D.J. Fontana, the drummer who helped launch rock rock ‘n’ roll as Elvis Presley’s sideman, has died at 87, his spouse stated Thursday.
Karen Fontana instructed The Related Press that her husband died in his sleep in Nashville, Tenn., on Wednesday night time. She stated he had been struggling issues from breaking his hip in 2016.
“He was beloved by all people everywhere in the world. He handled all people like all people was his pal,” she stated.
Fontana rose from strip joints in his native Shreveport, La., to the heights of musical historical past as Presley’s first and longtime drummer.
They met on the Louisiana Hayride, a well-liked and influential radio and TV nation music program primarily based in Shreveport. Fontana, the workers drummer, requested to affix his group for a session broadcast in October 1954.
A regional act at the time, the 19-year-old Presley had been recording and touring because the summer time with guitarist Scotty Moore and bassist Invoice Black, the musicians Solar Data founder Sam Phillips introduced in after Elvis turned up at the Memphis-based label’s studio.
The Blue Moon Boys, as they referred to as themselves, had been enjoying a mix of blues, pop and nation that was distinctive at the time, nevertheless it was lacking one thing essential.
“Elvis and Scotty and Invoice have been making good music, nevertheless it wasn’t rock n’ roll till D.J. put the backbeat into it,” the Band’s Levon Helm instructed The Related Press in 2004.
Elvis returned usually to the Hayride, and in 1955, Fontana grew to become a everlasting member of the group, working with Presley by way of a lot of the 1960s.
Influenced by such huge band drummers as Buddy Wealthy and Gene Krupa, Fontana was admired by Helm, Ringo Starr, Max Weinberg and lots of others for his energy, pace and steadiness, which he honed throughout his time with the Hayride.
Fontana was there for Presley’s extraordinary first wave of success, from such hit singles as Hound Canine and Jailhouse Rock to his more and more frenzied stay reveals and hip-shaking appearances on The Ed Sullivan Present and different TV packages.
He performed on lots of the soundtracks — and was often seen on digicam — for Presley’s films within the 1950s and 1960s.
He was on the “comeback” Christmas TV particular of 1968 that featured Presley and fellow musicians jamming on a tiny stage earlier than a studio viewers, with Fontana conserving time on a guitar case. Extensively cited for reviving Presley’s profession, the comeback present was his first stay efficiency in years and the final time Moore and Fontana labored with Elvis, who died in 1977.
“Elvis would all the time need to return and discuss concerning the early days when there have been 4 of us in a automobile, Me, Scotty, Invoice and Himself,” Fontana later instructed the fan web site Elvis Australia.
“And he instructed me in the future, he stated `You realize, I want I wasn’t Elvis.’ And that struck me humorous — even again then. You realize he kinda needed to get away for some time. I feel he ought to have retired for about seven or eight years, after which come again — . After which he may nonetheless be with us.”
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Fontana additionally performed on Starr’s solo album Beaucoups of Blues, and labored with nation artist Webb Pierce and rockabilly star Gene Vincent amongst others. He and Moore have been joined by Helm, Keith Richards and different friends for the 1997 Presley tribute album All of the King’s Males.
In 2000, he performed on Paul McCartney’s cowl of an early Presley hit, That is All Proper
Born in 1931, Dominic Joseph Fontana started enjoying drums as a teen in his highschool marching band and would additionally jam along with his cousin whereas listening to huge band recordings.
By his early 20s, he was performing at strip joints and spending sufficient time across the Hayride that he was employed fulltime, though at first he was requested to play behind a curtain as a result of drums have been scorned by nation audiences.
Presley’s Solar Data contract was bought by RCA Victor late in 1955 and he grew to become a sensation across the nation, and past.
Throughout an interview with Elvis Australia, Fontana recalled a 1957 present at a Canadian soccer stadium, when Presley did his greatest to honour the house owners’ needs to maintain the group off the grass and away from the stage.
“So Elvis got here on, did a number of songs, and stated: `We might like for you to get again in your seats.’ Which they did, very orderly. Till the final tune, and right here they arrive once more,” Fontana defined.
“Elvis left the stage, and right here we have been with 20,00zero folks! The stage turned over, however we lastly acquired all of the gear within the automobile, which was proper behind the stage. The automobile was surrounded by children, they usually have been shaking the automobile.”