Hal Blaine, a legendary drummer with the Los Angeles-based studio musicians known as The Wrecking Crew, died March 11.
These recordings included huge hit singles by the Beach Boys (including “Good Vibrations” and “I Get Around”), the Mamas and the Papas (“Monday Monday”), the Monkees, the Righteous Brothers (including “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling”), Elvis Presley, Sonny and Cher, the Byrds (“Mr. Tambourine Man”), the Association, the Grass Roots, the Ronettes (“Be My Baby”) and countless others. Herb Alpert’s 1960s hit recordings featured The Wrecking Crew as the Tijuana Brass. He was also the principal drummer on the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds album.
Among the 40 #1 hits on which he played were “He’s a Rebel” (The Crystals), “Surf City” (Jan and Dean), “This Diamond Ring” (Gary Lewis and the Playboys), “Eve of Destruction” (Barry McGuire), “These Boots Are Made for Walkin’” (Nancy Sinatra), “Strangers in the Night” (Frank Sinatra), “Poor Side of Town” (Johnny Rivers), “Mrs. Robinson” and “Bridge Over Troubled Water” (Simon and Garfunkel), “Dizzy” (Tommy Roe), “Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In” (the Fifth Dimension), “(They Long to Be) Close to You” (The Carpenters), “I Think I Love You” (The Partridge Family), “Indian Reservation” (Paul Revere and the Raiders), “Half Breed” (Cher), “Song Sung Blue” and “Cracklin’ Rosie” (Neil Diamond), “The Way We Were” (Barbra Streisand), “Thank God I’m a Country Boy” (John Denver). “Theme From Mahogany” (Diana Ross) and “Love Will Keep Us Together” (Captain and Tennille).
Blaine estimated that he played on 35,000 individual songs in all.
Hal Blaine was born Harold Simon Belsky on February 5, 1929, in Holyoke, Mass. He became a professional drummer in 1948 and joined the band of teen idol Tommy Sands in the late ’50s. Relocating to Los Angeles in the ’60s, he became the most in-demand session drummer in the city, playing on most of Phil Spector’s hits as well as Elvis Presley’s film soundtracks and many of the Beach Boys’ recordings.
His drums can also be heard on recordings by Steely Dan, Glen Campbell, Sam Cooke, Nat King Cole, Trini Lopez, the Everly Brothers, Roy Orbison, John Lennon, Dusty Springfield, Sammy Davis Jr., Emmylou Harris, Love, Dean Martin, Ray Charles, Johnny Cash and others.
Between 1966 and ’71 Blaine played on six consecutive Grammy Record of the Year winners: Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass in 1966 for “A Taste of Honey”; Frank Sinatra in 1967 for “Strangers in the Night”; The Fifth Dimension in 1968 and 1970 for “Up, Up and Away” and “Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In”; Simon and Garfunkel in 1969 and 1971 for “Mrs. Robinson” and “Bridge Over Troubled Water.”
Among the other prominent members of The Wrecking Crew were Plas Johnson, Earl Palmer, Leon Russell, Glen Campbell and Carol Kaye.
Blaine was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2000. He received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2018.