My Top Ten Drummers – Not On Top Ten Lists

I recently spent some time Googling “Top Drummers”.

That’s all that I typed in the search line.  I didn’t want to narrow it down to any particular genre or niche, just top drummers.

As I started to review the various lists I was stunned at the list of drummers that were absent from some of these lists.

I surmised most of these lists had to be compiled by and/or voted on by teenage to twenty something hormonal raging males.  They must have been looking at flash, speed, hype and in some cases the number of tattoos.

Of course these kinds of list are totally subjective and basically serve only one purpose, to entertain.   So I thought I would make a list of my top ten drummers that should be on these lists of top drummers.

These are in no particular order.


CarlosVegaCarlos Vega

He didn’t show up on one list that I reviewed and yet next to Steve Gadd I don’t know of anyone as versatile, relaxed and tasteful as him.  I was introduced to him on James Taylor’s Hourglass.  Now I’ll buy an album just because he’s on it.  Sadly he is no longer with us.  Give him a listen, how does he not make everyone’s top ten?


Vinnie ColaiutaVinnie Colaiuta

I can’t pronounce his last name and I sure can’t play like he does.   I think of him as a cymbal master, especially the small ones.  I first realized who he was on Sting’s Ten Summoner’s Tales and then started noticing him on all kinds of albums and TV performances like Jeff Beck at Ron Scott’s.   Frank Zappa, Sting and just about anyone else in between, check out his work and his credits and tell me why he’s not on everyone’s top list.


nigel-olssonNigel Olsson

This man introduced me to powerful yet tasteful rock and roll drumming.  He also gave me the idea for golf gloves to save my bleeding hands.  I’m sure he’s on Elton John’s top drummers list.


steveferroneSteve Ferrone

The album that brought me back to music was Eric Clapton’s live album 24 Nights.  Steve Ferrone was the drummer and  he made it sound fun again.  I caught him on Palladia with Tom Petty and then started seeing his name on various albums in my vinyl collection, like Chaka Kan and Freddie King.  Sorry Ginger Baker but I’ll take his live version of Sunshine of Your Love over anyone else’s.


RickyFataarRicky Fataar

He has been with Bonnie Raitt since 1982.  If you know me you know I love Bonnie Raitt  so this guy has got to be in my top ten but why not anyone else’s.  Come on listen to any Bonnie Riatt album and you’ll quickly see what he brings to the table.


levon helmLevon Helm

Sure he is kind of a niche player but who can deny the influence he has had on millions.  He’s a drummer and singer with his own distinct style.  I remember when I went to the movie theatre to see “The Last Waltz”.  I had never seen him play but listen to him countless hours.  I was so inspired by his performance and still am to this day.  Every time I watch “The Last Waltz” I can’t wait to get down to my kit.  No flash or technical wizardry just pure music from this man.


davidgarbaldiDave Garibaldi

Mister Tower of Power playing rhythms I can’t play to this day and probably never will be able to even when I have a chart to help me figure it out.  Syncopated funk like no other and yet on most lists he doesn’t even get a look as someone’s top ten, twenty or thirty.


AntonFigAnton Fig

“The Thunder from Down Under”, I can’t think of a better or more flattering moniker.   I would love to be called something like that as a drummer.  Everyone knows him from his years on David Letterman’s show but give him a listen on See Saw with Beth Hart and Joe Bonamassa.


Jim_KeltnerJim Keltner

When I started this list I really didn’t think I would be including this great drummer because I thought he would be on every top ten list and yet his appearance on any list of top drummers much less top ten drummers was minimal at best.  I can’t think of a drummer I have listened to more or listened to longer.  To me he is a studio legend.


Steve GaddSteve Gadd

Yes he made a few lists but I added him to this one because as far as I’m concerned he should be number one on any list every created about top drummers.  When I first started playing John Bonham was my largest influence.  As I matured and John Bonham passed away too soon Steve Gadd became and still is my drum god.  He did show up on some top 100 lists but way, way, way too low on those lists.  These list are all subjective but how is he not your number one.  Someone please explain that to me.


Well that’s it but if you have any under appreciated drummers on your list please let me know I’d love to check them out.

© Otis P Smith and About the Groove, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Otis P Smith and About the Groove with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

4 thoughts on “My Top Ten Drummers – Not On Top Ten Lists

  1. Pingback: Bette Midler vs. Anita Baker | About The Groove

  2. The very best drummers I’ve come across are Reni and Jaki Liebezeit. I’ve never seen them on a Top 100 Drummers list, which is plain insulting given their natural genius. Great to see Levon Helm get a mention here, though!

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      • Excellent find! Reni is another singing drummer – I partially disagree with that post as he’s incredibly gifted on the technical front. Daybreak’s a good example of his drumming, although it’s far from The Stone Roses’ best song. Blackpool Live 1989’s a real showcase for his talent, the remarkable segue from Where Angel’s Play into Shoot You Down.

        Levon Helm was amazing, though, I could watch The Last Waltz over and over. Great to see you’re so passionate about the drums!

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