Who Made Who: The First Double Bass Drummer’s in Rock

The Vision

The history of the double bass kick can be trace back to the 1940’s. It started with a musical kid named Louis Bellson who sketched out a double bass drum kit while in his art class. The art  teacher gave him an “A” grade to which later he would become arguably the first double bass drummer.

As the years went by, other companies rejected Bellson’s idea but Gretch would design and make Bellson’s vision a reality having two bass drums, a tom and two floor toms which gave him more flexibility to practice and play more intricate drum patterns.

 Double bass drum kits were first introduced to the jazz music genre when Bellson got the gig with Benny Goodman. Other jazz musicians like Ray McKinley, Ed Shaughnessey, Sam Woodyard soon followed Bellson’s lead.

Although, not too popular in the 50’s it was the 60’s era that made double bass drum kits more popular. With the growth of creative freedom circulating within television and radio stations, drummer’s were using the technique as experimentation.

Double bass drum kits became more popular when it was introduce to the rock n roll genre.

Who Made Who

  1. Ginger Baker – Cream

Ginger Baker

By Omroepvereniging VARA [CC BY-SA 3.0 nl (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/nl/deed.en)], via Wikimedia Commons

Ginger Baker of the band Cream was one of the first and most famous rock double drummers . He used his two bass drums, in an alternating left and right direction, not just in solos but in beats of songs such as “White Room.” Some say he also played the two bass drums simultaneously to get more volume and power onstage, hoping to match the mountainous amps of bandmates Eric Clapton and Jack Bruce. Ginger added a new level of heaviness and ferocity to the double bass vocabulary.

  2. Keith Moon –  The Who

Keith Moon

By bigdrumtrump (http://flickr.com/photos/bigdrumthump/2430052258/) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Keith Moon tipped off to the idea by Ginger Baker, ordered and then employed two Premier bass drums in his wild onstage delivery, including standing on them (they were reinforced with braces for this). Though Moon’s best double bass recordings came in the ’70s, he did popularize the use of large double bass kits.

  3. Carmine Appice – Vanilla Fudge

Vanilla Fudge

On the East Coast, young Carmine Appice led the way to bona-fide, deliberately loud rock playing on a set of big-sized drums. Appice, with his early band Vanilla Fudge, went to two bass drums in time for the band’s 1969 performance of “Shotgun” on the Ed Sullivan Show, seen by millions of Americans. He has remained an ambassador of double bass drumming throughout his career including his work with Cactus; Beck, Bogert and Appice; Rod Stewart and a bunch of others.

  4. Tommy Aldridge – Black Oak Arkansas

Tommy Aldridge

By Llann Wé² (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Tommy Aldridge is known for his work with numerous bands and artists since the 1970s, such as Black Oak Arkansas, Pat Travers Band, Ozzy Osbourne, Gary Moore and Whitesnake. Check out the intro to ” Hot & Nasty.

  5. Neil Peart – Rush


Neil was amongst a brand new era of rock drummers to bring much more advanced methods to rock n roll. Peart  is known for his unique in-concert drum solos and off beats characterized by technical percussion instruments and lengthy intricate passages in odd time signatures.  His complex arrangements occasionally result in complete separation of upper- and lower-limb drum beats.

The hard rockin’ bands of the ’80s often featured well-designed, flashy double-bass drum kits on stage. Hard rock music was not the only popular music, it was the style most likely, outside the waning camps of prog-rockers, to include double bass drumming. Drummers that took it beyond solos and big endings include the ever-present, ever-exciting Tommy Aldridge, Gregg Bissonette, Aynsley Dunbar, Eric Carr, Lars Ulrich, and Alex Van Halen.

Within metal music it was all played very fast. Speed metal bands like Anthrax, Metallica, Megadeth, and others layered guitar riffs over double bass licks, but nobody on the speed metal scene would have as much influence as Dave Lombardo did with Slayer. Slayer’s 1986 release Reign In Blood, which continues to be mentioned as a fan favorite and an influence by notable drummers, features both machine gun double bass and speedy tempos.

In With the New Generation

The next generation of speed metal bands that may have had some influence from the Black Sabbath/Metallica/Megadeth/Slayer  lineage have helped save the day of double bass drumming in rock and metal music. Within a few years, the classic double kick drumming of Dave Lombardo performed with Slayer  have been taken to a whole different level of insane speeds, that the drummers of previous generations probably could not have even imagined decades ago.

Drummers like Joey Jordison, Derek Roddy, Gene Hoglan, Jason Bittner and a whole group of others have set new standards in speed and endurance. A new generation in bass drumming is being blazed by drummers that treat their feet just like their hands and play more complicated, and often more interesting patterns (though Bellson and others did practice rudiments with their feet). These new drum set patterns, so far, are emerging mostly in drum clinics, though some have made it into actual musical applications.