Hal Blaine played on thousands of songs, helping to create rock drumming as we know it, and he remains one of the most emulated drummers of all time.

‘Be My Baby,’ The Ronettes, 1963

Hal Blaine’s revolutionary beat on this track was purportedly a mistake that Phil Spector liked. This asymmetrical, half-backbeat groove, with the snare placed solely on beat 4, instantly became a must-know pattern for every drummer—and has been used in thousands of songs since. 

‘Another Saturday Night,’ Sam Cooke, 1963

The number of drum fills in this pop song is almost as surprising as the lyrical suggestion that Sam Cooke ever had trouble finding dates. Every eight measures or so, Blaine would pepper the song with an energetic snare-and-tom fill. This track served as an instruction manual for how to play busy rock drum fills in the early ’60s.

‘These Boots Are Made For Walkin’,’ Nancy Sinatra, 1966

This memorable—if kitschy—tune became a classic, and Blaine adds some frenetic fills during the outro. The “clip-clop” percussion part may have been drummer Jim Gordon playing on a drum rim, as he was also on the session.

‘(They Long To Be) Close To You,’ The Carpenters, 1970

Blaine’s playing is often a lesson in tasteful and subtle accompaniment. What stands out in much of Blaine’s work was how effectively he used his bass drum, often ignoring his snare for entire sections of songs. 

‘Puppet Man,’ The 5th Dimension, 1970

Blaine was also a drummer capable of far more than simple backbeat grooves. On this Austin Powers-esque track, his opening fill makes excellent use of his massive kit, which Ludwig later marketed as the Octa-Plus. The beat is all boogaloo with numerous hi-hat barks. During the outro, Blaine plays a double-bass pattern—something you’re not likely to hear in today’s pop music. Sock it to me, baby !