The 50 Most Important Drummers of All Time -- Drum Magazine

Vistalite Black

Ludwigs in the Basement
Feb 17, 2015
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North Carolina
Evidently, Drum Magazine wants to get some things off of their collective chests after the announcement that its print publication has gone to rock and roll heaven (R.I.P.).

Drum has now graced us with the 50 Most Important Drummers of All Time, a list that notably includes Lars Ulrich, no women, no person under 50, possibly only one Canadian and zero Norwegians (not even Hellhammer). Also missing: Travis Barker and any representation of five of the world's seven continents. Your best chance of making this list is if your last name starts with the letter B (which accounts for 18% of the selected 50 drummers).

The following list was published in alphabetical order and the criteria seems a little confused. Here's how it's explained: "We didn’t pick these guys because they played the fastest single-stroke rolls or the most limb-twisting polyrhythms in history (though some of them have). No. We tried to compile the drummers who had the biggest impact on … well … you — whether you know it or not. So while some made the final cut due to their radical techniques, others were included because they spearheaded a sound or a style that had never been tried before, and in the process, changed the direction of drumming. Forever."

The 50 Most Important Drummers of All Time

Tony Williams (Miles Davis, etc.)

Chick Webb (Ella Fitzgerald)

J.M. Van Eaton (Jerry Lee Lewis)

Lars Ulrich

Mel Taylor (The Ventures)

Clyde Stubblefield (James Brown, etc.)

Ringo Starr (Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis, etc.)

John Jabo Starks (James Brown)

Michael Shrieve (Woodstock)

Max Roach (Charlie Parker, etc.)

Buddy Rich

Bernard Purdie (Steely Dan, The Beatles, etc.)

Neil Peart

Earl Palmer Little Richard, Randy Newman, etc.)

Sandy Nelson (Let There Be Drums)

Joe Morello (Dave Brubeck)

Keith Moon

Zigaboo Modeliste (The Meters)

Mitch Mitchell (Jimi Hendrix)

Shelly Manne (Stan Kenton, etc.)

Gene Krupa

Jim Keltner (Bob Dylan)

Jack DeJohnette (Miles Davis, etc.)

Stewart Copeland (Roxanne)

Vinnie Colaiuta (Frank Zabba, Duran Duran, etc.)

Philly Joe Jones (Miles Davis)

Jo Jones (Count Basie)

Elvin Jones (John Coltrane)

Al Jackson Jr. (Stax/Volt Records “Midnight Hour”)

Nicky Topper Headon (The Clash)

Ron Haynes (Charlie Parker, Billie Holliday, etc.)

Roger Hawkins (Muscle Shoals “Swampers” Band)

Dave Grohl (Ghost/Probot)

Dave Garibaldi (Tower of Power)

Steve Gadd (50 Ways to Leave Your Lover)

Peter Erskine (Weather Report, etc.)

Baby Dodds (Louis Armstrong, etc.)

Billy Cobham (Miles Davis, etc.)

Kenny Klook Clarke (Dizzy Gillespie, etc.)

Dennis Chambers (P-Funk All Stars)

Bill Bruford

Terry Bozzio (Missing Persons)

John Bonham

Art Blakey

Hal Blaine (Simon & Garfunkel)

Fred Below (Chess Records/Chuck Berry)

Louis Bellson

Carlton Barrett (Bob Marley and the Wailers)

Ginger Baker

Tim Alexander (Primus)

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Johnny K

Well-Known Member
Feb 7, 2018
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Mid Atlantic, USA
Last time I looked at one of the these lists, Art Blakey was missing. I see that got fixed. Alot of great drummers on that list and some that aren't. I was born in '63. I'm not really up with what the hip kids are listening to these days.


DFO Master
Aug 5, 2005
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Norman, OK
Overall I agree with this one. There could be a few omissions of drummers I personally would put on my own top 50 list, but I agree with this in the whole of it. I'm glad they didn't bother to make it numerical. Then all hell might break loose!


Aug 29, 2008
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St. Louis, MO
No influential female drummers?

Hmmm...I'd call The Velvet Underground pretty influential and that was Maureen "Moe" Tucker on drums. Unique, minimalist style, for sure.

Tama CW

Very well Known Member
Mar 4, 2018
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SE Connecticut
Overall I agree with this one. There could be a few omissions of drummers I personally would put on my own top 50 list, but I agree with this in the whole of it. I'm glad they didn't bother to make it numerical. Then all hell might break loose!
Despite the OP's comments I find every drummer on this list worthy. While there might be another 20-30 that could have been there....all 50 deserve to be there. They revolutionized the art, pure and simple. It gets harder and harder to be a revolutionary original after so many artists have gone before you. Someone breaks the ground. And others follow who are technically better.....yet they were just followers. I'm glad Mel Taylor made it....he almost never makes it to any top 50-100 list yet was influential to every 1960's drummer.
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DFO Master
Aug 5, 2005
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So the criteria was actually drumming and not fulfilling some geographical, age, and gender quotas?

How refreshing....
As though there has ever been a drumming poll based on those factors... ever... anywhere... :)


DFO Veteran
Nov 3, 2009
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Pattaya, Thailand
I have tended to ignore such lists after Melody Maker in UK many years ago had Elvis polled as best jazz guitarist .....


Very well Known Member
Jan 8, 2017
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Vancouver, BC, Canada
These lists are subjective, and merely entertainment, anyone with half a brain knows that.

That being said, its funny when someone like Lars gets ripped apart for being on one. I personally think he's not the greatest drummer, and have never been a fan. But, think of how many people he inspired to take up the drums. Countless. Many drummers that you might think "deserve" to be on such a list, saw/see him as a hero.

So, while many drummers will take up defenses: "Neil is the best!", "No one can touch Bonham", "Buddy Rich is GOD!", etc etc. Just remember, there is no best, its individual. Number one on my list would be Jordan Pratt...know who he is? It doesn't matter, only to me.

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