The birth of rock ’n’ roll brought rebellion to a generation, with angry 20-somethings shunning tradition by wanting to be as far removed from their parents’ outlooks, and professions, as possible.
But what if your dad is a rockstar? Do you choose to become the antithesis and bury your head in spreadsheets and accounts, or take on the family trade and see where it takes you? Here are 10 famous drummers whose children followed in their footsteps and picked up sticks to great success.
Ringo Starr & Zak Starkey
Picture this: not only are you the son of the drummer in the biggest pop band of all-time, but Keith Moon - or ‘Uncle Keith’ to you - is also your godfather. That was reality for a young Zak Starkey, who was given his first drum kit by The Who’s drummer.
Despite Ringo’s reservations at encouraging his son to enter the drumming game, Zak persevered and taught himself to play. By the time he reached his early 20s, Zak had manned the kit for The Spencer Davis Group, before joining The Icicle Works and contributing to albums by The Who’s John Entwistle (The Rock) and Iron Maiden guitarist, Adrian Smith (Silver and Gold).
A three-year stint as part of his dad’s Ringo Starr and His All-Starr Band line-up could have been a life-long position for many drummers, but in 1996, Zak first took up his role in The Who for a tour performing Quadraphenia. “I couldn’t believe they were getting back together.” Zak told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in 2019. “I’d already played with John and Roger quite extensively over the years. But I couldn’t believe they were going to get back together as The Who, so obviously, it blew my mind.”
While Zak has remained a regular in The Who’s line-up - performing live with the band whenever possible since the 90s - and contributing to 2006’s Endless Wire, his prolific career doesn’t stop there. He was also a member of The Lightning Seeds, played on Johnny Marr and The Healers’ Boomslang and joined famously Beatles-mad Britpop kings, Oasis between 2004 and 2008. Zak’s drumming can be heard on Don’t Believe The Truth and Dig Out Your Soul.
John Bonham & Jason Bonham
We can’t imagine what it would be like to be the son of the drummer who many consider to be the best rock has ever seen. It’s a double-edged sword: study from a master or take up keyboards. Jason Bonham was only 14 years-old at the time of his father’s untimely death, but after picking up sticks at age five (and making an appearance alongside his dad in The Song Remains The Same), it was clear from an early age that Bonham Jr was on a drumming trajectory.
Jason’s career has been hugely successful in its own right, performing with the likes of Paul Rodgers, UFO, Foreigner, The Quireboys, Joe Bonamassa, and supergroups Black Country Communion and California Breed.
However, as you’d expect, he has also dedicated a large part of his career to honouring his late father. Jimmy Page enlisted Jason to drum on his Outrider album in 1988, before Jason took the throne for Led Zeppelin the same year at the Atlantic Records 40th Anniversary party.
A more low-key Zeppelin reunion happened for Jason’s wedding reception in 1990, however his defining public performance to honour his father is Led Zeppelin’s 2007 Celebration Day, where the band paid tribute to late Atlantic Records founder and president, Ahmet Ertegun.
Roger Taylor & Rufus Taylor
When Queen fans The Darkness found themselves without a drummer in 2015, they turned to Rufus Taylor, son of none other than Queen’s Roger Taylor. But this wasn’t Rufus’ first taste of what his dad did at the office.
In 2008, Rufus joined Brian May and Kerry Ellis to play in front of now-King Charles and Queen Camilla at the London Palladium, before getting his teeth into the Queen catalogue as the touring drummer for the We Will Rock You musical. With his apprenticeship well and truly served, Rufus joined Queen and Adam Lambert on tour, performing alongside Roger and taking the ‘first chair’ for songs such as Tie Your Mother Down while Roger sang lead vocals.
The two generations also participated in solo battles, with Rufus displaying some impressive chops against his old man.
It's well known that Rufus was very close with late Foo Fighters drummer, Taylor Hawkins. Before Hawkins' death, Rufus sat in with Foo Fighters, reprising the role brilliantly for 2022's Taylor Hawkins tribute concerts. Despite being strongly-rumoured to be joining Foo Fighters permanently, Rufus remains the drummer in The Darkness.
"Rufus is phenomenal." Roger said of his son in 2023. "He’s turned into this scary, great drummer with The Darkness. I watched them the other day at Wembley Arena. Phenomenal. he’s just annoyingly powerful and he’s become very, very good."
Joe Porcaro & Jeff Porcaro
Jazz drumming legend, Joe Porcaro has a list of credits under his belt that would put him-alone into the history books as a first-call player: The Monkees, Box Scaggs, Glen Campbell, Lee Ritnour, Madonna. We could go on…
But as we know, the Porcaro name is one that Joe’s sons have helped to cement as one of the greatest musical families in the recording business. Jeff Porcaro started his career backing Sonny and Cher, before simultaneously forging a career as one of the greatest hired guns the studio business has ever seen, and forming Toto alongside his brother Steve Porcaro, as well as guitarist Steve Lukather, keyboard player David Paich, bassist David Hungate and vocalist Bobby Kimball.
Here, Jeff would present the world with a new definition of the half-time shuffle on Rosanna, a groove that is still a rite of passage for drummers to this day. In addition to his own compositions, Jeff Porcaro’s work with the likes of Paul McCartney, Miles Davis, Dire Straits, Pink Floyd and drum task masters, Steely Dan, reads more like a music fan’s daydream list than a CV. Jeff’s life ended tragically early in 1992 when he was just 38 years old. His legacy places him firmly towards the top of the all-time session legends tree.
Mike Portnoy & Max Portnoy
Few drummers have influenced progressive metal as much as Mike Portnoy - a drummer who has insane chops, a tight sense of groove and the ability to explain it all in a way that makes it seem so easy. Of course, it’s not easy, but if anyone is equipped to learn from an icon of the instrument, we’d say it’d be Mike’s son, Max.
Portnoy fans will know that Max has been surrounded by drums and drumming his whole life, and even had a set of signature Sabian Stax named after him. After performing with the band, Next To None, Max’s most recent project Tallah has released two full-length albums: 2020's Matriphagy and 2022's The Generation of Danger. Fans of heavy, nu-metal-inspired grooves and the trademark Portnoy chops will love it!
Phil Collins & Nic Collins
You know Phil Collins. As the drummer - and later frontman - of Genesis, Phil Collins influenced drummers across the globe. He’s sat in with Zeppelin at Live Aid and managed to perform at both the London and Philadelphia concerts. Oh yeah, he also played a part in inventing one of the most used drum sounds in recording history. But it’s that fill from In The Air Tonight from Phil’s that most people will air drum to.
So, when Phil stepped away from the drums over the last decade, who better to have as the backbone to his band than his son Nic? Phil might have come under a little bit of fire from critics for his decision, but defended it, telling Australian TV show, The Project “It's not because he's the boss' son that he's playing the drums, it's because he's good enough.”.
Clearly his Genesis bandmates agree, as Nic will be taking his dad’s place behind the kit while Phil performs lead vocals for Genesis’ planned reunion tour. "He can sound like Phil and it gave us a whole idea of how we could do it, because we knew Phil couldn't be the drummer on the road again,”, keyboard player Tony Banks told the BBC in 2020.
More recently, Nic has been playing as part of Mike Rutherford's other band, Mike & The Mechanics. We're pretty certain we'll be seeing a lot more of Nic in the future too.
Max Weinberg & Jay Weinberg
Max Weinberg got the gig as Bruce Springsteen’s long-term E Street Band drummer after answering an advert in the Village Voice. From here, he’d go on to play on not only some of Springsteen’s biggest hits, but also worked with Meat Loaf on Bat Out Of Hell (among others), Bonnie Tyler, Carole King and Barbra Streisand to name just a few.
When The Boss dissolved the E Street Band, Weinberg found himself back at square one, picking up whatever paid gigs he could find, until he became the drummer and bandleader of The Weinberg 7 on Late Night with Conan O’Brien in 1993. Jump forward to 2009, though, and Max enlisted the help of his son, Jay - already carving out a name for himself in his own bands - to fill in for him during Springteen’s live dates, which clashed with his commitments with Conan O’Brien. Not a bad depping gig at all.
Jay went on to become the drummer for Madball and Against Me! Before replacing his idol, Joey Jordison in 2014. Jay had been a fan of the band since his dad introduced him to their music as a child, even posing for a photo with Jay - sporting a Corey Taylor mask - and Slipknot guitarist Jim Root, which the three later recreated.
Jay has since recorded three studio albums with Slipknot, and considering he’s filling the shoes of one of the most influential metal drummers of all time, we can’t think of a better person for the job!
Eddie Van Halen & Wolfgang Van Halen
"Hang on, you've made a silly mistake here…" Or have we? You see, before he took the electric guitar to mesmerising new heights it was Eddie rather than Alex Van Halen who picked up the sticks, making him a drummer first, and a world-altering guitar player later.
"Yes, but Wolfgang is a guitarist". He is! He's also an excellent bassist as evidenced by his tours and recordings with Van Halen. But you should, by now know better than to confine any member of the Van Halen to a single duty.
Especially once you learn that Wolfgang recorded every single instrument, including all of the drum parts for his Mammoth WVH project's self-titled debut album.
It's clear that Wolfgang was paying attention to his musical elders too, displaying powerful grooves and some impressive rock chops to go with them.
Lars Ulrich & Myles Ulrich
The only Ulrich-bashing occurring here is from the sticks hitting the drums. The Metallica man has had more than his fair share of criticism over the years, but more recently seems to be impressing those detractors who seem to forget that he helped invent and certainly bring to the mainstream, a style of drumming that will forever be one of the biggest influences on the metal genre.
So when Lars' sons Myles (drums) and Layne (bass/vocals) started a two-piece band, they'd obviously go down the thrash path carved out by their father, wouldn't they? No, actually. Taipei Houston sounds more like someone slipped a Death From Above 1979 album into a Jack White sleeve, then stuck on some Jane's Addiction after.
Myles plays plenty of inventive beats that sit perfectly between Bonham and the more punky end of indie rock. Check it out, and be thankful that they picked up instruments and not tennis rackets.
Taylor Hawkins & Shane Hawkins
When news of Taylor Hawkins' passing broke, the entire music world mourned the loss of one of the finest rock drummers we've witnessed in decades. The Foo Fighters drummer wowed audiences ever since his time in Alanis Morissette's band. But it was his union with Grohl, adding parts that made the role his own - continuing Foo Fighters' reputation as a 'drummers' band' that cemented his position as such an icon of the instrument.
Now, the loss of a parent is heartbreaking, and we can't imagine what it's like to go through that loss so publicly as a teenager. Shane Hawkins has been pictured watching his father from the stage a number of times, but tragically his crowning performance to date was to honour his dad.
Nobody was quite prepared for the moment that Shane stepped behind the kit at Wembley Stadium and started the drum intro for Foo Fighters' My Hero, but Shane did himself, his father and the band proud.
Way beyond 'Good, for a kid' he looked like he was trying to demolish the kit with every flam, channelling some familiar Hawkins traits while he did it (the bouncing, time-keeping left foot, for one).
It remains to be seen whether Shane will pursue drumming as a career option, but one thing goes without question: Shane Hawkins is a drummer, profession or not.