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Who is the famous one arm drummer?

First off, if you’re here looking for the answer to a pub quiz question…HEY, NO CHEATING!

But if you’re just trying to figure out an answer to the question, “Who is the famous one arm drummer?” I’ve got the answer for you right here:

Rick Allen of Def Leppard

He was born Richard John Cyril Allen but known as Rick Allen or “the Thunder God” by fans of Def Lep. Amazingly, Rick Allen joined this band on the 1st of November, 1978, which happened to be his 15th birthday. This was a pretty smart move since Def Leppard went on to become one of the most successful bands of the 1980s.

How did he lose his arm and become the famous one-armed drummer? The story is next…

Rick Allen’s Accident

Accident

By 1984, Def Leppard was doing well. Rick had played together with the band for six years, and in that time, they had started to crack the American music market and tour abroad. They had made enough money that Rick was out driving his Corvette on December 31st with his girlfriend at the time.

Life in the fast lane…

They were driving down narrow country roads when Rick was passed by a cool sports car. Being a young, hot-blooded man, he wanted to prove his driving prowess and push his car to overtake the other driver. However, he pushed things too far. Driving too fast around a sharp curve, he lost control and sent the car smashing into a stone wall.

Although he was wearing his seatbelt, it came loose in the accident and seems to have wrapped around his left arm. Rick was thrown clear of the wreckage, but his arm wasn’t.

He was luckily helped by a nurse and a police officer who arrived at the scene (and who later got married after meeting in this less-than-ideal way). They brought him and the severed arm to the hospital, where he later lost consciousness and was in a coma for two weeks.

When he woke from the coma…

Rick was told the awful truth. Doctors had been unable to reattach his arm, but at least he was alive. The accident depressed him, especially because he thought his career as a drummer was over. But with encouragement from his friends and family, he surprised the band by declaring that he would not quit but instead learn to play the drums one-handed.

According to Allen, the accident was actually a pivotal and important moment in his life. In an interview with Forbes magazine, he said, “I know it sounds weird, and it was horrible when it first happened, but now it’s become quite a blessing. Like they say, if it doesn’t kill you, it makes you stronger.” 

This is how Rick Allen became the most famous one arm drummer we know today.

How Does He Play With Just one Arm?

It sounds impossible, doesn’t it? While you might be able to play one drum with one hand, how do you manage a multi-piece kit full of cymbals, drums, and other percussion instruments?

Well, in truth, the drum kit is meant to be played with all of your appendages at once. Your two hands strike most of the drums and cymbals, it’s true, but your two feet also have their role to play by stomping pedals that control your kick drum and hi-hat. If we look at it this way, he only lost ¼ of his drumming tools.

That’s the way Rick Allen looked at it as well…

Remember that he was a drummer in the 80s, the time when electronic music was booming. Rather than giving up and moping over his lost arm, Rick got inventive. He had a special set of foot pedal triggers designed that let him play more parts of the kit with his feet.

He had to re-learn the drums, but with electronic trigger pedals for the hi-hat, bass drum, snare, and tom, he became able to play the same parts he used to before he lost his arm. If that’s not an inspiration, I don’t know what is.

Def Leppard and the 1-Armed Drummer

Def Leppard and the 1-Armed Drummer

Def Leppard was formed in Sheffield, England, in 1977. They started out playing small shows and built up to concert halls and auditoriums. They released two albums that got them some notice but were a bit heavier than what was heard on mainstream radio at the time. As an experiment, they decided to tone down their sound and add more pop elements to it.

By the time of Rick Allen’s accident, Def Leppard had already hit the big time. With the smash hits “Photograph” and “Rock of Ages,” their 1983 third album Pyromania was huge, eventually going Diamond in the US and 7x platinum in Canada. The money started pouring in, and as you can imagine, that led to women, drugs, alcohol, and, of course, fast cars.

Everyone was excited for the release of their 4th album…

But that excitement was dampened by a long delay. Between personnel changes in the band and Rick Allen’s accident, as well as a slow writing and recording process that nearly bankrupted the band, it took about three years to produce Hysteria. This album was dropped on August 3rd, 1987, and the first single, “Animal,” shot through the charts right away.

It was followed by “Hysteria,” “Pour Some Sugar On Me,” “Love Bites,” “Armageddon It,” “Women,” and “Rocket,” each breaking the American Top 20. This made it one of only a handful of albums with seven or more singles that charted on the US Top 100.

Hysteria eventually made it to Diamond RIAA certification after Pyromania. This put them in excellent but limited company. Only four other rock bands in history have managed to have two diamond albums: the Beatles, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, and Van Halen. And behind the pulse driving all of this music was the famous one arm drummer, Rich Allen.

After the Hysteria

Pyromania and Hysteria have certainly defined the peak of Def Leppard’s popularity but by no means the end of it. The early 90s saw a real shift in music and pop culture in general. The 80s big hair stadium rock scene was eclipsed by darker grunge music and dancier hip-hop. But some big bands kept on rocking.

Def Lep continued to put out albums, although sometimes with big breaks in between them. Since Hysteria, they’ve released seven more albums, including:

  • Adrenalize (1992).
  • Slang (1996).
  • Euphoria (1999).
  • X (2002).
  • Yeah! (2006).
  • Songs from the Sparkle Lounge (2008).
  • Def Leppard (2015).

They were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2019. And to date, they’ve sold over 100 million records worldwide. So, who is the famous one arm drummer? Just one of the most prolific drummers of all time.

More Tragedy

After losing his arm in an accident, Rick Allen managed to turn his tragedy into an opportunity to improve himself and better his life. He had been living fast and wild and saw the need to calm down that lifestyle to focus on what was important for him.

Others in the band, however, didn’t get the same message. While booze and drugs were a huge part of the 80s rocker lifestyle, some of these young musicians took things too far. Unfortunately, one of them was Def Lep’s founding guitarist Steve Clark.

The pitfalls of fame…

With all the exposure Def Leppard was getting in the late 80s and early 90s, Clark was living fast and hard. He developed problems with drug and alcohol addiction and was even asked to take a hiatus from the band in 1991. But rather than sorting out his problems, he got deeper into a cycle of alcohol and prescription drug abuse.

On January 8th, 1991, Steve Clark was found dead at his home. He had died from mixing alcohol with codeine or morphine, and it was another tragic blow to the band. However, it was one they ultimately recovered from after nearly breaking up.

Rock and Roll Rumors

Rock and Roll Rumors

From having the most famous drummer with one arm in their band to having some of the highest record sales ever, Def Leppard has done a lot. But there are some other stories and rumors that also helped to make them famous, or even infamous.

For their 16-month tour in support of Hysteria, Def Leppard played concerts in the round. This means that their stage was set up in the center of each auditorium with fan seating all around them.

There was no “backstage,” so instead, the band and crew used the space under the stage. Rumors abounded about what went on under there, with the most popular one being massive orgies with groupies.

More proof sex sells…

While guitarist Phil Collen has publicly denied this in his memoir, that doesn’t mean it’s not true. We do know that the band had their crew give attractive fans special passes. These had “Dik Likker” written on them in place of the band’s distinctive logo.

Another sexy quirk of the band’s success is related to the track “Pour Some Sugar On Me,” which has basically become their theme song. The track didn’t do all that well initially, according to singer Joe Elliot.

However, its slow but heavy beat and suggestive lyrics made it a hit in strip clubs. That’s where it initially became popular before moving more into the mainstream.

Got a Thing for Drumming?

We can help you with that. Take a look at our handy articles on Hardest Songs to Play on the DrumsSongs With Incredible Drum SolosThe Nashville Number System for Drummers ExplainedHow to Hold DrumsticksOdd Time Signatures, and Derek Roddy’s Double Bass Technique for more great information on playing the drums.

Also, check out our in-depth reviews of the Best Jazz Drum Sets, the Best Portable Drum Kits, the Best Electronic Drum Sets, the Best Electronic Drum Pads, the Best Snare Drums, the Best Drum Thrones, and the Best Bass Drum Pedals you can buy in 2022.

Who is the Famous One Arm Drummer? – Conclusion

You came here to find out the name of the famous one arm drummer, and it’s Rick Allen from Def Leppard. I hope you gained some inspiration from his story. One that starts with tragedy but ends in massive success. And there’s a whole lot more to learn about his band as well.

Def Leppard is one of the biggest selling bands ever, and they’re still going. So, I wouldn’t be surprised to hear about them making headlines again soon.

Until next time, let the music play.

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About Corey Hoffman

Corey is a multi-instrumentalist who has played in numerous bands over the years, some good, some not so good. He has also written countless songs and recorded five albums in professional studios across America. Today he is a hobby musician but still loves the guitar after over 15 years of playing.

He considers his writing as a way to share what he has learned over the decades with younger generations ad always can't wait to get his hands on the latest gear.

He lives just outside New York with his wife Barbara and their two German Shepherds, Ziggy and Iggy.

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