Gary James' Interview With Session Drummer
Hal Blaine is one of the most recognized names in the music industry. And why not, he's played drums for practically everybody who has been anybody. In 25 years, Hal Blaine has recorded nearly 35,000 tracks of music. He's performed on eight Grammy Records of the Year, more than 40 number one records, and 350 gold and platinum records. Just consider some of the people Hal has played drums for: Elvis, Sinatra, Gary Lewis, The Beach Boys, The Monkees, Dean Martin, John Denver, Barbra Streisand, Neil Diamond, and the list goes on and on.
Hal has written his autobiography, titled Hal Blaine and The Wrecking Crew.
Q - Hal, I really liked your book, but why is it that I have this feeling you held back some information? Are you planning a sequel?
A - It took a long time to do the book, unfortunately, they just couldn't publish all of the manuscript. There were over 2000 pages written. I don't know if there will be a sequel.
Q - What is the message you're trying to get across in this book of yours - that Hal Blaine was a lucky guy, because he was in the right place, at the right time, with the right stuff?
A - Being at the right place at the right time was a very big part of my career, but, obviously, I had to have some talent. I had to have the right stuff I guess you might say. I did come along at a time when rock'n'roll was in its infancy. To me, it was just another form of blues. I'd been playing blues all my life. To me, the word rock'n'roll didn't mean a whole lot. It was just another form of blues. As far as I was concerned, whatever the music was, if it fit me, and I was working, I was very happy. I've always said as long as you're working, if you're dedicated, and you love your work, you'll do OK. As far as getting lucky, sure I was lucky. At the time, there were many drummers around who refused to have anything to do with so called rock'n'roll. I just didn't have that kind of an attitude.
Q - What an incredible list of people you've worked with.
A - It is pretty amazing isn't it? It amazes me, but it's all logged, it's verified by the union. It's off of union contracts.
Q - Hal, I never realized that you played drums on the Gary Lewis records. You naturally would think it's one of the guys in the band who plays on the record. Now, I feel a little cheated, like someone has pulled a fast one on me. What do you think kids would have said if they knew that many of the top rock groups of the 60's used studio musicians on their records?
A - I don't think you should feel cheated. It's just that, as I've explained in the past, most of the kids in these groups, including Gary Lewis, they really didn't have the studio technique down, where they could make records. When I made records with The Beach Boys, Paul Revere or The Byrds, the drummers were happy to have me play the records, because they knew I had the techniques. They didn't have to go in to the studio and be scared to death of microphones. A lot of them had never been in studios. They were garage bands that got together. They were very happy to allow me to make their records and know they would be great records. Then, they could learn them of course. I would be making $35 for an afternoon with The Byrds, while they were out making $35,000 onstage that night. So, I don't think any of those guys were upset. Most of the people in the business did know that there was a ghost crew in Hollywood and that was our Wrecking Crew that just made everybody's records. There must've been 25 or 30 groups that I recorded with that were most pleased that I was making their records, because they were having hit records.
Q - Was it easier to break into the business when you were coming up, or is it easier today?
A - My motto is, there are no losers, just winners who give up too soon. As far as it being easier to break into the business when I was coming up, or is it easier today, I think it's the same at anytime. If you have the outstanding talent and the dedication, I think you can break in whether it's playing the drums or driving a truck. If you're tops and real good in your field, I think it'll happen for you. But I have to say, you have to let it happen in the mainstream of things. You can't live in a little city in Des Moines, Iowa or Albany, N.Y. and say why isn't it happening to me here? You're not in the mainstream in these little towns throughout the United States or anywhere in the world. You're not in the mainstream where the recording is happening. All of the things you get to do in the studios, commercials, television, motion pictures, do not really happen in those little towns. But, you must be in the mainstream of where it's happening and that's obviously New York, Memphis, Chicago and Los Angeles. Wherever it's happening, you must be there for people to hear about you, to see you, to hire you.