Drummers are an essential part of the musical kingdom. They provide their band with a heartbeat, keep track of the timing, and make some glorious beats. Sometimes they’re mediocre, sometimes Ginger Baker good, and sometimes not very good at all – but they’re most always essential. From Dave Grohl to Phil Collins, there came a time in a few drummers’ lives where they wanted to say a little more – they wanted to front bands, and oh boy, have they done so with fervour. So we’ve conjured a little list of drummers who transitioned effortlessly into lead vocalists.
Sometimes all the energy and charisma of a drummer can’t be contained behind the skins, so here are 5 drummers you have definitely heard of who dropped the sticks to be a frontman.
Mr Phil Collins is renowned for his technique. For playing drums like an animal (yes, I’m referring to THAT Cadbury ad) and inspiring generations of beat makers. From his days of drumming with rock band Genesis to his first solo record Face Value in 1981, with the power to do both, Collins had moved into the forefront to become not only the vocalist, but sometimes drummer, in both his own tracks and on records such as Eric Clapton’s 1985 LP Behind The Sun. Having garnered more top 40 hits in the 80’s than any other artist, one could say he has made the transition rather successfully.
Almost everyone and their dogs know of Jack White thy holy vinyl obsessed god of all things contemporary rock n’ roll, and front man for arguably the snazziest band of this era, The White Stripes, yet what most don’t know is that before his days of red and white, John Anthony Gillis got his start hitting the skins at age 6 – a skill that’s been used in many of his own adventures as a frontman, and backing vocalist – most notably, his recent stint with blues band Dead Weather has seen him play with passion and swing. Guitar virtuoso, drummer and frontman… what can’t the man do?!*
Since 2005 The Drones have been filling the Aussie music scene with soul capturing, award winning records, yet in 2011 after many long years with the band, using their fame as a platform, drummer boy Mike Noga decided to focus his time on a solo career, which included stepping out from behind the drum kit, to centre stage, acoustic guitar in hand, and vocals in full tow. Having released three records of his own, the latest, crowd funded through the Pozible campaign, Noga has made subtle waves thus far, but with his quirky Aussie soaked vocals, and knack for old time story telling, Noga’s slow conversion into a full time frontman has seen his talents rattle around our minds rather pleasantly.
We’re all familiar with the mantra ‘Grohl is God’, I for one have many shirts, and badges with that very phrase embellished on the front, but why of all drummers turned frontmen has Grohl left such a lasting impression? Well, the man has talent, and a suave effortlessness that allowed him to switch to vocals with ease. From his days of playing with Nirvana, to the Foo Fighters’ first single This Is A Call Grohl had come to the realisation that his vocals needed attention, they needed their own spotlight, and with arguably better and completely solitary lyrics, and tones than those of Nirvana’s – Grohl’s innovative sound and gritty vocal range has been enough to make us almost forget completely about the very band that gave him his first taste of fame, the platform for his now huge career.
Famous for his days of beating with The Beatles, in 2011 Ringo Starr was named the 5th greatest drummer of all time in Rolling Stones’ fan voted top 100 list. Using a combination of 16th notes in unison and fancy fills to create a primitive sound, Starr is a drummer with distinctive technique, a drummer who has inspired fellow greats such as Phil Collins, and in the early 60s was considered by his future band mates George Harrison, John Lennon and Paul McCartney to be the “Best drummer in Liverpool”. In 1970, following the breakup of the beloved group, Starr embarked on a solo career, releasing 18 records to date, each of which feature his vocals – vocals that are overtly English, limited in range, yet indulgent, and intriguing. Starr has seen moderate success with his solo records, that although doesn’t quite measure up to the success of his Beatles counterparts, still see him touring, and occasionally going back to and bangin’ brilliantly on the instrument that gave him his flavour.
*Ed. He can also upholster furniture.