Drummers are historically part of a big boys club, but that doesn’t mean that women haven’t left their mark on the skins. On the contrary, some of the most influential bands and musicians have been backed by a girl playing the drums. From keeping the rhythm to bringing the heat to a drum solo, these women did it all.
#10 Karen Carpenter
The music world seems to have forgotten that Karen Carpenter wasn’t just an angelic singer; she was also a drummer. As half of The Carpenters, she and her brother Richard were mainstays of the pop charts in the 1970’s. Karen was a drummer before she ever attempted to sing or play other instruments. She considered herself “a drummer who sang.” Before her death, Karen released 10 albums with The Carpenters.
#9 Meg White
One half of the popular group The White Stripes, Meg White was an indispensable part of the duo, fronted by Jack White. The minimalist and restrained approach favored by White was a throwback to the era of Moe Tucker. The White Stripes quit in 2011, but racked up six Grammy nominations. Meg and Jack White were married until 2001, bu pretended to be siblings until fans discovered their secret.
# 8 Sandy West
The Runaways was the first all-female heavy metal bands to gain traction. She started as a drummer a age 15, when she me Joan Jett they formed The Runaways. West infused her drumming with a California style and was influenced by Led Zeppelin. The Runaways had a huge impact on the music industry and changed the way women were seen in the industry.
#7 Gina Schock
The Go-Go’s remain the top-selling girl group of all time. Gina Schock played drums for the band after an early stint with the punk group Edie and the Eggs, which was formed by director John Waters to work with Edith Massey. Schock still tours with the Go-Go’s and has written songs for Miley Cyrus and Selena Gomez.
#6 Maureen Tucker
There is a reason so many musicians speak about the need to go back to the basics to find a style. Maureen “Moe” Tucker had a huge impact on drum patterns while drumming for the influential Velvet Underground. Her simple approach to drumming helped make the Underground a unique listening experience. After Tucker quit the Velvet Underground, she continued to tour with bands like Half Japanese.
#5 Kate Schellenbach
Schellenbach spent her formative years drumming for The Beastie Boys when they were punk rock. She then founded Lucious Jackson, an alt-rock band which continues to record sporadically. Schellenback transitioned to a career producing segments for The Ellen DeGeneres Show, for which she won an Emmy, as well as Chelsea Lately, Helly Ross, and The Late Late Show with James Corden.
#4 Samantha Maloney
Hard rock is a tough way to make a living, but Samantha Maloney did it better than almost anyone. She toured with Eagles of Death Metal, Motley Crue, and Hole after Schemel quit the band in 1998. Maloney also contributed drums to the score for Black Hawk Down.
#3 Patty Schemel
The underrated grunge rock band Hole had the steady Patty Schemel on drums. Schemel reunited with Love in the early 2000’s for Love’s solo career. Her long history of drug use and escapades in the music industry caught the eye of a documentary filmmaker who made a documentary called Hit So Hard, which documents Schemel’s relationship with Kurt Cobain and her tenure in Hole. Schemel also wrote a book about her experiences. Schemel also played with Juliette and the Licks, the band fronted by Juliette Lewis.
#2 Sheila E.
Sheila E is the queen of women drummers. She first became a household name while playing with Prince. She has also toured with Ringo Starr, George Duke, Lionel Richie, Jennifer Lopez, and Kanye West. Sheila E. is regarded as one of the best funk drummers who ever lived. Sheila E. says she recorded hundreds and hundreds of songs with Prince that haven’t been released, and she hasn’t heard them in 20 or 30 years. She hopes the songs will be released as part of the future plans by the Prince Estate.
#1 Bobbye Hall
It’s high time the music industry recognized the great Bobbye Hall, especially given the caliber of artists she has collaborated with. Featured on “Another Brick in the Wall (Part 2)” by Pink Floyd, “Let’s Get it On” by Marvin Gaye, and “Ain’t No Sunshine” by Bill Withers, Hall is an incomparable percussionist. Hall also recorded for Tom Petty, Janis Joplin, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Jefferson Starship, Diana Ross, Dolly Parton, The Doors, Aretha Franklin, Carole King, Stevie Wonder, The Temptations, Rod Stewart, and Stevie Nicks. Hall was one of the few women who was a session drummer during the 1970’s. She plays almost every percussion instrument and has recorded in Carnegie Hall.