And Scotland’s Greatest Ever Guitarist is … Stuart Adamson, according to the readers of Dear Scotland. Thanks to all who voted. This week Alec gives us his thoughts on our greatest ever drummer. Paul Carlin (Dananananaykroyd), and John Disco (Bis) have their say too. Who do you think should be in our top 5?

As we did with the Greatest Ever Guitarist vote, we will compile a top 5 for you to vote on next Wednesday. Here are Alec Downie’s top five plus a few more to consider:

……Many moons ago I met Ted McKenna (drummer with The Sensational Alex Harvey Band) on a Saturday afternoon in Glasgow’s salubrious Corinthians for a wee chat. One thing led to another and a few pints turned into a full on sesh. Around eight o’clock that night, a fairly pished Ted leaned over and says, “Feck, I am supposed to be playing the Rory Gallagher Tribute at The Ferry the night!”

So we staggered out to George Square in search of a cab. We just about made it and were greeted by hugs from Rory’s brother Dermott who plied us with several more pints. I just remember thinking: “How the hell is Ted going to get up on the stage, let alone play the drums”.

But at the given time, Ted climbed behind a set of borrowed drums, made a few slight adjustments and with a click of the sticks and a smile the width of the Clyde Tunnel he counted in the band to the song, “Sleep on a Clothes Line”. I recall Ted hitting the drums with such joy, timing and passion that the tribute band collectively turned around in unison, stunned by the power and perfection of the drummer behind them. Years of touring, practice and ardour meant that, despite the booze, Ted never missed a beat.

But great drummers don’t just happen. Fair enough they may be born with a unique sense of rhythm but much of their art is study and practice. When touring with the Sensational Alex Harvey Band, I never once saw Ted forget his practice pad, the tapping of which was constantly in the background.

I once organised a drum and bass workshop with Ted for NEMIS.  Ted bowled over the young “Who the feck are you old man?” audience of would-be-rockstars by running through the history of drumming and giving demonstrations on everything from African beats to Jazz to punk rock, while explaining the vital importance of “knowing your rudiments”.

We all know that Scotland has produced some incredible bands over the years and, unlike their singers or guitarists, often or not we would struggle to name the virtuoso drummers from the records we love. For a drummer to make it into the exclusive gang of “drummers we know the name of”, they need to bring something else to the table: style, looks, groove or, in Keith Moon’s case, sheer insanity. To that end here are some of my Scottish Bang Gang and why I love them.

1. Ted McKenna – Sensational Alex Harvey Band, Rory Gallagher Band, Michael Schenker Group, The Greg Lake Band, Jack Bruce, Tear Gas and others.

Ted is a man who can hit as hard as Billy Cobham, groove as cool as Charlie Watts and party like Keith Moon. If you want to make Ted (and everyone else) happy, give him a set of sticks, position him behind a set of drums and see the world’s woes dissipate in one roll of the toms.

Recommended McKenna groove: ‘Vambo Marble Eye’ by The Sensational Alex Harvey Band

2. Ross McFarlane – Proclaimers, Button Up, Sharleen Spiteri, Stiltskin

If ever there was a Scottish drum-slinger for hire it has to be Ross, equally happy playing at a local pub charity gig or banging the beat for 70,000 punters to leap up and down to on a T in the Park Sunday morning. Ross simply bleeds drumming. If you watch closely you will see that every note is coupled with a grimace, pout or grin, projecting an infectious enthusiasm through the band in front of him and beyond out to the audience.

Recommended bop beat: ‘Letter from America’ by the Proclaimers

3. Paul Thomson – Franz Ferdinand

Just before Franz Ferdinand went into world domination mode, I was at a fancy CMJ party in some New York basement full of posers leaning on the wall and ignoring everything the DJ played. ‘Take Me Out’ came on and every man, woman and transvestite lifted their Calvin Klein covered asses from the plush sofas and boogied their NYC booties to that Glasgow indie beat. Far away from home it felt good to be Scottish, thanks to Paul’s rocking groove.

Recommended indie beat – ‘Take Me Out’ by Franz Ferdinand


4. Ben Johnston – Biffy Clyro & Marmaduke Duke

If Dave Grohl was the inspiration to a young Kilmarnock lad looking to play music for a living, Ben Johnston (pictured above) is the inspiration to a new generation of players who understand that being a great drummer is not all about hitting the drums hard. Drumming is about timing, dexterity and deftness of touch, and when coupled with power, passion and imagination it makes Ben Johnston the best drummer of his generation.

Recommended pummelling of a drum kit: ‘Get Fucked Stud’ by Biffy Clyro

5. Adrienne Giudici – Popup

Popup were supporting Babyshambles in Inverness and I noticed a group of metal kids in the corner during popup’s set who looked terribly out of place. So I ambled over to ask them why they were at a Babyshambles/popup gig and their answer was, “The fecking drummer man! She’s hot!”

Now it would be easy for misogynistic music snobs to reduce a girl drummers sole contribution down to, “being hot”, but perfect timing and a musical aptitude beyond most, means Scotland’s Meg White can not only hit the skins as hard as the ugliest metal drummers but her innovative beats and grooves are what makes popup one of the best indie bands in Glasgow.

Recommended misogynistic bashing – ‘Chinese Burn’ by Popup

Other Scottish Bang Gang members:

Martin Bulloch – Mogwai

You seldom see much promotion for Mogwai, yet they can be quoted in Nick Hornsby’s High Fidelity or featured in the music for a film on Zidane. It is hard to be innovative in music but Martin and the band consistently push the musical barriers. In September 2007, Martin auctioned his old pacemaker on eBay and donated the proceeds to the British Heart Foundation. We hope his new one keeps the beat for many years to come.

Recommended musical landscape: ‘Like Herod’ by Mogwai

Seb Rochford

Sebastian “Seb” Rochford is from Aberdeen and a drummer who spans many genres of music. His father, Gerard Rochford, is an accomplished poet. Seb won the BBC Jazz Award for best newcomer in 2004, and has been nominated as best musician in 2006. He has also been nominated for the Mercury Prize in 2005 and 2007 with his eclectic project Polar Bear.

Dougie Vipond – Deacon Blue

Ever met a man you want to scream “lucky bastard” at? Not only has Dougie been able to tour with Deacon Blue for 25 odd years but the handsome dude is now a sports presenter, so all together now, “LUCKY BASTARD!”

Recommended stick clicking: ‘Chocolate Girl’ by Deacon Blue

Robbie McIntosh – Average White Band

Founder-member of the Average White Band and drumming genius who died of a heroin overdose and still leaves you wondering what if?

Recommended: The most obvious piece of funky Dundee drumming: ‘Pick up the Pieces’ by The Average White Band

Paul Savage – The Delgados

It is a little known fact that other than playing drums for The Delgados, Paul has been the engineer and producer of some of the finest records to come out of Lanarkshire’s Chem 19 Studios, including The Twilight Sad, Arab Strap, Mogwai and The Phantom Band.

Best record to prove twee as fuck drumming can be cool as fuck to waltz to: ‘American Trilogy’ by The Delgados

Brendan O’Hare – Teenage Fan Club, Mogwai and a number of other cool Glasgow bands

Often or not you will find Glasgow legend Brendan in the 13th Note tweaking sound knobs for young bands and unceremoniously passing on years of experience with a smile or a grimace but never without passion.

Best drum roll intro – ‘Tell Me What You See’ by Teenage Fanclub

Richard Colburn – Belle & Sebastian

Playing pop well and making it look effortless is an art and, not content to be in one of Scotland’s biggest bands, Richard drummed on early Snow Patrol sessions and is one of the founding members of The Reindeer Section.

Recommended twee high hats: ‘The Boy with the Arab Strap’ by Belle and Sebastian

Darrell Sweet – Nazareth

If you know drummers, you know that they have far too much energy. Not content to power house the band from the drum stool for years, Darrell was also Nazareth’s manager, (this will sound familiar to many drummers).

Recommended Southern Fife blues beat: ‘Bad Bad Boy’

Jesus! It’s Nazareth

Iain Bayne – Runrig

When I lived in Germany I was amazed that this Scottish band, who I had never really heard of, was playing to thousands in Berlin. Sadly what I know about Runrig you could write on a piece of “Berlin Wall” that a tourist will pay 50 dollars for, but what I do know is that they are loved by many and the best at what they do!

Recommended Nationalist stirring by a tom: Loch Lomond by Runrig

Mark Brzezicki – Big Country

Not a Scot by birth but deserves an honouree mention for devoting his early life to providing the base for Dunfermline’s finest export.

And finally, a shite drummer joke:

Drummer goes into a shop and says “I need 2 skins for my snare and large tom”. Shop owner says “cannae help you”. Drummer says “why no?”. Shop owner says “because this is a chip shop”.

Alec xx

Guest Picks: John Disco (Bis)

Well, Roland R5 (Bis drum machine) has done a great service. I’d also vote for Joel Gray (Amphetameanies), Paul Thomson (Franz Ferdinand) and James Hamilton (Errors).

Guest Picks: Paul Carlin (Dananananaykroyd)

I ought to know about drummers… my band’s gone through about 14… however, I’d have to say my vote for Scotland’s Greatest Ever Drummer would go to Ben Johnston of Biffy Clyro. The guy is a machine. Seriously. I’ve got a lot of time for drummers who can be a total powerhouse but also technically gifted. I think part of the reason Biffy are so big is because they can all play SO well. Your band is only as good as your drummer and Biffy Clyro basically have a stick of dynamite behind the kit! Also, I’m pretty sure he used to sing in a Rage Against The Machine covers band and that’s pretty radical.

Photo Credit : ascotinmpls


  1. Iain Bayne (New Celeste ((1979-80) & Runrig(1980-present) –
    Whether it be behind the kit thumping out the thudding beat of a rocked-up Gaelic waulking song like “An Toll Dubh”, or leading the band at the front of stage with a fast-as-lightening solo snare-riff. Bayne has left me mesmorised everytime I’ve seen him over the years. Beats any other drummer (scottish or otherwise) I’ve seen hands down.

  2. Ross MacFarlane for sure… his work with The High Fidelity was also thoroughly peachy – a top bloke as well. One fist aloft!

  3. ha, I knew Ross McFarlane’s name but not the bands but Ali’s comment above has reminded me – Sean Dickson once told me how he’d taken time off from the HiFi to play on the Hogmanay TV show.

    The guy in Super Adventure Club is technically one of the best ‘unknown’ and new-ish drummers in the country – the video maybe doesn’t give the full impression, but trust me…

  4. You can only judge this if you’ve seen/heard them all. I have, it’s Ted McKenna by far. His mix of power/touch/Rock and Roll and of course his big baw face make him hands down Best Scottish Drummer!!!

  5. My five:

    Ted McKenna — Sensational Alex Harvey Band
    Mark Unpronounceablename – Big Country
    Iain Bayne – Runrig
    Ben Johnston — Biffy Clyro
    Darrell Sweet — Nazareth

    Let voting commence!

  6. geoff dugmore/ ray weston/ morris pert/ stuart tosh/ andy white/ go and check out who they have played with!!!!!!!

  7. I could see an argument that Angus Young is Scottish but Mark Unpronounceablename is also as English as a cup of tea.

  8. Andy White (born 1930, Glasgow, Scotland) is a drummer, best known for playing drums on The Beatles’ first single, “Love Me Do” (wikipedia)

  9. James Hamilton from Errors is an AMAZING drummer. Errors, Dananananackroyd and not forgetting the mighty Multiplies. How you can mention half of these charlatans in the same breath as him is beyond me!

  10. Saw Runrig for the 1st time a couple of months ago and the drummer (believe his name’s Iain Bayne) was amazing. I’m someone who’s seen Franz Ferdinand, ACDC and the Killers over the last 12 months and the Runrig guy blew them all away!

  11. Alex Neilson – Born and raised in Leeds, inspired by the North of England (according to wikipedia) and toured with Oldham (Will). He might be good but he doesn’t sound very Scottish to me.

  12. He’s based in Scotland, and has been for some time. Has played with numerous Scottish bands including Scatter, V-Twin, Tight Meat Trio and Trembling Bells. It’s all Semantics isn’t it?

  13. Man… I love Dougie Vipond’s playing (Deacon Blue)… and how can you all miss out Mel Gaynor? (Simple Minds)

    If you want it skelped well on a click with tonnes of feel these two are the guys for me.

    I don’t know any of them personally so its not a case of “vote for ma mate” kinda thing.

    These two guys have imagination too, sometimes, for me, some session guys around here can be simple for simples sake, these two put personality onto the stuff whilst serving the song.

  14. Sorry Of course…its not Scottish bands…

    … Mel is from England so that’s why he’s probably not mentioned…

    Dougie Vipond…
    Ted MacKenna…
    Jim McDermott…

    My top 3 🙂

  15. Merk from Oceansize/Kong overlooked for being involved with English bands? Or perhaps because he’s actually non-human… Either way, the man is so rooted in his art I’m pretty sure if he were ever to have children they’d be born with sticks and beaters in place of dextral digits.

  16. Has Everyone Forgotten Brian McGee (Simple Minds/Propaganda)
    One of the most innovative drummers ever to come out of Scotland!

  17. Hello,

    My name is Ross McFarlane.I’m the guy who’s placed 2nd in this list.Someone informed of this list and i thought how weird…
    To be honest i never have had much to do with lists and grids of who’s better who’s best. But i will say this I am very touched to even be included.

    Anyone who gets up and work’s through the pitfalls of this industry and plays from the heart gets my vote.I love drums always have, the guys i like from this talented isle are Ted Mckenna (i was his drum tech age 19) what a joy and what a sound once he gets going, the wonderful tony soave and the monster groove and power player Jim McDermott, and finally one of the best players i have seen in a long while.. Alan Cosker.

    Keep up the good work all us scottish sticksmen.

    Ross McFarlane.

  18. Forget all the previous choices

    James MacIntosh and Alan Cosker amazing players both

    Best Guitarist should have been John McGeogh

  19. Martin Johnston from Coatbridge
    is one of the most dedicated, hardworking, talented, up and coming drummers in Scotland a lot of the credit goes to Rythym Base drum store in Glasgow. We should be praising new drummers and promoting them. Martin utilises all styles of drumming, especially jazz and rock. check him out on his Myspace, and the Deneros website.

  20. Hi all.
    Jim McDermott here.
    As my dear friend and colleague Ross McFarlane puts it,its a hell of an industry to keep making a living and I tip my hat to all of the drumming community,who lug half tons of metal around the country for maybe even half n hour of unpaid work(and weve all done it).
    This is a funny page and very delighted and mucho flattered just to be mentioned at all.
    As Ive always thought,drummers are like goalkeepers.You can be having the best run of gigs and form but if you make one mistake,eveyone thinks youre rotten!…….Its a cruel old game sometimes but what a thrill it is.

    Will keep an ear close to the ground for some of the guys mentioned here and good luck to you all.

    C’mon the drummers!
    Jim McD.

  21. Cheers Jim. I know Alec will be smacking his forehead when he realises he left you off his list. But we’re glad that you are a part of this page now.

  22. Who is this guy Jim McDermott?

    Lol so sorry Jim but good to know that there are so many great drummers in Scotland that we can have one of the quality of you missing and still have a great list.

    Watch for those beat balls going through your legs xxx

  23. hi all
    tony soave hear, as a guy how hangs around with musicians!!
    i would have to say my picks would be ross Mc Farlane and jim Mc Dermot are the guy’s who burn for me, to all drummers in scotland keep up the great vibe!!! rhythm is part of the universe and it is a privilege as a drummer to connect with it some’s the zen tihing!!!! love tony s.

  24. Nice when people put up a link. Actually that Cosker chap is pretty amazing. And he’s wearing a cool jaeket.

  25. Hi this is Geoff Dugmore. Im Scottish from Glasgow. Im sure as I don’t live there anymore for work reasons not many of you will know of me. Im very proud to be Scottish and always let people know I am. I’ve now played on 49No 1 albums around the world from artists such as Rod Stewart and Steve Nicks to Robbie Williams, Dido and Killing Joke. Im a drumming fan and hope that people will support our musical heritage and the wonderful musicians we have produced from our country. Best wishes to all. Geoff

  26. Hi geoff,

    i met you at live 8 in edinburgh(i was with the proclaimers at the time).you are a wonderful ambassador for our drumming world and from scotland too.I have enjoyed and followed your career you’re work with mike scott was also great, keep up the great work.
    You worked on a great album years ago by the big dish(sattelites) with john giblin also scottish.

    Ross Mcfarlane.(currently with jon fratteli,sharleen spiteri)

  27. Got to be Ross McFarlane, (with Jim McDermott 2nd in a photie finish). He’s a joy to listen to, but even better to watch. I’ve seen him kick the hell out of his kit (literally) way back with Stiltskin, groovin with the brilliant and underrated High Fidelity, seen him at T in the park with The fabulous McCluskey Bros and always magical Proclaimers in L.A. Now he’s playing at his best ever with Sharleen Spiteri and that genius bloke Frattelli. When it comes to quality tunes, he knows how to pick ’em, and the only drummer I’ve enjoyed watching as much as Ross was Clem Burke from Blondie !
    Take care,
    Ross’ Mum.
    just kidding, Hurry back to Austin .

  28. They’re all amazing. I’m just about to go back to getting lessons from Ted McKenna. Had lessons from him about 10 years ago and he was fantastic. He’s so up there, along with Ross, amongst everybody mentioned throughout all the comments and the list.
    One guy that’s not on the list is Bill Kemp, who’s based in Aberdeen. A supreme jazz player and educator. He’s played for the BBC big band and many west end shows. You’ve got to have you’re shit together for that. Mark Hunter’s another one who does the big London shows, although he’s not based in scotland anymore. What about Jim Kilpatrick MBE? is it 7 times world pipe drumming champion, or is it 8?
    Any-road-up, i love them all, and look forward to seeing them all live again.
    I just can’t believe i’m on the dam list. I’m kinda with Ross with the whole list thing, but very honoured.
    Fairplay to the drummers…
    Richard, Belle and Sebastian

  29. Saw a guy called Fergus Henderson play few years back thought he was incredible ,saw some you tube footage of him recently check him out if you can lovely hihat work great chops and groove,used to stay in kilmarnock was involved with the trashcansinatras in the early days and worked with guitarist from capercaillie and bass player from big dish smashing guy ,guys worth checking out .

  30. It’s me isn’t it?? 😉
    I was reading down the list and wondering when Jim McDermott was going to be mentioned.
    I’m doing sound on a Jazz gig right now with Alan Dale and he’s a lovely bloke and very cool jazz player. Need a bit of 3in1 on the hat pedal tho’
    I’d also add the late great Toto McNaughton to the list.
    Apparently my late dad Robert Colvin was pretty good too in the 60’s.
    I really must start playing again!

  31. You are all a bunch of self promoting wankers.
    Give me a muso and i will give you a self eating
    chocolate wan

  32. Just came across this article so apologies for going back to the sixties but Harry Hughes deserves a mention. It was said … that Harry gave lessons to Buddy Rich but then again he had learned a lot from Alex Duthart (tutor to the previously mentioned Jim Kilpatrick) so passed on some of the pipe band repertoire.
    I saw Alex & Jim many moons ago at the RCM in the Barbican and even Evelyn Glennie was knocked out by those two doing syncopated drumming.
    Harry and Clouds were mismanaged by Brian Epstein, Robert Stigwood and Terry Ellis – not a bad résumé.
    As the article stated, Harry “was described (by Billboard Magazine) as ‘surely the most technically-brilliant drummer of the early rock era’. He gave lessons to Bill Bruford (“Yes”) and Carl Palmer (“ELP”) among others, and produced one of the earliest drum tuition book and CD combination, sponsored by Premier Drums.”
    Ching Lee was an acolyte of Harry that some of you older dudes may remember.

  33. Dave Innes, drummer with Gerry Jablonski and the Electric Band. Totally world class and an absolute monster drummer. Played with some great Scottish acts – Fish, Midge Ure and dare I say it, Bay City Rollers in the ’90s and now he’s playing with the best Scottish band in a long time
    Woof woof

  34. See Fergus Henderson on you tube with me on my Scottish tour 2012 worth checking out .

  35. I’m way better than Ross, I taught him everything he knows. I am Scotland’s greatest song writer.

  36. um– these are all crap musicians. Scotland should stick to providing the world with scientific discoveries and fried food.

  37. Harry hughes best drummer I ever heard from the sixties played with billy Ritchie and Ian Ellis from scotland formed their own band called 123 and then called clouds based in london catch them on u tube clouds version of big noise from winnetca

  38. I to with Ted but for diversity i to with Geoff Dugmore who I remember from the Europeans and 25 years later with Johnny Halliday