DJ Fontana, Elvis Presley’s Former Drummer, Dead at 87
Drummer DJ Fontana, who rose to fame as part of Elvis Presley's band and played for a number of other artists, has died. He was 87 years old.
Per a Facebook post from Fontana's son David, the musician died on Wednesday (June 13) at 9:33PM, in his sleep. "He was very comfortable with no pain," David Fontana shares.
According to the Tennessean, Dominic Joseph Fontana was born on March 15, 1931, in Shreveport, La. He started playing the drums in high school, then became the house drummer for the Louisiana Hayride radio show, which is where he met Presley.
"They sent Elvis' records from Memphis. I thought the sound was really incredible," Fontana once remembered. "It was really different ... When Elvis, [guitarist] Scotty Moore and [bassist] Bill Black came down as a trio, Scotty approached me about drumming with them."
After that gig, Fontana joined Presley and his band permanently, beginning in 1954; he remained with the King of Rock 'n' Roll until 1968. During his tenure with Presley, Fontana drummed on, among other iconic songs, "Jailhouse Rock" and "Don't Be Cruel" -- a total of 460 songs during Presley's tenure with RCA, according to Fontana's official website. He also appeared in a number of Presley's movies, played during his appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1956 and participated in his 1968 comeback concert.
"I learned the value of simplicity at the Hayride," Fontana says in the book Go Cat Go! "I heard Scotty and Bill and Elvis one night and knew that I couldn't mess up that sound. That's why I always play what I feel. If that won't work, I just won't do it again. I think the simple approach comes from my hearing so much big band music. I mixed it with rockabilly."
Following his tenure with Presley, Fontana lived in Nashville and worked with a number of artists, both country and rock: Dolly Parton, Waylon Jennings, Paul McCartney, Keith Richards and others. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2009 and is also a member of the Rockabilly Hall of Fame.
Funeral arrangements for Fontana have yet to be announced. His son's Facebook post asks for privacy for his family as they mourn.
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