Session superstar passed away on September 19, 2008
Artist biography Earl Palmer
Earl C. Palmer was born October 24, 1924 in New Orleans, Louisiana. His mother was a vaudeville performer, and Palmer took to tap dancing by the age of four.
The logical progression to drum set followed, and after his initial love affair with jazz drummers like Panama Francis and Big Sid Catlett, Earl Palmer started making ends meet in 1947 by joining “Big Beat” inventor Dave Bartholomew’s band (who opened for Louis Armstrong).
From 1950-1957, as the anchor of Cosimo Matassa’s J&M studios, Earl Palmer fused his bebop swing with heavier R&B/blues sensibilities, and a healthy dose of red beans and rice, and laid the pavement for the first generation of rock-and-roll drummers.
In 1957 Earl Palmer hooked up with Eddie Mesner and took an A&R job at Aladdin Records. Relocating to California really opened the session floodgates – rock and roll, Motown, jazz, R&B, and soundtracks were fair game, and he did it all.
A small sampling of Earl Palmer's resume includes Fats Domino, Little Richard, Ritchie Valens, B.B. King, Frank Sinatra, Diana Ross, Lou Rawls, Smiley Lewis, Taj Mahal, Lloyd Price, Professor Longhair, The Beach Boys, Tom Waits, T-Bone Walker, Sam Cooke, The 5th Dimension, Randy Newman, and Screamin’ Jay Hawkins.
Though Palmer's first love was jazz — "I lived in a jazz world," he allowed in his 1999 autobiography "Backbeat: Earl Palmer's Story" — he laid the foundation for rock and roll drumming with his solid stickwork and feverish backbeat.
A companion CD, Backbeat: The World’s Greatest Rock ’n’ Roll Drummer
(Ace Records), contains 30 of the tracks he played on.
The drummer was inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame on March 6, 2000.