The 16 Favorite Drummers of the Greatest Prog Musician of All Time

Vistalite Black

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No doubt, decades from now there will be doctoral candidates focusing their studies on the lyrics and musicianship of the late great Neil Peart -- much like Talmudic scholars who spend their entire lifetimes unearthing the hidden and direct meanings of a single book.

Then, there's also journalists focused on creating attention-grabbing headlines by piecing fragments of the few interviews Peart participated in amalgamate his thoughts on the drummers who influenced him in to a list of the 16 drummers he mentioned in a positive light.

At this point, I'd like to pause in order to break the hearts of those fervently hoping that the names Lars Ulrich and Tommy Lee would be judged to be among The Professor's Top 16. They were not. The one who divorced his wife via fax is!
Noodly Doodly.jpg


With that said, there's nothing left except to share the actual text from an unfamiliar news outlet named Far Out Magazine:

"Known as ‘The Professor’ of drums, Rush’s sorely departed, and ultimately legendary drummer Neil Peart, was still more than happy to take a lesson or two from his contemporaries. With a career that spanned over four decades, he had more than a few too. Below, we’ve got a complete list of Neil Peart’s favourite drummer of all time, it makes for a truly inspiring list.

It’s hard to put into the context just how vital Neil Peart was to Rush and, by proxy, to the music industry as a whole. A man as able to craft out and meticulously play some of the most complex drum fills the rock world has ever seen, was able to thrash through an entirely improvised set without missing a beat. Speaking to Modern Drummer in 1993, Peart once said, “One thing I have come to learn about influences is that although copying one style can never be original, copying many styles often is original… The best advice for someone who wants to develop an original style is: Don’t copy one drummer, copy twenty! I copied a hundred.”


We can’t bring you all of the hundred drummers and musicians that influenced Neil Peart but we can bring you a selection of his most favourite. When speaking in 2007, Peart said of gathering up influences along the way: “It will be understood, I hope, that the idea of being inspired by other drummers like that isn’t to ‘get ideas.’ It’s more about listening to great players and thinking to yourself, ‘That’s how good I want to be.’ You get fired up to try to raise your game.” Judging by the list, he certainly gathered up all the fire he needed.

Pulled together by Andrew Olson, we’re bringing you not only the perfect list of percussionists but also an educational playlist to get you into researching too. It’s a list jam-packed with incredible talent all of which deserves some extra attention.

“Gene Krupa was the first rock drummer in very many ways. Without Gene Krupa, there wouldn’t have been a Keith Moon,” and, it would seem, no Neil Peart too. Speaking to Zildjian in 2003, Peart went further to describe seeing such a powerhouse drummer. “The first time I remember feeling a desire to play the drums was while watching the movie The Gene Krupa Story, at the age of eleven or twelve,” remembers The Professor.


“I started beating on the furniture and my baby sister’s playpen with a pair of chopsticks, and for my thirteenth birthday,” recalled Peart, “my parents gave me drum lessons, a practice pad, and a pair of sticks. They said they wouldn’t buy me real drums until I showed that I was going to be serious about it for at least a year, and I used to arrange magazines across my bed to make fantasy arrays of drums and cymbals, then beat the covers off them!”

There is also, of course, room on the list for the influential jazz drummer Buddy Rich, who, we would bet, has influenced nearly all of your favourite drummers of all time, “I would often see Buddy Rich play on television, on the ‘Tonight’ show, but I would just shake my head—he seemed too far out of reach. As Gene (Krupa) said about Buddy, ‘There are all the great drummers in the world—and then there’s Buddy.'”

While Gene Krupa can be held accountable for the furious introduction of Keith Moon, The Who drummer can be widely seen as one of Peart’s major influences too, despite not possessing the same maniacal style. “It is certainly true that Keith Moon was one of the first drummers to get me really excited about rock drumming,” Peart told Modern Drummer. “His irreverent and maniacal personality, as expressed through his drumming, affected me greatly.”

For all those pointing out the vast differences in style between the two, it wasn’t something that went unnoticed by Peart himself, saying, “To me, he was the kind of drummer who did great things by accident rather than design. But the energy, expressiveness and innovation that he represented at the time was very important and great. It is ironic that I wanted to be in a band that played Who songs and, when I finally got into one, I discovered that I didn’t like playing drums like Keith Moon.”

Another inclusion from a sixties mainstream act actually came from about six of them, the mercurial talent of Hal Blaine. In 2011, Peart told Gibson, “When I was growing up, I played along to the radio, so I played along to Simon & Garfunkel, The Beach Boys, The Association, and The Byrds, and I was really playing along to Hal Blaine. He played on all of those records and so many more. There was another drummer who said that he was shattered to find out that his six favourite drummers were all Hal Blaine.”

A stand out member of the sixties set was certainly Jimi Hendrix and while he gathered up plaudits for his innovative style, Peart was attracted to his drummer Mitch Mitchell instead. “One Saturday morning during my drum lesson at the Peninsula Conservatory of Music in St. Catharines, Ontario,” Peart told Zildijan. “I remember my teacher playing a record, then telling me, ‘this changes everything.’ It was Jimi Hendrix’s Are You Experienced?, with Mitch Mitchell’s artful and innovative drumming.”

Among the sixties clan, Peart has also picked out Cream’s iconic percussionist Ginger Baker as an unstoppable influence on his career. “His playing was revolutionary,” Peart told Rolling Stone in 2009, “extrovert, primal, and inventive. He set the bar for what rock drumming could be. I certainly emulated Ginger’s approaches to rhythm — his hard, flat, percussive sound was very innovative. Everyone who came after built on that foundation. Every rock drummer since has been influenced in some way by Ginger — even if they don’t know it.”

John Bonham may have begun int he sixties but it was his rollicking performances with Led Zeppelin in the seventies that captured Peart’s attention. He claimed: “When I was starting out, very young, John Bonham and Led Zeppelin were new in those olden days, and John Bonham did always the big triplets with his giant bass drum.” It’s an expected inclusion for any ‘favourite drummer’ list and there are a few more to boot.

As well as Bonham, there are also spots for The Police’s Stewart Copeland, King Crimson’s Bill Bruford, Phill Collins, Freddie Gruber, Carl Palmer and more. It makes for one of the most comprehensive lists of influential drummers you’ll ever come across and now, with the perfect playlist to go with it too.

If it’s true that Neil Peart picked out his style from a range of hundreds then we’d suggest the names below is the first place to begin.

Neil Peart’s favourite drummers:
  • Gene Krupa
  • Buddy Rich
  • Keith Moon
  • Hal Blaine
  • Mitch Mitchell
  • Ginger Baker
  • John Bonham
  • Terry Bozzio
  • Michael Giles
  • Bill Bruford
  • Stewart Copeland
  • Carl Palmer
  • Phil Collins
  • Freddie Gruber
  • Manu Katche
  • Peter Erskine
 

bon viesta

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totally saw keith moon coming. he said he used to love keith and when he was still in his first (or second? can’t remember) band he actually covered his double bass drum (two little dinky 18 inch bass drums hehe) rogers kit in a chrome foil like cover to try to emulate keith’s chrome drum kit from the tommy era. great stuff! haha though it’s funny to me that a guy who is sometimes criticized for being TOO “on the beat” thinks of some of the most swinging/“characteristic” drummers as the best ones.
 

JimmySticks

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I’m sort of surprised to see drummers that can swing on his list, because that wasn’t Neil’s strong suit. He was all chops, so I can see him liking Bozzio and drummers like him a lot.

Anyone surprised that Ringo or Watts didn’t make the list?
 

Tornado

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He wasn’t all chops , he played with passion and purpose in a choppy band
Yep. He had to line up with Geddy Lee, after all. John Bonham would have sounded terrible in Rush.

Yeah, he sounded like himself when he played Cottontail. Who wouldn't sound exactly like they've only played in the same band with the same musicians for decades if that's exactly what they did?
 

Houndog

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Neil could groove his butt off watch his instructional going over Test For Echo .
Hearing his parts without the music was surprising to me .
 

Deafmoon

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Interesting. There are a few relationships on his list. He studied with Erskine and Gruber, he was the Godfather of Nicky Rich so a family friend of Cathy's & everyone lists Gene out of pure respect for what he did in bringing the drums to the forefront. I do know he loved Moon and that shows in his playing. He loved Stewie, but Stewie has swing & did even as far back as Curved Air. Mitch, Ginger, John, Terry, Bill & Peter were all jazz drummers first. For a guy that names alot of drummers that could swing, not sure Neil ever got the feel for it. I know Neil knew Max Roach & Joe Morello too, but I've never read him speak of Roy, Philly Joe, Elvin, Tony or Jack. I have no idea if he heard those guys or not. What a shame if he didn't.
 

Houndog

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Pert was great in Rush,outside of that vehicle he was mediocre.
And ??? He did many great things for humanity, drumming isn’t the be all end all I’ve come to realize .

And you sir , can’t even spell his name right .
 

BennyK

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I don't often see Michael Giles mentioned anywhere . Peart assembled his orchestral motifs and symphonic textures within a similar rock orientated articulation .

Krupa bridged the threshold for the following generations , Palmer Giles Baker Bruford ( all Brits BTW)did the same for drummers like Peart . So what exactly did he do to expand the horizon for those who came after ? Good question .
 
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pgm554

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And ??? He did many great things for humanity, drumming isn’t the be all end all I’ve come to realize .

And you sir , can’t even spell his name right .
So I dropped an eh,big deal.
Many others have done the same thing and will continue to do so.
Did I say anything derogatory about him as a human being?
Just an educated eye making an observation about his performances away from Rush.
Mediocre with Jeff Berlin and Burning for Buddy.
 

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So I dropped an eh,big deal.
Many others have done the same thing and will continue to do so.
Did I say anything derogatory about him as a human being?
Just an educated eye making an observation about his performances away from Rush.
Mediocre with Jeff Berlin and Burning for Buddy.
You wasted $$ on your education then .
 

JimmySticks

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Yep. He had to line up with Geddy Lee, after all. John Bonham would have sounded terrible in Rush.

Yeah, he sounded like himself when he played Cottontail. Who wouldn't sound exactly like they've only played in the same band with the same musicians for decades if that's exactly what they did?
I like the fact that Neil went out of his comfort zone to do Cottontail and go traditional grip in his later years. True, it wasn’t great, but the fact that he did it at all speaks highly of the man.

I’d actually love to hear Bonham do Rush. I think a little swing (a little!) from John might have sounded pretty good and made Rush music less chop driven, made it groove a bit and made them open up to a wider audience, but we’ll never know...
 

Bandit

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I don't often see Michael Giles mentioned anywhere . Peart assembled his orchestral motifs and symphonic textures within a similar rock orientated articulation .

Krupa bridged the threshold for the following generations , Palmer Giles Baker Bruford ( all Brits BTW)did the same for drummers like Peart . So what exactly did he do to expand the horizon for those who came after ? Good question .
Maybe ask Mike Portnoy, Danny Carey and all the other many pros that looked up to Peart.
 

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I don't often see Michael Giles mentioned anywhere . Peart assembled his orchestral motifs and symphonic textures within a similar rock orientated articulation .

Krupa bridged the threshold for the following generations , Palmer Giles Baker Bruford ( all Brits BTW)did the same for drummers like Peart . So what exactly did he do to expand the horizon for those who came after ? Good question .

Maybe ask Mike Portnoy, Danny Carey and all the other many pros that looked up to Peart.
Neil was that drummer that you heard with uneducated ears and said, "Now THAT guy can can play drums!" Anyone could understand that he was playing cool stuff and that it was more complex than what you normally heard. His playing was full of great patterns and licks that showed off his skills, but were still very accessible. You could air drum to it. It was also melodic, which due to his large kit he was able to create very memorable lines. He was a one man percussion ensemble playing melodies on top of rhythms. I think he opened a lot of minds to a different approach to the drums. But mostly, he was that drummer who made you want to pick up a pair of sticks as a kid.
 


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