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Aynsley Dunbar
Dunbar performing in 2007
Dunbar performing in 2007
Background information
Birth nameAynsley Thomas Dunbar
Born (1946-01-10) 10 January 1946 (age 76)
Liverpool, England
Occupation(s)Musician, songwriter
InstrumentsDrums, percussion
Years active1961–present

Aynsley Thomas Dunbar (born 10 January 1946) is an English drummer.[1] He has worked with John Mayall, Frank Zappa, Jeff Beck, Journey, Jefferson Starship, Nils Lofgren, Eric Burdon, Shuggie Otis, Ian Hunter, Lou Reed, David Bowie, Mick Ronson, Whitesnake, Pat Travers, Sammy Hagar, Michael Schenker, UFO, Michael Chapman, Jake E. Lee, Leslie West, Kathi McDonald, Keith Emerson, Mike Onesko, Herbie Mann and Flo & Eddie.[2] Dunbar was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of Journey in 2017.[3]


Aynsley Thomas Dunbar was born in Liverpool, England. He started his professional career in Derry Wilkie and the Pressmen in 1963. In December 1964 he joined Merseybeat group the Mojos, who were renamed Stu James & the Mojos, with original members vocalist Stu James and guitarist Nick Crouch and bass player Lewis Collins (later an actor in The Professionals). This line-up continued until 1966. Dunbar then auditioned for the Jimi Hendrix Experience and Hendrix had difficulty deciding between Dunbar and Mitch Mitchell – the latter won Hendrix's coin flip.[citation needed] Dunbar then joined John Mayall's Bluesbreakers replacing Hughie Flint. He stayed with Mayall until the spring of 1967 (playing on the A Hard Road album), and was replaced by Mick Fleetwood.

After a short stint in the Jeff Beck Group, Dunbar founded 'the Aynsley Dunbar Retaliation',[1] so named to chide Mayall, who had fired him. They issued four albums during their existence. Dunbar co-wrote the song "Warning" (later recorded by Black Sabbath on their first album).[1] The Dunbar single version was recorded in 1967 for the Blue Horizon label,[4] prior to his band's first album release The Aynsley Dunbar Retaliation (1968[5]).

Subsequently, Dunbar founded a short-lived progressive rock band called Blue Whale, which debuted with a tour of Scandinavia in January 1970.[1] Following the recent collapse of the original lineup of King Crimson, Dunbar unsuccessfully tried to recruit Robert Fripp as Blue Whale's guitarist. Fripp, in turn, unsuccessfully tried to recruit Dunbar as King Crimson's new drummer. Blue Whale recorded one album, which featured Paul Williams (vocals), Ivan Zagni (guitar), Roger Sutton (guitar), Tommy Eyre (from Retaliation, keys) and Peter Friedberg (bass).[6]

Dunbar was later the drummer for Frank Zappa, playing on the solo albums Apostrophe (') and Waka/Jawaka, and the Mothers' albums The Grand Wazoo and Filmore East – June 1971, as well as the film 200 Motels. He filled in for Flo and Eddie when they left the Zappa group after an irate British "fan" pushed Zappa off the Rainbow stage in 1971.[7] In 1974 he played on the soundtrack of Dirty Duck, an adult animated film directed by Charles Swenson. In the mid-1970s Dunbar played drums for former Grin leader, Nils Lofgren, before joining Journey for their first four albums. He joined Jefferson Starship for three albums. On 28 December 1978, he played at Winterland in San Francisco with the Tubes. Dunbar joined Whitesnake in 1985 and performed on their 1987 album, Whitesnake. He also spent some time working with Pat Travers, Eric Burdon, UFO, Michael Schenker, Mogg/Way and the Animals.

He has been the drummer for the World Classic Rockers since 2003. In 2005, he drummed on Jake E. Lee's solo Retraced album.

In 2008 Dunbar recorded an album of material for Direct Music with Mickey Thomas of Starship, and musicians such as Jake E. Lee, former guitarist for Ozzy Osbourne. The complete recordings of Dunbar's drumming with Frank Zappa at Carnegie Hall in October 1971 were released exactly 40 years after the event in a four-CD set.

In 2009 the blues album The Bluesmasters featuring Mickey Thomas was released, featuring Dunbar on drums along with Tim Tucker on guitar and Danny Miranda on bass as well as guest stars such as Magic Slim on guitar and vocals.

Drummerworld recognized Dunbar as the only drummer to have played with such robust variety of successful bands and musicians.[8] In 2017 Aynsley was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of Journey. Dunbar was ranked by Rolling Stone as 27th greatest drummer of all time.[9]

Personal life

Dunbar's youngest son Dash was diagnosed with cancer in June 1999 and died on 9 May 2000.[10]


With John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers

With Eddie Boyd

With Michael Chapman

The Aynsley Dunbar Retaliation

With Blue Whale

With Frank Zappa and the Mothers

With Shuggie Otis

With Flo & Eddie

With David Bowie

With Lou Reed

With Herbie Mann

With Ava Cherry and the Astronettes

With Kathi McDonald

With Mick Ronson

With Nils Lofgren

With Ian Hunter

With Journey

With Sammy Hagar

With Jefferson Starship

With Paul Kantner

With Whitesnake

With Ronnie Montrose

With Pat Travers

With Mogg/Way

With Mother's Army

With Michael Schenker

With UFO

With Leslie West

With Jake E. Lee

With Keith Emerson

Aynsley Dunbar



  1. ^ a b c d e Colin Larkin, ed. (1997). The Virgin Encyclopedia of Popular Music (Concise ed.). Virgin Books. pp. 400/1. ISBN 1-85227-745-9.
  2. ^ Huey, Steve. "Biography: Aynsley Dunbar". Allmusic. Retrieved 3 April 2010.
  3. ^ "Inductees: Journey". Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Retrieved 20 December 2016.
  4. ^ "Aynsley Dunbar Retaliation – Warning". YouTube. 16 July 2008. Archived from the original on 15 September 2013. Retrieved 27 June 2014.
  5. ^ Richie Unterberger. "The Aynsley Dunbar Retaliation – Aynsley Dunbar | Songs, Reviews, Credits, Awards". AllMusic. Retrieved 27 June 2014.
  6. ^ "Aynsley Dunbar / Blue Whale – Blue Whale (Vinyl, LP, Album) at Discogs". Retrieved 19 March 2013.
  7. ^ "Aynsley Dunbar | Biography & History". AllMusic. Retrieved 29 November 2020.
  8. ^ "Aynsley Dunbar - DRUMMERWORLD". Retrieved 1 December 2020. No other modern rock / jazz / blues / fusion drummer has played with as many successful bands and musicians as Aynsley Dunbar.
  9. ^ "Aynsley Dunbar". Retrieved 6 March 2021.
  10. ^ "Aynsley Dunbar - DRUMMERWORLD". Retrieved 1 December 2020.
  11. ^ "The Aynsley Dunbar Retaliation – The Aynsley Dunbar Retaliation". Discogs. Retrieved 23 February 2019.
  12. ^ Richie Unterberger. "Doctor Dunbar's Prescription – The Aynsley Dunbar Retaliation | Songs, Reviews, Credits, Awards". AllMusic. Retrieved 27 June 2014.
  13. ^ Richie Unterberger. "To Mum, From Aynsley and the Boys – The Aynsley Dunbar Retaliation | Songs, Reviews, Credits, Awards". AllMusic. Retrieved 27 June 2014.