What Channel Will Country Music Hall Of Fame Be On Elvis Presley Drummer DJ Fontana Laid The Beat to Elvis Hits

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Elvis Presley Drummer DJ Fontana Laid The Beat to Elvis Hits

When Elvis Presley first walked into the Memphis Recording Service studio on Union Avenue in Memphis, Tennessee, it was just him and his acoustic guitar. When studio owner Sam Phillips signed Elvis to Sun Records, an independent record label, he thought Elvis would record country material. In 1954, country acts did not usually use drums, so Phillips brought in Scotty Moore, an electric guitarist, and Bill Black, a slap bass player, to back Elvis. But he didn’t hire a drummer for the session.

After wowing everyone with his energetic and wild take on the Elvis R&B hit “That’s All Right,” Phillips knew he was on to something big. He recorded Elvis singing Bill Monroe’s classic “Blue Moon of Kentucky” in a style that has since become known as rockabilly.

Not long after these two songs were released as Elvis’ first singles, they started making noise on local stations and appearing on the local music charts. Of course, Elvis’ career exploded from there, and soon Elvis and Phillips realized that what they were writing was more than country and could be greatly improved by the addition of drums.

Elvis met drummer DJ Fontana while performing in 1954 Louisiana Hayride country music radio show. Fontana was the drummer for Hayride and played with Elvis, Scotty and Bill when they played the show. At first, Fontana played behind a curtain so the country fans wouldn’t see him! He and Elvis formed an instant friendship born of professional respect for each other’s talents. Fontana later joined Moore and Black, Elvis’ backing combo, becoming perhaps the first rockabilly drummer to ever play behind the scenes. He worked with Elvis for the next 14 years.

Since playing and recording for Elvis, Fontana has obviously played on some of the most successful songs in rock ‘n’ roll history. He recorded over 450 songs with Elvis, appeared in five Elvis movies, and recorded a virtual Who’s Who of rock ‘n’ roll and country music.

However, Fontana has maintained a humble and down-to-earth personality. “I just learned to stay out of their way and do what I had to do,” he said. “It made me feel better.” Statements like these are typical of Fontana, who is happy to play down his own image and elevate his band’s talents.

However, there’s no doubt that Fontana and his straightforward drumming style were instrumental in making Elvis’ early records what they were. He’s smart enough to know exactly what these songs need, and disciplined enough to deliver a sound that many other drummers might have overplayed to draw attention to themselves. In any case, the most successful musician in the history of rock and roll had enough respect for Fontana to play with him for so many years, just to know about his talent! In 2009, the DJ was recognized for these talents when he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

And he’s not done yet. Fontana turned 80 in March 2011 and is still touring!

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