D.J. Fontana, who played drums behind Elvis Presley from 1954 to 1968, died on Wednesday. He was 87.
His son David Fontana of Smyrna, Tennessee, announced the news on his Facebook page, writing, “My Dad passed away in his sleep at 9:33 tonight. He was very comfortable with no pain. I will post more tomorrow when I have more information. We ask for privacy at this time. Thank you for your love and prayers.”
Fontana, who original backed country artists like Webb Pierce and Faron Young, met Elvis Presley in 1954 at the Louisiana Hayride, a popular country-music radio show broadcast from Shreveport, Louisiana. He ended up joining Presley’s backing band, which also included guitarist Scotty Moore and bass player Bill Black. He went on to play on 460 of Elvis’ recordings, including “Jailhouse Rock” and “Heartbreak Hotel.”
He also appeared in a number of The King’s movies, like Jailhouse Rock and King Creole, and performed on Elvis’ legendary 1968 comeback special.
In addition, Fontana was an in-demand session musician, playing on records by, among others, Ringo Starr. In the ’90s, Fontana and Scotty Moore reunited for the album All the King’s Men, featuring guests like Keith Richards and Levon Helm.
Fontana was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a sideman in 2009. He’s also in the Musicians Hall of Fame and the Rockabilly Hall of Fame.
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