Monday, September 22, 2008

RIP Earl Palmer

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.

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