Hal Blaine may have the longest resume of any session drummer during the rock era. At a time when rock groups attempted to perpetuate the myth that they played all the instruments on their records, Blaine was used in "countless thousands of recording dates with virtually every big name in the business" [Jud Cost. Liner notes to Deuces, "T’s," Roadsters & Drums.], including the Beach Boys, the Byrds, John Denver, Duane Eddy, Jan and Dean, Dean Martin, Elvis Presley, Paul Revere and the Raiders, Simon and Garfunkel, Frank and Nancy Sinatra, and Phil Spector’s roster of artists.
Born Harold Simon Belsky in Holyoke, Massachusetts, he grew up watching Count Basie, Tommy Dorsey, Benny Goodman, and other big bands in Hartford’s State Theatre across the street from where his father worked during the 1930s. When his family moved to southern California in the 1944, he began playing the drums during club jam sessions. Following a stint in the Army during the Korean War, he used the G.I. Bill to earn a degree at the Roy Knapp School of Percussion in Chicago.
Back in Los Angeles, he began performing on demos for a local deejay with songwriting aspirations. He eventually got an assignment to play on Tommy Sands’ recording of "Teen-Age Crush" (Capitol 3639; 1957; #2). The record’s success opened doors for other recording sessions. His ability to read music gave him a decided advantage over other studio drummers. He and the other informally dressed young turks playing the early 1960s recording sessions—including Leon Russell, Glen Campbell, and Jerry Cole—were eyed with suspicion by the older, established musicians. Hearing comments such as, "These kids are gonna wreck the business," [Cost] led Blaine to christen his cohorts the "Wrecking Crew."
Sessions with Lee Hazlewood, producer of Duane Eddy’s classic singles, led a contract with RCA to record the only album in which Blaine received star billing. Recorded on October 25, 1963 and released without any promotional tour or advertising, Deuces, "T’s," Roadsters & Drums (RCA; reissued by Sundazed 12856; 2001), by Hal Blaine and the Young Cougars, was destined for the cut-out bins. Two singles for the label—"Hawaii 1963"/"East Side Story" (RCA 8147; 1963) and "(Dance with the) Surfin’ Band"/"The Drummer Plays for Me" (RCA 8223; 1963)—had been released earlier in the year, also to marginal sales. Nevertheless, Blaine’s studio legacy, which has spanned some forty years, was sufficient to earn him induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2000.
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