Leg­endary Elvis drum­mer Fon­tana dies

Irish Examiner - - World News - Adrian Sainz

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.

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