Legendary Elvis drummer Fontana dies
DJ Fontana, the drummer who helped launch rock ‘n’ roll as Elvis Presley’s sideman, has died at 87, his wife said.
Karen Fontana said he died in his sleep in Nashville after suffering complications from breaking his hip in 2016.
“He was loved by everybody all over the world. He treated everybody like everybody was his friend,” she said.
Fontana rose from strip joints in his native Shreveport, Louisiana, to the heights of musical history as Presley’s first and longtime drummer.
Influenced by such big band drummers as Buddy Rich and Gene Krupa, Fontana was admired by Helm, Ringo Starr, Max Weinberg and many others for his power, speed and steadiness.
“I heard Scotty and Bill and Elvis one night and knew that I couldn’t mess up that sound,” Fontana later said.
“I think the simple approach comes from my hearing so much big band music. I mixed it with rockabilly.”
Fontana was there for Presley’s extraordinary first wave of success, from such hit singles as ‘Hound Dog’ and ‘Jailhouse Rock’ to his increasingly frenzied live shows and hip-shaking appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show and other TV programmes.