The Beat Goes On: Unpacking the Drumming Legacy of the Who

The Who, one of the most iconic rock bands of all time, has been delivering powerful and energetic performances for over five decades. A significant part of their sound is their drumming, which has been instrumental in creating their unique style. The drumming legacy of the Who has been a topic of discussion for many years, and the question remains, “Who is drumming for the Who?” This article delves into the history of the band’s drummers and explores the impact they have had on the band’s sound and success. Get ready to discover the beat that keeps the Who going strong.

The Origins of the Who’s Drumming Sound

The Early Years: Foundations of the Who’s Rhythm

The early years of the Who’s drumming sound were characterized by a fusion of various musical influences that shaped the band’s unique rhythmic style. These foundations were laid during the formative years of the British rock scene, where the Who’s drumming style would come to play a crucial role in the development of their sound.

The Influence of Early Rock and Roll

The early years of rock and roll played a significant role in shaping the Who’s drumming sound. Artists such as Chuck Berry and Little Richard, with their emphasis on backbeat and swing, introduced a new rhythmic sensibility that would influence the band’s drumming style. Keith Moon, the Who’s drummer, was particularly drawn to the energy and power of rock and roll, which he incorporated into his playing.

The Rise of British Beat Music

The rise of British beat music in the early 1960s also had a profound impact on the Who’s drumming sound. Bands such as the Beatles and the Rolling Stones popularized a new rhythmic style that emphasized the use of drums and percussion. This style, known as the British Invasion sound, featured a driving backbeat and a focus on the rhythm section.

The Who, with their emphasis on power and energy, became one of the leading bands of the British Invasion. Their drumming style, with its powerful backbeat and emphasis on rhythm, helped to define the sound of the British Invasion and set the stage for the band’s future success.

The Evolution of the Who’s Drumming Style

The Transition to Mod and R&B

The Who’s drumming style underwent a significant transformation during the 1960s, as the band embraced the mod and R&B sounds that were becoming increasingly popular in Britain. This transition was driven by a desire to keep up with the times and appeal to a wider audience, and it had a profound impact on the band’s sound and style.

One of the key changes that occurred during this period was a shift away from the traditional rock ‘n’ roll rhythms that the band had been playing in the early 1960s, and towards a more complex and dynamic sound that incorporated elements of mod, R&B, and other musical styles. This new sound was characterized by a more sophisticated use of drums and percussion, as well as a greater emphasis on melody and harmony.

As the band’s lead guitarist, Pete Townshend, has noted, the Who’s music during this period was heavily influenced by the R&B and mod scenes that were flourishing in London at the time. Townshend was particularly drawn to the syncopated rhythms and powerful grooves of R&B, and he sought to incorporate these elements into the band’s music in order to create a more exciting and dynamic sound.

To achieve this, Townshend worked closely with the band’s drummer, Keith Moon, to develop a new drumming style that would be more suited to the band’s new sound. Moon was a natural fit for this role, as he was already known for his innovative and unconventional approach to drumming.

As Moon later recalled, he and Townshend spent a lot of time experimenting with different drumming techniques and sounds during this period, in order to create a more distinctive and memorable sound for the band. Moon was particularly interested in using unconventional drumming techniques, such as playing with his hands instead of sticks, in order to create a more dynamic and expressive sound.

Overall, the evolution of the Who’s drumming style during the 1960s was a key factor in the band’s success and influence during this period. By embracing new sounds and techniques, and working closely with their drummer to develop a new and distinctive style, the Who were able to create a powerful and dynamic sound that continues to inspire and influence musicians and music fans around the world today.

The Key Players: Drummers Who Have Passed Through the Who’s Ranks

Key takeaway: The Who’s drumming style has had a significant impact on the evolution of rock music. Their innovative approach to drumming, characterized by power, creativity, and innovation, influenced countless drummers who followed in their footsteps. The Who’s drumming legacy continues to inspire and influence drummers around the world today.

The Original Lineup: Keith Moon

Keith Moon, often hailed as one of the most influential drummers in rock history, was a crucial component of the Who’s original lineup. His distinctive style, characterized by his rapid-fire rolls, power-packed beats, and unconventional techniques, played a pivotal role in shaping the band’s sound. Moon’s drumming not only elevated the Who’s music to new heights but also left an indelible mark on the world of rock drumming.

His Unique Style and Impact on the Who’s Sound

Moon’s innovative approach to drumming brought a sense of energy and dynamism to the Who’s music. He employed a variety of unconventional techniques, such as using drumsticks in different ways (e.g., hitting the side of the stick instead of the tip) and incorporating unusual rhythms, to create a sound that was both distinctive and powerful. This approach allowed him to seamlessly integrate with the band’s sound, contributing to their distinctive style and contributing to their success.

Moon’s unique style extended beyond his drumming. He was known for his exuberant and energetic stage presence, which included performing drum solos while standing up, using two bass drums, and even destroying his drum kit at the end of a show. These theatrical antics added to the band’s live show, creating a memorable and engaging experience for audiences.

The Legacy of Keith Moon’s Drumming

Keith Moon’s influence on rock drumming is immeasurable. His innovative approach to drumming, along with his charismatic stage presence, inspired countless drummers who followed in his footsteps. Moon’s legacy is evident in the way many rock drummers have adopted his techniques and incorporated them into their own style.

Furthermore, Moon’s impact extends beyond his musical contributions. His tragic death in 1978 at the age of 32 left a lasting impression on the music world. His untimely demise served as a reminder of the fragility of life and the potential for greatness that can be cut short. Moon’s legacy lives on through his music, his influence on drumming, and the enduring memory of his dynamic presence on stage.

The Transition: Kenney Jones

Joining the Band After Moon’s Death

Kenney Jones was an established session drummer in the London music scene when he joined the Who as their permanent drummer in 1978, following the tragic death of Keith Moon. Jones was well-known for his versatility and technical prowess, which had earned him work with various artists and bands throughout his career. He had played with artists such as Jack Bruce, Ginger Baker, and even performed with the Who as a session musician during the recording of their album, “Who by Numbers.”

Continuing the Legacy

Jones’s entrance into the band was met with mixed feelings. While some fans were excited to see a new drummer bring fresh energy to the group, others were hesitant to accept anyone else playing the drums alongside Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey. Jones was tasked with the challenging job of replacing a rock legend and carrying on the band’s legacy.

Jones’s approach to drumming was distinct from Moon’s. He had a more laid-back style, which was reflected in his use of cymbals and overall approach to groove. While Moon was known for his wild and explosive playing, Jones’s style was more restrained and refined. He was skilled at providing a solid backbeat, allowing the other members of the band to shine.

One of Jones’s most notable contributions to the Who’s music was his work on the album, “Face Dances.” The album was released in 1981 and featured several hit singles, including “You Better You Bet” and “Athena.” Jones’s playing on the album demonstrated his versatility and adaptability to the band’s changing sound during the early 1980s.

Despite his talent and contributions to the band, Jones faced criticism from some fans who felt that he didn’t possess the same level of charisma and stage presence as Moon. However, Jones remained a dedicated member of the Who, touring extensively with the band and participating in numerous albums and projects throughout his tenure.

Overall, Kenney Jones’s transition into the Who was a crucial moment in the band’s history. While he may not have been the flashiest drummer, his technical prowess and ability to blend seamlessly with the band’s sound allowed him to make a lasting impact on the Who’s drumming legacy.

The Modern Era: Zak Starkey and Ringo Starr

Bringing New Energy to the Drumming

The modern era of the Who’s drumming legacy began with the arrival of two new drummers: Zak Starkey and Ringo Starr. Both brought fresh energy and new perspectives to the band’s sound, helping to reinvent and reinvigorate their music for a new generation of fans.

Zak Starkey, the son of the legendary Beatles drummer Ringo Starr, joined the Who in 1994 as the replacement for Kenney Jones. He brought with him a raw power and intensity that breathed new life into the band’s music. His powerful and dynamic drumming style was the perfect complement to Roger Daltrey’s soaring vocals and Pete Townshend’s guitar work.

Ringo Starr, the original drummer for the Beatles, also made a guest appearance with the Who in 2012 for their “Quadrophenia” tour. His iconic style and influence on the band’s music was evident, as he seamlessly integrated himself into the group’s sound.

The Influence of the Beatles’ Legacy

The inclusion of Zak Starkey and Ringo Starr in the Who’s ranks was not only a nod to their own individual drumming legacies, but also a recognition of the deep connection between the two bands. The Beatles and the Who were both central to the British Invasion of the 1960s, and their music has had a lasting impact on the industry ever since.

By incorporating these legendary drummers into their sound, the Who were able to tap into the Beatles’ legacy and pay homage to their shared history. This connection between the two bands added a new dimension to the Who’s music, allowing them to connect with fans in a way that had never been done before.

In conclusion, the modern era of the Who’s drumming legacy has been shaped by the talents of Zak Starkey and Ringo Starr. Their contributions have brought new energy and inspiration to the band’s sound, helping to ensure that the beat of the Who will continue to be heard for generations to come.

The Impact of the Who’s Drumming on Rock Music

Shaping the Sound of Rock Drums

The drumming style of the Who’s Keith Moon and later, Pete Townshend, had a significant impact on the sound of rock music. The two drummers developed a unique style that was characterized by power, creativity, and innovation. This style influenced countless drummers who followed in their footsteps, and it remains an essential part of the Who’s enduring legacy.

The Influence of the Who’s Drumming on Punk and New Wave

The Who’s drumming style was particularly influential on the punk and new wave movements that emerged in the 1970s. Many punk and new wave bands were inspired by the Who’s raw energy and rebellious spirit, and they sought to emulate their sound and style.

The Ramones, for example, were heavily influenced by the Who’s drumming, and they incorporated many of the same elements into their own music. The Ramones’ drummer, Tommy Ramone, cited Keith Moon as a major influence on his playing, and he sought to emulate Moon’s power and precision.

Other punk and new wave bands, such as the Sex Pistols and the Clash, were also influenced by the Who’s drumming. These bands sought to create a raw, aggressive sound that would capture the energy and spirit of the times, and they drew inspiration from the Who’s powerful and innovative drumming.

The Enduring Legacy of the Who’s Rhythm Section

The Who’s drumming style has had a lasting impact on rock music, and it continues to influence drummers and musicians today. The band’s innovative approach to drumming helped to shape the sound of rock music, and it remains an essential part of the Who’s enduring legacy.

The Who’s rhythm section, which included bassist John Entwistle and drummer Keith Moon, was particularly influential. Entwistle’s powerful and melodic bass lines complemented Moon’s dynamic drumming, creating a unique and powerful sound that influenced countless musicians.

Today, many drummers continue to draw inspiration from the Who’s drumming style, and they seek to emulate their power, creativity, and innovation. The Who’s drumming legacy lives on, and it continues to shape the sound of rock music.

The Evolution of Rock Drumming

The Who’s drumming had a profound impact on the evolution of rock music, influencing not only the way drums were played but also the role of the drummer in a band.

The Rise of Technical Drumming

One of the most significant contributions of the Who’s drumming was the rise of technical drumming. Keith Moon’s innovative approach to drumming pushed the boundaries of what was possible on the drum set, incorporating complex rhythms, challenging time signatures, and dynamic contrasts. His style inspired countless drummers to explore new techniques and approaches, leading to a surge in technical proficiency among rock drummers.

The Embrace of Diversity in Drumming Styles

Another key aspect of the Who’s drumming was their embrace of diversity in drumming styles. Moon’s eclectic approach to drumming incorporated elements of jazz, blues, and even classical music, challenging the notion that rock drumming had to adhere to a strict set of rules. This willingness to experiment and incorporate a wide range of influences paved the way for drummers to push the envelope and explore new sounds and styles.

Overall, the evolution of rock drumming can be traced in large part to the innovative and influential drumming of the Who. Their impact on the instrument and the role of the drummer in a band cannot be overstated, and their legacy continues to inspire and influence drummers around the world.

The Future of the Who’s Drumming Legacy

Continuing to Inspire New Generations of Drummers

Even decades after the height of their popularity, the Who’s music and drumming continue to inspire new generations of drummers. This section will explore the lasting appeal of the Who’s music and the legacy of Keith Moon and the band’s drumming that continues to influence drummers today.

The Lasting Appeal of the Who’s Music

The Who’s music has a timeless quality that has allowed it to endure for decades. The band’s use of powerful, dynamic rock anthems and the innovative use of instruments like the drum kit have made their music stand out and continue to resonate with audiences today. The band’s songs are not only catchy and memorable, but they also tackle themes of rebellion, identity, and the human experience, making them relatable to audiences of all ages.

The Legacy of Keith Moon and the Band’s Drumming

Keith Moon’s unique and dynamic drumming style has had a profound impact on the world of rock music. His use of unconventional drumming techniques, such as playing on the wrong side of the kit and using a bass drum pedal to create a “runaway” effect, helped to revolutionize the role of the drummer in rock music. His energy and showmanship on stage were also influential, and his influence can be seen in the drumming styles of many later rock drummers.

In addition to Keith Moon’s influence, the Who’s drumming as a whole has had a lasting impact on the world of rock music. The band’s use of power chords, explosive drumming, and dynamic songwriting has influenced countless other bands and musicians. The Who’s drumming continues to be studied and emulated by drummers today, and their legacy as one of the most influential rock bands of all time is secure.

The Evolution of Drumming in the 21st Century

As the 21st century dawned, the drumming world underwent a seismic shift, as new technologies and styles of playing began to emerge. Here are some of the key developments that have defined the evolution of drumming in the 21st century:

The Rise of Electronic and Experimental Drumming

One of the most significant developments in the 21st century has been the rise of electronic and experimental drumming. As technology has advanced, drummers have been able to incorporate new sounds and textures into their playing, using synthesizers, samplers, and other electronic devices. This has led to a whole new world of sonic possibilities, as drummers have explored new ways of creating and manipulating sound.

For example, drummers like Pat Metheny and Sting have experimented with electronic drums and trigger pads, allowing them to incorporate a wide range of sounds and textures into their playing. Other drummers, like Joey Jordison of Slipknot, have embraced more aggressive and extreme styles of drumming, using double-kick drums and blast beats to create a distinctive and powerful sound.

The Future of Rock Drumming and the Who’s Influence

As the 21st century has progressed, rock drumming has continued to evolve and diversify, drawing on a wide range of influences and styles. The Who’s drumming legacy has remained an important influence on many drummers, both in terms of their technical approach to playing and their creative use of the drum set.

Many modern rock drummers have drawn inspiration from Keith Moon’s energetic and unpredictable style, using his unique approach to playing as a basis for their own playing. Others have been influenced by the more controlled and precise style of Ringo Starr, incorporating his melodic and groove-based approach into their own playing.

Overall, the future of rock drumming in the 21st century looks bright, as drummers continue to push the boundaries of what is possible on the drum set. Whether incorporating electronic sounds, experimenting with new techniques, or drawing on the legacy of classic rock drummers like Keith Moon and Ringo Starr, the drumming world is alive with creativity and innovation.


1. Who is drumming for the Who currently?

The current drummer for the Who is Zak Starkey. He has been a member of the band since 1996 and has played on numerous albums and tours.

2. Who has been the drummer for the Who in the past?

The Who has had several drummers over the years, including Keith Moon, Kenney Jones, and Pete Townshend.

3. What is the significance of the drumming in the Who’s music?

The drumming in the Who’s music is an integral part of their sound and style. It provides the rhythmic foundation for their songs and adds a dynamic energy to their live performances.

4. How has the drumming in the Who’s music evolved over time?

The drumming in the Who’s music has evolved over time to reflect the changing musical styles and influences of the band. Keith Moon’s wild and innovative drumming in the 1960s and 1970s was later replaced by the more straightforward and precise style of Kenney Jones in the 1980s. Today, Zak Starkey brings his own unique style and energy to the band.

5. How has the drumming in the Who’s music influenced other musicians?

The drumming in the Who’s music has had a significant influence on other musicians, particularly in the rock and roll genre. Keith Moon’s creative and explosive style inspired many drummers to push the boundaries of what was possible on the drums. Today, Zak Starkey continues to inspire new generations of drummers with his powerful and dynamic playing.

Keith Moon’s Drumming (The Who)

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