100 Greatest Drummers of All Time

From rock thunder machines to punk powerhouses, we count down the kings and queens of slam

Gene Krupa
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7. Gene Krupa

"He was the first rock drummer, in very many ways," Neil Peart told NPR of Gene Krupa in 2015. "He was the first drummer to command the spotlight and the first drummer to be celebrated for his solos... He did fundamentally easy things, but always made them look spectacular." Krupa's flailing attack, four-on-the-floor bass-drum tattoo and manically funky cowbell work – influenced by New Orleans drummers Baby Dodds and Zutty Singleton – drove Benny Goodman's innovative Thirties big band to new heights and in the process inspired a generation of future rock giants, including Keith Moon and John Bonham. Along with Buddy Rich, his opponent in epic drum battles that inspired today's "Gospel Chops" drum videos, Krupa is the godfather of drum-set artistry as sport and spectacle. The still-thriving tradition of the showstopping, arena-scale drummer star turn, from Bonham's "Moby Dick" to Peart's "The Rhythm Method," is unthinkable without him.

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