It’s a convention in rock music that you have a front man or woman, guitarists, a bassist and, at the back, the drummer. In many people’s minds it could almost be a hierarchy, with vocal duties the currency of power. The reality is quite different of course (usually), and there are circumstances where the drummer gets to show off their vocal skills too.
Here are eight drummers who made their mark as memorable vocalists, with some going on to become solo singers in their own right.
Roger Taylor (Queen) – As well a songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, Roger Taylor’s distinctive vocals can be heard on many of the band’s hits. What makes Taylor’s vocal style remarkable was his ability to add a rocky gravel sound and a remarkable falsetto. This provided the perfect companion to Freddie Mercury’s own theatrical vocals.
Mickey Dolenz (The Monkees) – While it’s no secret that The Monkees were put together to be a group for a television show, they still had to be able sing, even if the instruments would be performed by session musicians. Dolenz was chosen to ‘play’ the drums, but it became apparent that his vocal style became the signature identity of the band.
Phil Collins – When Peter Gabriel left Genesis in 1975, Phil Collins stepped up as replacement vocalist from behind the drum kit. Collins has gone on to be a successful solo artist, as well as actor. He is also one of the most successful male solo artists in the world, sharing the same distinction of being a notable performer in a band and on his own, along with Michael Jackson and Paul McCartney.
Debbie Peterson (The Bangles) – Rock music is often seen as very male dominated, and there are fewer all female bands than their male counterparts. Therefore there are even fewer female drummer/singers. Debbie Peterson’s vocals have a haunting quality that gives a different distinction to the band’s jangly 60s inspired pop, helping to give The Bangles an edge over other bands of their ilk.
Don Henley (The Eagles) – Throughout the 70s, Don Henley wrote a string of hits with Glenn Frey, making The Eagles one of the most successful bands of the era. The pitch perfect harmonies and husky tones made Don Henley the perfect singer for songs such as One Of The Nights, Desperado and their most famous hit, Hotel California.
Peter Criss (KISS) – With their black and white faces and outlandish costumes, the idea behind KISS was to have four frontmen, each with their own distinctive personality. Founders Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley hired Criss as much for his voice as his drumming. His gravelly sound works incredibly well for the band’s big rock numbers such as Black Diamond as well as one of KISS’ biggest hits, Beth.
Dave Grohl (The Foo Fighters) – While Dave Grohl is now seen as guitarist and frontman for The Foo Fighters, it was as the drummer for Nirvana when he first stepped into the spotlight, although not as much as vocalist Kurt Cobain. Since then, Dave Grohl’s talents have had chance to shine, not only as a singer, but writer and player of a wide range of instruments.
Ringo Starr (The Beatles) – Unlike many other bands, it’s impossible to not know the names of all of The Beatles. John, Paul, George and Ringo just rolls off the tongue, and that’s thanks to the concept of each band member being as well known as the other. Having Ringo sing on at least one track per album was a conscious effort to ensure the drummer’s personality would be part of the record buying public’s awareness. That was part of the battle, as it was Ringo’s self effacing humour and charm that made him one of music’s most memorable characters.
Peterborough Music has a wide range of musical instruments including drum kits and drum kit accessories.