Hal Blaine (born Harold Simon Belsky, Holyoke, Massachusetts) is an American drummer and session musician. He is most known for his work with the Wrecking Crew in California. Blaine played on numerous hits by popular groups, including Elvis Presley, John Denver, the Ronettes, Simon & Garfunkel, the Carpenters, the Beach Boys, Nancy Sinatra, and the 5th Dimension. Blaine is a member of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
Hal Blaine was the busiest recording session drummer in Los Angeles in the 1960s and 1970s, playing the drums on â€" by his count of the Musicians Union Contracts â€" thousands of recordings, from the Wall of Sound productions of Phil Spector to Brian Wilson's productions of the Beach Boys, and including most of the pop/rock performers in Los Angeles in the '60s, as well as such notables as Elvis Presley and Frank Sinatra. His memories were published in 1990 and the book, Hal Blaine and the Wrecking Crew is currently in its 3rd iteration.
Hal Blaine may well be the most prolific drummer in rock and roll history. He's certainly played on more hit records than any drummer in the rock era, including 40 #1 singles and 150 that made the Top Ten. Eight of the records he played on won Grammys for Record of the Year. Hal Blaine was born Harold Simon Belsky in 1929 in Holyoke, Massachusetts. He studied with Roy Knapp in Chicago and became a professional drummer in 1948 and joined teen idol Tommy Sands' band in the late Fifties. He was the most in-demand session drummer in Los Angeles during the Sixties and early Seventies, and a list of musicians he played with reads like a who's who of popular music.
In 1961, Blaine drummed on "Can't Help Falling in Love With You," one of Elvis Presley's most memorable sides, and he would play on Presley's film soundtracks throughout the Sixties. However, Blaine's best-known affiliation is with producer Phil Spector, where he served as the percussive backbone of the "Wrecking Crew" the nickname that younger studio hands on the L.A. scene bestowed on themselves after the rock-hating old-timers complained they were "wrecking the business." He was a key component of Spector's "Wall of Sound" production, which yielded such classic rock and roll hits as "Be My Baby," by the Ronettes, and "Da Doo Ron Ron," by the Crystals.
In the early 1960s, Blaine designed a set that completely changed the drum world. They went from a little three-, four-piece set of drums; he built a set of drums with an octave of tom-toms so that I could make those long filling rolls rather than just one or two or three tom-toms. Hal's groundbreaking set of eight tunable concert toms were eventually popularized as Octaplus toms from Ludwig.
Blaine also established a fruitful relationship with Beach Boys leader Brian Wilson, for whom he served as the first-call session drummer. Blaine appeared on innumerable Beach Boys hits, ranging from "Surfer Girl" to "Good Vibrations." He also drummed on countless recordings by the cream of West Coast pop musicians, including Jan and Dean, the Mamas and the Papas, the Byrds, Johnny Rivers, the Association, Sonny and Cher, the Grass Roots, and Gary Lewis and the Playboys. On the more "adult" side of the pop ledger, Blaine played drums on recordings by Frank Sinatra and Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass.
By Blaine's own estimate, he performed on 35,000 recorded tracks over in a quarter century's worth of work. He published his memoirs, Hal Blaine and the Wrecking Crew, in 1990. In March of 2000 Hal Blaine was inducted into the 'Rock and Roll' Hall of Fame.
While officially 'retired,' Hal continues to play an occasional live date with pianist Sam Ocampo, and he has recently played on albums by Mark Wilson and Lorin Hart.
Interestingly, Hal's accomplishments extend beyond drumming. He wrote the book Hal Blaine and the Wrecking Crew, which chronicles his career and the golden era of studio playing. Hal is also a bit of a comedian ("What do you call a guy who hangs around with musicians? A drummer."), and he recorded the comedy album Buh-Doom!