D.J. Fontana, Elvis Presley’s Fabled Drummer, Dead at 87

Legendary Musician Died Wednesday (June 13)

D.J. Fontana, Elvis Presley’s longtime and sound-setting drummer, died Wednesday (June 13) at the age of 87. His death was announced by his son David in a Facebook post.

“My Dad passed away in his sleep at 9:33 tonight,” the post said. “He was very comfortable with no pain."

“Good night, D.J. Fontana, and thank you. The world literally danced to your beat,” said Alana Nash, the author of several books about Presley and the people surrounding him.

Micael Loccisano/Getty Images)

CLEVELAND - APRIL 04: DJ Fontana performs onstage during the 24th Annual Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony at Public Hall on April 4, 2009 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images)

Born Dominic Joseph Fontana in Shreveport, La., on March 15, 1931, Fontana first performed with Presley on the Louisiana Hayride in October 1954. He subsequently joined a band to back the hot young entertainer that featured Scotty Moore on lead guitar and Bill Black on bass. The band would shepherd Presley through all his early hits, increasingly popular concerts and music-revolutionizing television appearances.

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1957: Rock and roll singer Elvis Presley performs on the set of his film 'Jailhouse Rock' with songwriter Mike Stoller (on piano), Scotty Moore (guitar), Judy Tyler, Bill Black, Mickey Shaughnessy and D.J. Fontana in 1957 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

Dubbed the Blue Moon Boys, the band officially broke up in 1958, although Fontana and Moore would continue to back Presley on various occasions. The two also backed Paul McCartney on the 2002 recording of “That’s All Right.”

Of his trend-setting drumming style, Fontana said, “I learned the value of simplicity at the Hayride. 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.”

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Backstage at the Rolling Stones' 'Bridges to Babylon' tour, British musician Keith Richards (left) and Ron Wood (right) of the Rolling Stones poses with American musicians Scotty Moore (second left) and DJ Fontana, both formerly of Elvis Preseley's band, late 1997 or early 1998. (Photo by Paul Natkin/Getty Images)

According to Fontana’s website, he recorded approximately 460 songs with Presley and performed with such other luminaries as Ringo Starr, Roy Orbison, Jerry Lee Lewis, Steve Earle, Patti Page, Waylon Jennings, Jim Reeves, Charley Pride and Dolly Parton.

He was inducted into the Rockabilly Hall of Fame in 2009 and later that same year into the “sidemen” category of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Funeral arrangements are pending.

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