The founding rock 'n' roll drummer is gone. Earl Palmer, the New Orleans drummer on the seminal Little Richard and Fats Domino singles, as well as lesser known New Orleans R&B tunes of the period, died this weekend at the age of 84. The jazz blogosphere has often dealt with the issue of groove, rhythmic authority, etc.: Palmer wrote the modern book on it. The early rock 'n' roll groove, a derivative of New Orleans second line drumming in Palmer's hands, is semi-swung and semi-straight. Many younger drummers miss this nuance, playing straight eighths and the groove is robbed of its momentum. I could listen to, and play, that feel all night.
I can't even remember the first time I heard an Earl Palmer beat; my parents raised me on the "oldies" station and so the classic Little Richard and Fats Domino sides were etched in my memory from an early age. When I started getting into New Orleans R&B in high school, and first heard the name Earl Palmer as dropped by Stanton Moore of Galactic, I found him on various Allen Toussaint and Dave Bartholomew tunes, too. I gained an entirely new level of appreciation for songs like "Tutti Frutti" and "Long Tall Sally," whose rhythms I had taken for granted. May Mr. Palmer's beats live on in eternity.