Hal Blaine. Credit: Rob Shanahan/robshanahan.art

As you walk down Palm Canyon Drive or Tahquitz Canyon Way in downtown Palm Springs, you’ll find stars dedicated to icons like Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, Marilyn Monroe and countless others. There will be some names you don’t recognize—and the newest star to be awarded is going to a rather unknown name with a huge musical legacy.

At 2:30 p.m., Monday, Feb. 6, the Palm Springs Walk of the Stars will be cementing the memory of Hal Blaine into Palm Canyon Drive. Hal Blaine was a drummer for the world-famous “Wrecking Crew,” a group of studio musicians who were hired to play on many of the greatest songs of the ’60s and ’70s. Blaine’s work is on iconic tracks like “Be My Baby,” “Good Vibrations,” “A Little Less Conversation” and so many others. He’s thought to be the most recorded drummer of all time, and his discography feels like a never-ending scroll.

Blaine’s star pays tribute to the drummer who spent the last years of his life in Palm Desert, as he passed away at the age of 90 in 2019. His nephew Michael Kravitz and friend Ingrid Fasching, who runs a Hal Blaine Facebook group, teamed up to honor the late musician.

“One day, my wife and I were in Palm Springs visiting, and we were walking down the street, just kind of sightseeing,” Kravitz said during a recent phone interview. “I’ve been there a million times, but I was just looking at all the stars, and I’m thinking to myself about my uncle. Honest to god, my phone rings, and it’s Ingrid, and she says, ‘Your uncle needs a star in the desert.’”

Fasching said that perfectly timed call was not the only “coincidence” regarding Blaine.

“You’ve got to wonder if there is some divine thing going on,” she said. “… I happened to see that Buddy Rich had a star in Palm Springs. When I saw it, I thought to myself, ‘Hal deserves a star, too.’ Look at what he’s done in his career, and not only that; he was an extraordinarily wonderful human being—very kind, very gracious, very generous and very giving.”

Fasching said Blaine lived in Palm Desert for nearly 20 years after he retired. The drummer was attracted to the Coachella Valley after moving here temporarily in 1988; during his stay, he met Sally Ehrens, a woman who built some of Palm Springs’ first hotels.

“Sally was one of the forefathers of the Palm Springs area; she and her husband built a lot of condos, apartments, hotels, etc.,” Fasching said. “At the time Hal met her, she had a hard time getting around, and she asked Hal to drive her around to places, which he did. She showed him a lot of the area, and he really fell in love with it.”

The Walk of the Stars is just the latest honor for Blaine. He’s received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, and he’s in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. A lot of Blaine’s recognition didn’t come until after the 2008 documentary The Wrecking Crew showcased his talent and résumé.

“The funny thing is, the majority of those (awards) didn’t occur until after he was 70 years old, because once The Wrecking Crew movie came out, he started to get recognition for what he had done,” Fasching said. “Before that, he was mainly only known by insiders in the music world or a few select people. Him, Earl Palmer and James Jamerson were the first sidemen inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.”

“A lot of times on the bandstand, they’d say, ‘You played it just like the record,’ and he said, ‘Well, I did the record.’” Michael Kravitz, Hal Blaine’s nephew

Remarkably, Blaine was on every Grammy Award Record of the Year winner from 1966 to 1971.

“A lot of times on the bandstand, they’d say, ‘You played it just like the record,’ and he said, ‘Well, I did the record,’” Kravitz said. “He’s like in an island by himself. No one has ever done what he’s done, in the sense that he had six Record of the Year awards in a row, from Herb Albert’s A Taste of Honey, Sinatra’s Strangers in the Night, The 5th Dimension’s Up, Up and Away, Simon and Garfunkel’s Mrs. Robinson, Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In and Bridge Over Troubled Waters. Then a few years went by, and he got another one for Love Will Keep Us Together.”

Another highlight in Blaine’s career came when Glen Campbell reunited with the few remaining Wrecking Crew members for one more song.

“The director of the documentary (Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me) contacted Hal; Hal got a hold of Joe Osborn, and he got Don Randi, and they got together and recorded ‘I’m Not Gonna Miss You,’” Fasching said. “That was in 2013. Hal was 84, and he recorded and sounded just like he did back when he was in his 30s. He was still playing his drums even at his birthday party at 90 years old. They got a Grammy (for Best Country Song) in 2015 for that song.”

Even though Blaine’s drumming will stand the test of time, Kravitz and Fasching hope that this honor will celebrate his character as well.

“He was always giving to people in the valley,” Kravitz said. “He had a friend in Palm Desert who has a jewelry store, and I remember we were in the store one day, and the guy had a customer. Hal and I are talking, and in walks this lady, and she was wanting to sell a piece of jewelry to the owner. The owner just kept telling her to wait, and then, of course, Hal and I started talking to this lady, and before you knew it, he just whips out five $100 bills and buys it from the lady to help her out.”

Added Fasching: “And not only that, he was going to give it as a gift to a dear friend of his, Don Lombardi, a partial owner of DW drums. He’s always been good to Hal. Don signed Hal when Hal was 86 years old as an endorser, and he did it out of his love for Hal, because he was just a wonderful human being. After Don Lombardi gave him those drums, Hal wanted to do something for Don, and that’s when he bought that necklace to give it to Don.”

Hal Blaine’s Palm Springs Walk of the Stars ceremony will take place at 2:30 p.m., Monday, Feb. 6, at 100 N. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs. For more information, visit walkofthestars.com.

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Matt King

Matt King is a freelance writer for the Coachella Valley Independent. A creative at heart, his love for music thrust him into the world of journalism at 17 years old, and he hasn't looked back. Before...

One reply on “Drumming Great: The PS Walk of the Stars Honors Hal Blaine, a Wrecking Crew Member and One of the Most Recorded Drummers of All Time”

  1. Thank you for the very nice article on the legendary musician, Mr. Hal Blaine. His legacy will live on through the ages as not only a superb drummer/leader of the Hollywood Wrecking Crew but equally so for Hal’s gift of humanity to all who ever met him.

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