Ginger Baker’s favourite drummers of all time

Ginger Baker

In truth, Ginger Baker, the mercurial jazz drummer, driving force behind Cream, and obsessively aggressive percussionist, performed almost everything his way. He may not have openly claimed to any drummers influencing his approach, as he was content with his “own thing,” but he did have some favorites and one he simply referred to as God.

In his memoir, Ginger Baker describes how he began as a percussionist: “After sitting in with a band at a party, I’d never sat on a kit before (the kids virtually forced me to play), I discovered that I could play the drums just like that.” Two trumpet players exclaimed, “Christ! We’ve got a drummer!” and that was it. A light turned on. “I was a drummer”.

Baker died in 2019 with a legend that most drummers can only dream of, yet we can imagine some aspects of Ginger Baker’s lifestyle they would wish to change. He died as a drum legend, one of the last few who claimed to have been present at the beginning of rock and roll, ensuring that the rhythm of the flame was just correct. People will always regard him as a rock god.

Many drummers will not be given the opportunity, even though Baker believes they did better behind the kit. Baker, like most rock drummers in the mid-1960s, started as a jazz drummer, and his exquisite timing was legendary. “Baker introduced a savagery that had never been seen before. Together with Jack Bruce and Eric Clapton, he formed Cream, one of the scene’s pioneering performers.”

Baker’s heart, however, would always be dedicated to jazz. “After combing through several interviews and memoirs by the infamous drummer, we’ve compiled what we believe to be a definitive list. It includes Baker’s favorite drummers of all time.”

He recalls, “I started listening to music when I was quite young, 11 or 12 years old. Listening to the big bands of the period, Ted Heath and Jack Parnell, and always focusing on the drummer. “I joined the school gang, and we were nicking records—that’s when I discovered the Quintet of the Year: Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Bud Powell, Charlie Mingus, and the great Max Roach. It completely blew my mind, so I began listening to all the jazz I could.” Naturally, jazz steeped his choices.

Baker believed many drummers to be among the world’s best percussionists. Forbes posited the premise that he was the best drummer ever, to which Baker casually answered, “I wouldn’t quite say that.” I think I’m one of them. I had my own thing, which Phil Seamen and Art Blakey had. When you hear them play, you know who they are.”

Adding: “Max Roach, ‘Philly’ Joe Jones, and Elvin Jones. It dates back to ‘Papa’ Jo Jones and [Warren] Baby Dodds. All of these men had a significant influence on me, but I did not emulate them. Phil Seamen was probably the most influential figure. “He was God.”

Ginger met the great Phil Seamen in 1959: “I moved on to professional bands and modern jazz, routinely performing at Ronnie Scott’s club and the Flamingo in London. “Phil heard me play and paid me a huge compliment. That night, he played me his collection of African drum records, and it was like a gigantic door opening, a big light turned on. After that, Baker would fly to Nigeria to immerse himself in the mysticism of drumming and pure music.

Seamen had an even larger complement for Baker: “Phil told me that I was the only drummer who’d ‘got it’.” It was something Baker remembered until his death, and he frequently mentioned it as a proud memory during interviews.”

When the image of a rock star is so established in the public consciousness, as Ginger Baker’s cantankerous temperament is, it’s a tremendous thrill to observe not only his fondness for particular drummers but also the modest sacrifices he will make for them.

Find a list of Baker’s favorites below.

Ginger Baker’s favorite drummers of all time:

We’ve put together a tiny playlist of some of their excellent work, but we strongly advise you to dig into the entire back catalogs of all seven artists mentioned. Enjoy.

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