Cover of Jeff Beck Group
Famous Drummers - Aynsley Dunbar by Drew Mers
Aynsley Dunbar is one fine English drummer who has worked with such high-profile rock and roll musicians as Frank Zappa, Jeff Beck, David Bowie, and Journey.
Born Aynsley Thomas Dunbar on January 10, 1946 in Liverpool, England; he began playing drums at the age of eleven. Dunbar launched his professional career by playing at various gigs on the Liverpool jazz scene. At fifteen, he teamed up with the band Leo Rutherford, then with Merseysippi Jazz Band at seventeen. Other groups he became a part of were the rock/R&B band Derry Wilkie and the Pressmen, The Flamingos, Freddie Starr and the Flamingos, Excheckers, and Stu James and the Mojos.
In 1966, Dunbar joined John Mayalls Bluesbreakers, with whom he recorded and released an EP record. After being part of Bluesbreaker concerts, Dunbar then joined and formed the English rock band The Jeff Beck Group, along with guitarist Jeff Beck, vocalist Rod Stewart and bassist Ron Wood. He drummed on Jeff Becks Seminal Truth sessions, Tallyman, and Rock my Plimsoul. Prior to leaving the Jeff Beck in early 1968, the group made an appearance in Donovans Barabajajal album.
Dunbar almost became the drummer and percussionist for The Jimi Hendrix Experience, but Mitch Mitchell beat him in the audition when he won Hendrix's coin flip.
In 1967, Dunbar formed The Aynsley Dunbar Retaliation, a blues-rock band featuring vocalist/guitarist John Moorshead, keyboardist Tommy Eyre, bassist Alex Dmochowski, organist/singer Victor Brox, blues artist Champion Jack Dupree and Tim Rose. Interestingly, Rod Stewart fronted Retaliation on a previous live recording. Dunbar released four studio albums with Aynsley Dunbar Retaliation from 1968 to 1970.
In January 1970, Dunbar next led another rock band, Blue Whale. His stint with Blue Whale was short-lived. With this group, Dunbar recorded one album, 1971 Blue Whale, which featured a cover of Willi the Pimp, a Frank Zappa single. Dunbar earlier met Frank Zappa in Belgium, when he was still with the Aynsley Dunbar Retaliation.
Dunbar then became the drummer for Frank Zappa, leading to Dunbar's move to America. He played on Zappa's new version of the Mothers of Invention, which was featured in the albums Fillmore East: June 1971, 200 Motels, Waka/Jawaka, and The Grand Wazoo.
In 1973, he joined David Bowie for Pin Ups, and Diamond Dogs, released in 1974. He also recorded with Lou Reed in the 1973 album Berlin. The mid-1970s saw Dunbar team up with the then-new jazz-fusion group Journey, with whom he recorded and co-wrote four albums, namely, Journey, Look into the Future, Next, and Infinity. Dunbar then left the band, as it was veering away from the challenging rock-fusion style.
In 1976, Dunbar collaborated with Sammy Hagar in his first solo album, Nine on a Ten Scale. He then worked with Jefferson Starship in 1978, recorded three albums with the band, and toured with them until the 1982 album, Winds of Change. Dunbar then took a break, but was later on convinced to join Whitesnake in 1985. He played and recorded on the 1987 self-titled, commercial breakthrough album released by the band. With this group, Dunbar produced the hits Still of the Night, What is Love, and Here I Go Again.
Drew Mers is a consultant to Empire Rehearsal Studios, which rents aspiring bands, musicians and drummers a music rehearsal studio in Long Island City, Queens, New York.