Earl Palmer was the New Orleans drummer who largely defined the beat of rock 'n roll on thousands of recordings from the late 1940s on.
Dapper and outspoken, Earl Palmer may well have been the most recorded drummer in the history of popular music. He stamped his sound on everything from early Fats Domino and Little Richard hits to classic movie soundtracks to music for The Flintstones cartoon.
Palmer recorded with Frank Sinatra, Bobby Darin, Sam Cooke, Glen Campbell, Dizzy Gillespie, Count Basie, Ray Charles, Nat King Cole, the Everly Brothers, the Beach Boys, Willie Nelson, Sonny & Cher, the Supremes and the Monkees, among many others.
He was the drummer on Ike and Tina Turner's River Deep Mountain High, the Righteous Brothers' smash You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin' and Ritchie Valens' signature La Bamba.
He's the trunk of the tree of drumming, if not a big ol' root, said renowned New Orleans jazz, funk and rhythm & blues drummer Johnny Vidacovich. He's part of the basic foundation. He's something we all built on.
Earl Palmer grew up in the Treme neighborhood. He entered show business as a young boy, working as a tap dancer with his mother and aunt on the black vaudeville circuit. After a stint in the army during World War II, he returned to New Orleans and studied drumming. He joined the popular big band fronted by Bartholomew, a trumpeter and a friend since childhood.