Earl Palmer Legendary Rock 'N' Roll Drummer Dies at 83

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Earl Palmer
Earl Palmer, a New Orleans drummer who provided the distinctive backbeat for seminal rock 'n' roll songs by Fats Domino and Little Richard, then traveled west to become one of Hollywood's busiest session musicians, has died. He was 83.

Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2000, Palmer died Friday at his home in Banning after a long illness, his family announced. Often called the most recorded drummer in music history, Palmer played in thousands of rock 'n' roll, jazz and pop music sessions, as well as on countless movie, television and commercial scores.

He set the rhythm for Fats Dominos Im Walkin , Little Richard's “Tutti Frutti" and “Long Tall Sally," Ritchie Valens' “La Bamba" and Sam Cooke's “You Send Me" in the 1950s. Producer Phil Spector used him to build his legendary Wall of Sound in the 1960s on such songs as “You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin' “ by the Righteous Brothers and “River Deep, Mountain High" by Ike and Tina Turner. In more recent years he played with Randy Newman, Elvis Costello, Bonnie Raitt and B.B. King, among others.

In the “Rolling Stone Illustrated History of Rock & Roll" from 1976, Langdon Winner called Palmer a “master of bass-drum syncopation and possibly the most inventive drummer rock and roll has ever had."

Born in New Orleans on Oct. 25, 1924, Earl Cyril Palmer was tap-dancing by age 5 on the black vaudeville circuit, touring with his mother, a singer, in Ida Cox's jazz and blues revue. He didn't learn to play drums until after serving in Europe with the Army in World War II. He returned to New Orleans and attended the Gruenwald School of Music on the GI Bill. He studied piano and percussion and learned to read, compose and arrange music.

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