Earl Palmer

Born: October 25, 1924, in New Orleans, Louisiana

Died: September 19, 2008, in Los Angeles, California

If you could only choose one person on whom to bestow the title “the architect of rock’n’roll drumming,” it would be Earl Palmer. Blessed with tremendous ears and a wellspring of creative energy, Earl played on some of the most important and influential rock recordings ever made. He also invented and popularized many of the grooves, fills, and other techniques that rock drummers take for granted when sitting behind a kit today.

Earl’s story straddles the old guard and the new. Born and raised in New Orleans, his first career—as a child dancer—gave him an early access to rhythm, and exposed him to many of the legendary parade drummers that had helped create the sound of jazz. After a stint in the military in the late 1940s, Palmer returned to the Crescent City in time to hook up with an innovative studio owner (Cosimo Matassa) and a seminal band (led by trumpeter/producer Dave Bartholomew) that together would define the sound of 1950s rhythm and blues.Palmer’s high-energy style and second-line sensibilities led to big hits with the likes of Little Richard, Fats Domino, and many others. His grooves were so intense that they gave rise to a whole new generation of young players across the world who, for the first time, would begin to identify themselves as rock drummers. In fact, nearly every interviewee in this book cites Earl Palmer as a key influence.In 1957 Earl moved to Los Angeles, where—along with a group of studio musicians collectively known as the Wrecking Crew—he continued to define the sound and feel of rock’n’roll well into the 1970s.