R.I.P. Hal Blaine, Wrecking Crew drummer behind big beat on ''Be My Baby''
If the Wrecking Crew was one of the tightest session bands in music history, that makes Hal Blaine its backbone. The drummer, who sits with his arms folded in the iconic photo from the poster used in the 2008 documentary The Wrecking Crew, was the heat behind some of the 1960s' biggest beats, including that unforgettable intro on the Ronettes' "Be My Baby" and the dramatic thump that launched the Beach Boys into "Wouldn't It Be Nice?"
It was always nice when Blaine was on the sticks, and that's what gave him his reputation as the most prolific session drummer of all time. He was such a critical element of the Wrecking Crew, that he even claimed to have given the band its name, anticipating the "destructive force" they'd be in the studio with any artist.
Blaine wasn't wrong in his hunch, and the band went on to support records from massive hit bands like the Monkees to Vicki Lawrence's gigantic hit "The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia." He was the man behind the drums on six Grammy-winning records, including Frank Sinatra's "Strangers in the Night," Simon & Garfunkel's "Mrs. Robinson" and "Bridge Over Troubled Water," as well as the 5th Dimension's "Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In."
In 1964, Blaine took part in the highly influential concert film T.A.M.I. Show, which featured such a sensational performance from James Brown that later the Rolling Stones' Keith Richards claimed it was a mistake to follow his act. The concert also featured the Beach Boys, the Supremes, Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson & the Miracles, Jan and Dean, and Chuck Berry, and, of course, in the house band: Hal Blaine and the Wrecking Crew. This concert film is often credited with inspiring the first music videos.
On TV, the drummer, whose personal slogan was "Hal Blaine Strikes Again," could be heard on memorable TV theme songs, including The Brady Bunch, Batman, Three's Company and The Partridge Family. As an actor, he even once appeared on an episode of The Mod Squad. In "The Death of Wild Bill Hannachek," you could see Blaine holding down the beat for a country swing band in a bright red shirt in a thickly country-western-themed bar.
In his career, Blaine provided the backing beat on 40 recordings that made it into Billboard's Top 100. Other times he got you tapping your toes surely include the Crystals' "He's a Rebel," Nancy Sinatra's "These Boots Are Made for Walkin'," The Partridge Family's "I Think I Love You," and Shelley Fabares' big hit that debuted on The Donna Reed Show, "Johnny Angel."
On March 11, prolific drummer Hal Blaine passed away at the age of 90.