Earl Palmer, the session drummer whose pioneering backbeats were recorded on such classics as Little Richard’s “Tutti Frutti” and The Righteous Brothers’ “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’,” has died. He was 84.
Palmer died Friday at his Los Angeles home after fighting a lengthy illness, his spokesman Kevin Sasaki said.
Born in New Orleans in 1924 and later moving to Los Angeles, Palmer worked extensively in both cities, recording with some of the music world’s all-time greats on thousands of tracks.
His beats form the backdrop on Ike and Tina Turner’s “River Deep, Mountain High,” Fats Domino’s “The Fat Man” and “I Hear You Knockin'” by Smiley Lewis.
From his Los Angeles home, Palmer drummed for music producer Phil Spector and Motown, and his session credits include artists as diverse as the Monkees, Neil Young and Frank Sinatra.
“He was groundbreaking,” said Ed Vodika, the pianist in the Earl Palmer Trio. Palmer “shaped American music for the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s.”
Vodika said he met Palmer about 10 years ago and was asked to join the trio. The pianist said he spent the next five years playing weekly gigs in Los Angeles that attracted a host of big-name musicians, from Bonnie Raitt to Ringo Starr.
“He worked with so many people in his career … you never knew who would be in the audience,” Vodika said.
Palmer was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2000. According to the institution’s Web site, Little Richard wrote in his autobiography that Palmer “is probably the greatest session drummer of all time.”
Palmer married four times and is survived by his seven children.