The NAMM community and musicians everywhere are mourning the loss of Hal Blaine, known as the world’s most recorded drummer, who passed away at the age of 90 on March 11, 2019. Hal was a fixture within the NAMM ecosystem, often spotted at a NAMM Show booth talking with people for as long as they wanted. Hal also was extremely passionate about the work of the Museum of Making Music in Carlsbad, California. Shortly after the museum first opened, Hal volunteered not only his time, but his expertise to speak to guests at a drum exhibition and by the end of the event, Hal even left behind one of his own drum kits for other patrons to enjoy. Hal was a friend to all who will be dearly missed.
Chances are, even if you don’t know Hal by name, you know his diverse body of work. As one of the founding members of the Los Angeles based group of session musicians, The Wrecking Crew, Hal played on numerous recordings including those of Elvis Presley, John Denver, Simon & Garfunkel, The Beach Boys, and Nancy and Frank Sinatra. Working closely with "Wall of Sound" producer, Phil Spector, Hal dominated the recording scene throughout the 1960s and 1970s in L.A. and it is estimated that Hal recorded some 35,000 sessions throughout his career.
Hal amassed a multitude of additional achievements including publishing his memoirs Hal Blaine and The Wrecking Crew, being one of the first “sidemen” inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and earning a GRAMMY® Lifetime Achievement Award in 2018. Hal also stands out as holding a record for playing on the most consecutive GRAMMY Award Record of the Year albums. Hal’s tracks on these albums include:
Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass, “A Taste of Honey” (1966)
Frank Sinatra, “Strangers in the Night” (1967)
The 5th Dimension, “Up, Up and Away” (1968)
Simon & Garfunkel, “Mrs. Robinson” (1969)
The 5th Dimension, “Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In” (1970)
Simon & Garfunkel, “Bridge Over Troubled Water” (1971)
As an advocate for the NAMM’s Oral History Collection, Hal sat down on two separate occasions (2002 and 2018) to help Music Historian, Dan Del Fiorentino, document his career and the history of The Wrecking Crew. When asked to reflect on his friend, Dan remarked “We forget what an incredible drummer he and his incredible body of work. It’s hard to believe that the guy who I had dinner with had over 200 top 40 hits!”
Hal seemed to always have a joke or two in his back pocket, determined to get a good laugh out of everyone around him. As a mentor to generations of musicians and an actively playing into his 90’s, we are lucky to have had a talent like Hal Blaine pick up a set of sticks and play.
Public Relations Coordinator
Dan Del Fiorentino