D.J. Fontana has Died

By: Elvis Australia
Source: www.elvis.com.au
June 15, 2018

D.J. Fontana, Elvis' legendary drummer, has died aged 87. The last of the 'Blue Moon Boys' has now left to join his fellow musicians - the creators of the Rock'n'Roll big-bang. Lead guitarist Scotty Moore sadly passed away back in 2016. Original bassist Bill Black died back in 1965 and never played with Elvis' band again following the 1958 break-up.

D.J. Fontana's son David posted an emotional message on Facebook, to announce the death of his father. 'I told everyone that I would keep you posted. My Dad passed away in his sleep at 9:33 tonight,'he wrote. DJ Fontana died at the age of 87 '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'.

D.J. Fontana, Scotty Moore, Bill Black, Elvis Presley.
D.J. Fontana, Scotty Moore, Bill Black, Elvis Presley.

Sun Studio, which is based in Memphis, Tennessee, where Elvis kicked off his career, shared a tribute shortly after the news broke of Fontana's death. 'We are extremely saddened to hear about the passing of legendary drummer D.J. Fontana. The band is all back together now', the message read. 

'Lisa and I, and the entire Presley family, join the staff of Graceland in expressing our deepest condolences on DJ Fontana's passing. DJ was Elvis' original drummer and good friend. He was a tremendously talented musician and a wonderful man. Together with Elvis, Scotty Moore and Bill Black -- DJ made history as part of the legendary 'Blue Moon Boys' -- creating music that will live forever and influence generations to come', said Priscilla Presley.

'The staff of Elvis Presley's Graceland is deeply saddened by the passing of Elvis' friend and legendary drummer, D.J. Fontana', said Elvis Presley Enterprises CEO Jack Soden. 'D.J.'s groundbreaking recordings and performances with Elvis, Scotty Moore and Bill Black launched Elvis' career and forever changed music and the world. D.J. was a dear friend to all of us at Graceland. We send our heartfelt condolences to D.J.'s family, friends and his millions of fans worldwide'.  

James Burton: 'I was shocked and saddened to hear about my longtime friend, D.J. Fontana passing on. I've known him since we were kids on the Louisiana Hayride back in the 50's. I loved that man. We had a mutual love and respect for each other. We both were raised in Shreveport and we've been around the world with our talent that we got from here. It's amazing that two kids from Shreveport, both ended up playing for Elvis Presley, the 'King of Rock and Roll' at different times in Elvis'... life.

D.J. set the beat for a generation and he will be greatly missed. I am smiling though, thinking of the amazing reunion happening right now between Elvis, Scotty and D.J.. The boys back together again. D.J.'s family is in our thoughts and prayers. GOD BLESS!' ---- James

Steve Binder (director 1968 Special): 'So sad to read about the passing of my friend, D.J. Fontana! The few times Sharon and I had the pleasure of spending time with D.J. and his wife Karen, after D.J. and I met on the '68 Special, drew us much closer as true friends. Aside from his drumming skills, he had a great sense of humor and I will never forget him'.  ---- Steve

Fontana, who was born in Shreveport Louisiana on March 15 1931, originally began backing Elvis Presley, Bill Black and Scotty Moore when he worked at the Louisiana Hayride as early as 1954. 

D.J. Fontana.
D.J. Fontana.

Sun Records Sam Phillips originally assembled Elvis' Blue Moon Boys without a drummer and so it wasn't until the key RCA session of January 10 1956 that DJ Fontana joined the band on recordings. That session produced 'Heartbreak Hotel' and the music world would never be the same. Fontana's key input would be his solid beat creating the stunning impact on songs such as 'Hound Dog' and 'Jailhouse Rock'. Elvis, Scotty Moore and DJ Fontana continued to play and record together throughout the 1960s. Fontana played on over 400 of Elvis RCA recordings as well as appearing in several films.

DJ Fontana was instrumental in Elvis career revival of the 1968 'Comeback Special' although it would be the last time he performed with Elvis. Of the NBC TV Special Fontana said, 'We had a lot of fun doing it. Elvis looked great . . . he was real nervous, but once he started it was like he'd never been away'. 'Elvis was just a nice guy, even though he was so young. He always treated people like he wanted to be treated. You know, we worked hard. We just tried to cut good records. But we knew that if it wasn't for Elvis, we wouldn't have done anything'.

Fontana opened up about his relationship with The King, as he said: 'No, he never called anybody. I talked to him once on the telephone! They always had somebody calling, but then you'd know it was coming from him'.  

He only managed to see Elvis a 'couple' more times before his death, but reflecting on his time in the band, he said: 'Oh, it was fun. We really had a good time. But when you think about it, we worked with a guy 40 years ago, and I'm still working today doing the same'.

Fontana was inducted into the Rockabilly Hall of Fame in 2009. Later that year he was entered into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in the sideman category.

Interviews with or about Elvis Presley Interview with D.J. Fontana

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