Veteran Beach Boys drummer Billy Hinsche dies at 71

Written by by By Laura Marcus, CNN

Chris Whitaker , CNN By Laura Marcus, CNN

With epic Beach Boys hits including “Don’t Worry Baby,” “I Get Around” and “Surfin’,” drummer Billy Hinsche was almost as iconic as the band itself.

The 71-year-old musician was found dead at his mother’s house in Beverly Hills, California, on October 12.

Hinsche, a core member of the Beach Boys from 1963 until 1974, played on their classic “Pet Sounds” album and was twice nominated for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He even played with the band in Mexico for several years.

His longtime drummer friend Jim Wiatt said Hinsche had been suffering from Parkinson’s disease.

“Yesterday morning I woke up to the news that my friend and the person I consider as one of the best drummers ever has passed away.

“We had so many laughs in the studio that I can say for sure his drum parts were always at the top of my list.

“I wish I could have written a few more (funky) tunes, but he will forever be admired for his legacy. I consider him to be one of the greatest drummers to ever live.”

His third wife, Karen Hinsche, told People magazine she was “devastated” at the news.

“He was a rock star to all of us,” she said. “The world will miss his masterful drumming and his tremendous presence.”

Hinsche was also the youngest drummer ever inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame at the age of 34, a move he described as “the biggest thrill of my life.”

The Beach Boys in the early 1960s. (Sharon Clott Williams, Heino Zarubin, Bud Groening, Todd Hyatt, Brian Wilson and Terry Melcher. ) Photo: © Howard Fine/Corbis via Getty Images

Born in St. Louis, Missouri in 1941, Hinsche was mentored by former Beach Boys drummer Al Jardine.

“I came to California to be a composer and play my guitar. Al said, ‘Well, you should be a drummer.’ It took me a while to figure out what to do with the drumsticks, but that’s pretty much what I’ve done for the rest of my life,” he said in a 2008 interview with Rolling Stone.

“Many times I didn’t know what I was doing and Al was always there to give me a few tips.”

During the band’s residency at the Greek Theatre in 2010, Hinsche described the first time he played with the group’s three “wives”: Carole King, Blondie Chaplin and Denny Doherty.

“It was amazing playing with them. You always knew if someone in the band was a rock star or not. As you can see in the beginning, the wives are married and that’s the start of it. The majority of the fans are married.

“I’ve played with them before, but that first time was really exciting. Now they’re friends. Everybody knows their names.”

Hinsche continued as a successful songwriter, penning hits for Dionne Warwick and Louis Prima among others.

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