With a tip-o-the-hat to Wikipedia, other online sources, and my own tiny brain:
The ‘40s – I remember my Dad playing our ol’ RCA stereo console in the afternoons, brought swing, big band, jazz, and calypso music into our home. After World War II, crooners and vocal pop singers gradually replaced the big band sounds. For my drumming skills, I learned to “shuffle” from this era. My favorite? The Benny Goodman Band.
The ‘50s – I barely remember, but rock-n-roll, doo-wop, pop, swing, rhythm-and-blues, blues, country and western, rockabilly, and jazz music ruled the airwaves and jukeboxes. Of course, with the emergence of the electric guitar, popular music would never be the same. Bass drum, four-on-the-floor here, Baby! My favorite? Elvis!
The ‘60s – Now we’re talkin’! Music during this decade became more diverse than ever before. Pop, beat, psychedelic rock, blues rock, folk rock, funk, soul, rhythm-and-blues, bossa nova, the cha-cha-cha, ska, and calypso all found their way into the living rooms of mainstream America. Lots of drumming chops to steal/borrow. My favorite? Steppenwolf.
The ‘70s — Disco, funk, soul, R&B, smooth jazz/jazz fusion, punk, glam rock, hard rock, progressive rock, art rock, reggae, blues rock, and heavy metal came to the forefront. I say this decade produced the most inspired music across all genres. I learned to improvise; however, I didn’t like to perform drum solos. My favorite? Sly & The Family Stone.
The ‘80s – Lots of one-off singles/hits; easy enough to play along to learn the song structures and what makes each song so great. Out came R&B, electronic dance, hip hop, urban, soft rock, glam metal, adult contemporary, electro, and techno. Arena rock was born, sorta. Synthesizers were everywhere. A single drum groove could carry you through a couple dozen hit tunes. My favorite? Spinal Tap and AC/DC (tie.)
The ‘90s – Teen pop, alternative, new jack swing, indie, neo-soul, hip hop soul, grunge, industrial rock, drum and bass all debuted or stayed consistent. I learned that slamming and playing slightly behind the beat were okay. My favorite? Soundgarden.
The 2000s – Emo, garage, jazz, dancehall, pop, and Christian music came to the mainstream. My favorite? Foo Fighters.
These days, I approach the drum kit differently, depending on the band I am in or based on the music we play. There has to be the proper mindset. I consider myself a generalist. By that, I mean I have not created a completely innovative style of drumming. I haven’t achieved what Steve Gadd, Tommy Aldridge, or Bonzo have done. But what I have accomplished, and what I was always meant to do, is play a lot of different kinds of music well. That has been enough for me. It has kept me musically happy since 1969.
I have always appreciated the wise words of music producers who all said pretty much the same thing, “Play what’s best for the song.” I still try to do that to this day, be it an original tune or a cover song. As Ned Stark (Sean Bean) might postulate, “One simply does not try to throw in a drum solo during each and every tune. One simply does not.”
George Keck is an Army retiree, a drummer, and Lawton resident, off and on, since 1964.