By Jim Monaghan

Dino Danelli was the coolest drummer on the planet.

I will not argue this point.

When he passed away on December 15, my memories immediately shot back to the cover of the Rascals Collections album (they were called the Young Rascals back then) and Dino behind the kit in the upper left hand corner.

That picture alone made me want to learn how to play the drums.

Never mind how great his drumming chops were.

Dino. Danelli. Just. Looked. Cool.

A couple of years ago, I was part of a tribute to the late Pat DiNizio of the Smithereens, and in speaking about Pat and the band, I brought up how “Jersey” they were…how much like all of use they were (still are, I might add). So when they made it big, by extension, so did we.

It was similar with the Rascals.

With Danelli from Jersey City, Eddie Brigati from Garfield, and Felix Cavaliere from nearby Westchester (NY) County, the addition of Gene Cornish (Canada to Rochester NY to NJ) sealed the deal, turning them into one of the first power trios, before that term had even been coined.

If you grew up in the New York/New Jersey area, you know how HUGE the Rascals were. If you didn’t, you’ll have to take my word for it.

Cavaliere and Brigati handled the vocals, and Cornish was VERY underrated as a guitar player, but it was Danelli who absolutely DEMANDED your attention with his drumming.

He had the heart-throb good looks (it was pretty easy to mistake him for Paul McCartney), could play rock and roll with a jazz drummer’s timing and phrasing while still pounding on the kit, and once he started to twirl the sticks…fuggedaboutit.

When Steve Van Zandt left Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band to put together Little Steven and the Disciples of Soul, it wasn’t an accident that Danelli was his choice to play drums.

His induction speech of the Rascals into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, put everything into perfect perspective, calling Danelli the “greatest rock drummer ever.”

Who am I…who are any of us…to argue with Steve Van Zandt?

  • 5 Great Dino Dinelli Moments

  • 1) The Young Rascals - Ed Sullivan Show March 1966

    “Good Lovin'” was the Rascals’ second single, and their first #1 hit.  They absolutely tore through it during this live performance on The Ed Sullivan Show.

  • 2) The Young Rascals - "Lonely Too Long/Come On Up" Live 1967

    By 1967, the Young Rascals had gone through a wardrobe change. The single “Lonely Too Long” was released in January of that year and landed squarely in the Top 20. Check the comments on this video to see how many people absolutely rave about Dino Danelli’s playing on these two songs.

  • 3) The Rascals - "Do You Feel It"

    This is 1968 live performance of a track from their debut album comes around the time of the dropping of “Young” from the band’s name.

    WATCH VIDEO

  • 4) The Rascals - "People Got To Be Free"

    This is a live 1970 TV performance of their final #1 hit which had been released in the summer of 1968.

  • 5) The Rascals With Tom Jones - "In the Midnight Hour"

    Tom Jones had some AMAZING rock acts on his television show. This 1970 performance of the Steve Cropper/Wilson Pickett soul classic that EVERY band seemed to have in their live setlist and the Rascals recorded on their first album is incendiary.

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