Elvis Presley's original drummer, the great, D.J. Fontana, who influenced nearly every drummer that followed in his wake, died on Wednesday, June 13th at the age of 87. Yesterday, Fontana's son David posted on his official Facebook page (David Fontana Show Band): “We are saddened to share that DJ Fontana passed away peacefully in his sleep last night. The family will post more Information soon, but asks for privacy at this time. What an incredible life he lived….” Fontana was the last survivor of what was dubbed the Blue Moon Boys — Elvis' earliest backing ensemble. Bassist Bill Black died of a brain tumor in at age 39 in 1965 and guitarist Scotty Moore died in 2016 at age 84 in his Nashville home after years of ill health.
D.J. Fontana, who was born in Shreveport, Louisiana, was the third and final addition to the Elvis band, played on the final string of Sun Records sessions, and toured with Elvis thought out the 1950's performing with him on all his iconic early TV performances. Fontana drummed on every one of Elvis's legendary 1950's and '60s RCA classics — “Heartbreak Hotel,” “Hound Dog,” “Jailhouse Rock,” “Don't Be Cruel,” “King Creole,” “Are You Lonesome Tonight,” “Love Me,” “A Fool Such As I,” “I Want You, I Need You, I Love You,” “Stuck On You,” “My Baby Left Me,” “Hard Headed Woman,” “Wear My Ring Around Your Neck,” “Blue Moon Of Kentucky,” “Little Sister,” “Don't,” “One Night,” “Can't Help Falling In Love,” “I Got Stung,” “Love Me Tender,” “All Shook Up,” — and literally, countless others.
Fontana stayed with Elvis throughout the movie years in the 1960's culminating with his final performance with “The King” during the '68 Comeback Special. He went on to become a top Nashville session player and performed on Ringo Starr's second solo set, Beaucoups Of Blues, which was engineered by Scotty Moore. In 1997, D.J. Fontana and Scotty Moore released the all-star collection, All The King's Men, featuring contributions from Keith Richards, Ron Wood, Jeff Beck, Levon Helm, and Cheap Trick, among others. In 1999, Fontana and Moore recorded with Paul McCartney.
- In 2009, Max Weinberg inducted D.J. Fontana into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in the “Sidemen” category, and told us that he's still learning new things about one of his idols: “One thing I didn't know about Elvis and D.J. was that D.J. was almost a cornerstone for Elvis, and he had him on almost every session he played until he died, whether he was there playing a tambourine or a conga drum. He always had D.J. around. He brought him back to when they were a little band from Memphis.”
AUDIO: DJ FONTANA ON HIS DRUM SOUND AND INFLUENCING THE BEATLES
AUDIO: DJ FONTANA ON ELVIS PRESLEY MOVIE SOUNDTRACKS
AUDIO: DJ FONTANA ON THE TEMPO OF ELVIS PRESLEY HITS
AUDIO: DJ FONTANA ON JOINING THE ELVIS PRESLEY BAND
AUDIO: 2009 RRHOF BACKSTAGE MAX WEINBERG ON DJ FONTANA