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BIOGRAPHY

Earl Palmer

Earl Palmer, born Earl Cyril Palmer on October 25, 1924 in New Orleans, LA, was an American session drummer, best known for his drumming in the R&B and rock & roll music styles.

In 2000, as one of the most recorded drummers in history, Earl Palmer was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame along with fellow Wrecking Crew drummer, Hal Blaine, whom he mentored in the late 50s and occasionally doubled up with on recording sessions.

By the time Earl Palmer moved from New Orleans to join the Los Angeles session musician Mafia in 1957, he'd already had a couple of careers in entertainment. As a kid tap dancer in black vaudeville, he saw the country, crossing paths with the likes of Art Tatum and Louis Prima before embarking upon a stint in the segregated World War II Army ("You was always running into stuff you didn't like. At first you took it. After two years you ready to hurt somebody"). Back in Louisiana, he took up work as a jazz drummer, little knowing that he'd soon be part of a revolution in music. As a regular on the scene, Palmer played on the seminal sides by Little Richard, Fats Domino, and many other R&B and early-rock & roll performers. Marked by a preternatural sense of propulsion and delightfully sly fills, Palmer's drumming was an indispensable part of shaping the new sound. By the '60s, he was working with Sinatra and Phil Spector, playing jazz (his first love) in clubs and contributing to dozens of movie and TV soundtracks (you'll hear him next time you watch Harold and Maude, Cool Hand Luke, or a rerun of M.A.S.H. or The Odd Couple).

In 2000, Palmer released his biographical book, Backbeat — an incisive, frequently hilarious read that opens doors on recording studios, show business, and race in America.

Earl Palmer died in Banning, California, on September 19, 2008, after a long illness.


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