Earl Palmer  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Earl Palmer (October 25, 1924 - September 19, 2008 was an American drummer and member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.


New Orleans

He started his career at five as a tap dancer, joining his mother and aunt on the black vaudeville circuit in its twilight.

Palmer was known for playing on New Orleans recording sessions, including Fats Domino's "The Fat Man" (and all the rest of Domino's hits), "Tutti Frutti" by Little Richard (and most of Richard's hits), "Lawdy Miss Clawdy" by Lloyd Price, and "I Hear You Knockin'" by Smiley Lewis.

His playing on "The Fat Man" featured the back beat that has come to be the most important element in rock and roll. Palmer said, "That song required a strong afterbeat throughout the whole piece. With Dixieland you had a strong afterbeat only after you got to the shout last chorus. . . . It was sort of a new approach to rhythm music."

After New Orleans

Palmer left New Orleans for Hollywood in 1957. His career as a session drummer included work with Frank Sinatra, Phil Spector, Rick Nelson, Ray Charles, Eddie Cochran, Ritchie Valens, as well as jazz sessions with Dizzy Gillespie and Count Basie, and appearing on blues recordings with B. B. King.

Palmer played drums in a recording session with west-coast folk singer-songwriter Jim Sullivan around 1969 or 1970. The album was released twice with different audio mixes. On the Monnie Records album, "U.F.O.", Palmer's drumming can be clearly heard, but on the Century City Record, "Jim Sullivan" the drums, percussion and bass were moved back in the mix.

In 1982, Palmer was elected treasurer of the Local 47 of the American Federation of Musicians. He served until he was defeated in 1984 and was re-elected in 1990.


He married four times, and had seven children: Earl Cyril Palmer, Jr., Donald Alfred Palmer, Ronald Raymond Palmer and Patricia Ann Palmer from his marriage to Catherine Palmer; Shelly Margaret Palmer and Pamela Teresa Palmer from his marriage to Susan Joy Weidenpesch; and Penny Yasuko Palmer from his marriage to Yumiko Makino. He married his fourth wife Jeline Palmer in November 2004, and lived in California.


  • "You could always tell a New Orleans drummer the minute you heard him play his bass drum because he'd have that parade beat connotation." --Earl Palmer.
  • Late in his career, Palmer appeared in a music video with Cracker on the song "I hate my generation". As Addicted to Noise tells the story:"According to Cracker leader David Lowery, when Palmer was asked if he would be able to play along with the songs, he gave Lowery a look and said, 'I invented this shit.'"
  • "I've been asked if people could borrow my drums because they like their sound. What the hell, they think the drums play themselves? I said, 'You really want 'em? Really? Okay. Cost you triple scale and cartage.'"


Below are albums and songs that Earl Palmer performed on.



Further reading

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Earl Palmer" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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