14:08 | #6

    Excellent choice amdwhah!!! We’re looking forward to the next Collection. Thanks again for keeping the music rolling in, educating and entertaining us.
    Best Regards,

  7. David Young
    April 25th, 2014 at 15:51 | #7

    Great story. Thanks for this. I’m a huge Wrecking Crew fan. Just one correction. Jan Berry was not killed, but severely brain damaged in that car crash.

  8. halfhearteddude
    April 25th, 2014 at 17:41 | #8

    Ooops! I’ve edited the text accordingly. Thanks.

  9. BMinNZ
    April 25th, 2014 at 23:59 | #9

    Looks to be an interesting collection, but file not on Zippy?

  10. Joe
    April 26th, 2014 at 05:29 | #10

    Greetings, Looks like someone didn’t like your upload as it has already been wacked. Perhaps if you put a link in the comments the offended party won’t notice it. Great blog, thanks for doing it.

  11. Charlie Nickrenz
    April 26th, 2014 at 06:20 | #11

    the Zippy link is gone. Any chance of a reup? This really fleshes out the Wrecking Crew book cds. Thanks for all yer hard work!
    ps= any idea if exystence has resurfaced somewhere else?

  12. halfhearteddude
    April 26th, 2014 at 10:44 | #12

    Hmmm, that’s the first time I’ve had that happening on Zippy…

    New link: http://www51.zippyshare.com/v/5432118/file.html

  13. April 26th, 2014 at 18:57 | #13

    Might I suggest English session drummer Bobby Graham for inclusion in your excellent series? He played on hundreds of classic singles including the Kinks, You Really Got Me, All Day and All of the Night, Tired of Waiting For You; the Animals, We Gotta Get Out of This Place; Petula Clark, Downtown, I Know a Place; Marianne Faithfull, Come and Stay With Me; the Nashville Teens, Tobacco Road; the Pretty Things, Don’t Bring Me Down, Midnight to Six Man; Dusty Springfield, I Only Want To Be With You; Them, Baby Please Don’t Go, Here Comes the Night; etc., etc.

  14. Earl Cambron
    April 26th, 2014 at 19:46 | #14

    Thanks AMD!

  15. halfhearteddude
    April 26th, 2014 at 21:10 | #15

    Great call, Vintage Spins. Graham also did the great drums at the end of Dusty’s “You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me”.

  16. Cabinek
    April 27th, 2014 at 08:44 | #16

    The link is not working… Any chance for reupload? Thanks for all the music and stories!

  17. halfhearteddude
    April 29th, 2014 at 07:30 | #17

    Use the link a few posts above, Cabinek. That one is working.

  18. dogbreath
    April 29th, 2014 at 16:25 | #18

    Another fine compilation which is, quite literally, music to my ears. Thanks for taking the time & trouble to do the upload, as well as helping with my musical education.

  19. Woody
    May 2nd, 2014 at 04:23 | #19

    Many years ago I had a drummer friend who had tried to become a rock star. He idolized John Bonham & Neil Peart but this was the late 70s, the punk/new wave era, so he was a bit behind the curve. One of his bands was able to get two tracks on a well-distributed compilation but that’s as far as he ever went.

    About ten years later, I played Hal Blaine’s “Drums A-Go-Go” for him. He had never heard of Blaine, and that’s when I realized he never had a chance. Some bands score a hit album or two by mimicking what is popular, but the biggest stars know the history of what came before.

  20. Woody
    May 2nd, 2014 at 06:00 | #20

    I don’t know if Hal Blaine played on this specific Ike & Tina Turner track, but this is not the version that was on the River Deep Mountain High album. In my opinion, it’s a lesser version and the drumming isn’t as good.

  21. Woody
    May 10th, 2014 at 19:33 | #21

    I had ignored your Session Drummer series until this disc appeared but now I’m all for it! Hope to see Blaine Vol. 2 soon. I’d also like to nominate Jim Keltner, Russ Kunkel and Jeff Porcaro for consideration.

  22. hotrodmike
    June 2nd, 2014 at 15:16 | #22

    I just found you recently and am so happy to see this collection. Hal Blaine and Sandy Nelson were two of my favorite drummers. Thanks!

  23. David W.
    June 6th, 2014 at 16:53 | #23

    Love your site! Unfortunately part 1 d/l no longer working.

  24. halfhearteddude
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