Some musicians are known to have worked with the Beatles while the group was together. However, famed session drummer Hal Blaine is the only person to have worked with all four ex-Beatles in the studio.
The name Hal Blaine may not be known to many in the general public, but he is the most successful drummer in rock history as he has played on more number one hits, more ten hits and more Top 40 hits than any other drummer. He was the backbone of the famed “Wrecking Crew”, a unit of highly talented session musicians which was used by successful producers like Phil Spector and Lou Adler. Blaine has played on an astounding 40 number one hits.
The son of Jewish immigrants, Blaine (real name: Harold Belsky) grew up in Hartford, Connecticut and attended that city’s Weaver High School, which has other famous graduates from that era such as Norman Lear and Totie Fields. To try to summarize Blaine’s phenomenal career would be too daunting a task. Let’s suffice by saying that he played on number one hits by The Beach Boys, Elvis Presley, Neil Diamond, Johnny Rivers, Simon & Garfunkel, The 5th Dimension, Sonny & Cher, Frank Sinatra, The Partridge Family, The Byrds, The Carpenters, Cher, Dean Martin, The Mamas and the Papas, John Denver, Nancy Sinatra and many others.
An amazing accomplishment is that Hal Blaine played on the song that would go on to win the Grammy for Record of the Year – six years in a row! He played on the 1966 Song of the Year “A Taste of Honey” by Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass; the 1967 winner “Strangers in the Night” by Frank Sinatra; “Up, Up and Away” by The 5th Dimension in 1968; “Mrs. Robinson” by Simon & Garfunkel in 1969; “Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In” by The 5th Dimension in 1970; “Bridge Over Troubled Waters” by Simon & Garfunkel in 1971.
The famed session drummer worked for George Harrison when Harrison was producing the Jackie Lomax album Is This What You Want?; of course, Lomax was signed to the Apple label by Harrison and was being groomed to be the label’s first major star. Blaine played on several tracks on this unsuccessful album.
Blaine was personally recruited by John Lennon to play on his 1975 Rock ‘n’ Roll album, and the two developed a friendship outside of the studio as well.
The U.S. Army veteran jokes that he never physically played with Paul McCartney but they were both recruited to do overdubs on several of the same songs, so in a sense he did “play” with McCartney.
Blaine was friendly with Ringo, who recruited him to play on a few tracks on various solo albums.
For a drummer who played on a record 40 number one singles and a record 150 top ten hits, it is small wonder that he was chosen to work with the four former Fab Four fellows. Below are video clips of Blaine discussing his work with Lennon and Harrison.