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D. J. Fontana

Dominic Joseph (D.J.) Fontana was the Saturday night staff drummer for the Louisiana Hayride. He always played behind the curtain as in those days drums were considered a musical sacrilege to country music fans.

The first time he played with Elvis and the Blue Moon Boys was on October 16, 1954. He played behind the curtain as usual, but after that date he played out in front with the rest of the band. He joined Elvis' group full-time in August of 1955.

It's 1962. I'm a very young man riding in the car with my father at the wheel of the family's white convertible Ford Galaxy. It's hot outside. It's Miami in the summertime. Dads got the AM radio playing - you know the latest: Pat Boone; Frank: Dean Martin - and we're calmly rolling along in style when all hell breaks loose in the dashboard. Good God! What is that sound? What's that rhythm? It's Elvis! Even though I'm only seven I can tell something is going on, and it ain't like nothing else. Fortunately for me dad is digging it too (Hell, looking back he was only thirty). He says offhandedly, "That guy's all right".

That's how I was introduced to Rock 'n' roll and it only took a couple more meetings before I absolutely knew where my life would be headed. But this story is not about me, it's about influences and history. This story is about quite possibly the most influential drummer in the history of Rock 'n' Roll Music.

As Rock 'n' Roll has evolved, it has gone through an amazing metamorphosis. It has risen to great heights but has often spun off sub plots that sank to indescribable lows. In the late seventies it became just another business altogether, spawning snake oil salesmen who made millions selling nothing but hot air and good looks. But when it started out, Rock 'n' Roll had design. It had architects. They were talented and dedicated. They were genuine.

When you hear D.J. Fontana playing his drums you are hearing a kid from Shreveport, LA tell you what he thinks music should sound like. Rock 'n' Roll had a clean slate. There were no drum parts written for him on those Elvis records. He dictated the groove and made you feel it. There is no one on this earth that can make music move the way he did. He set the standard. Listen close to hits like "Heartbreak Hotel", "Jail House Rock," "Teddy Bear," "Hound Dog," Love Me Tender," "Blue Suede Shoes," and you hear the blueprint of the foundation for all Rock 'n' Roll being formed. When that is understood, one can truly appreciate D.J.'s influence on drummers like Ringo and Charlie Watts, and feel his effect on the next forty years of music.

I recently had the pleasure of working with D.J. and the time I spent with him was invaluable in understanding the true nature of rock music and it's origins. Because he helped lay the foundation and was there from day one, D.J. is insightful. He knows why most musicians (mainly lead singers) are crazy. He has seen it all.

I studied his style as a man and musician and started noticing the many traits that all the great drummers share. He stays relaxed, disciplined and focused as he works and can disarm any tense situation with unmatched under the breath commentary shit, the man is the master of the well-placed barb. Nothing and no one escapes him. Even though D.J.'s no kid he has the energy of a young thoroughbred. It's obvious to me that he played his share of bump and grind strip clubs from the way he sits and swings behind the kit. He knows he's got nothing to prove, he still loves the drums and loves to play. Some guys just make it look easy (it's not by a long shot).

He has a direct, get-to-the-point approach to his drumming. Within three takes he has his scene dialed in. After that you become the target of the commentary. Here's a sample producer/drummer conversation. I say, "D.J. can you give me another take?" He says, "Hell Stan, I can, but I don't want to." And he was right, the track was just fine. What else do you need to know. Love it.

His road stories cannot be beat by anyone anywhere anytime. Let's face it, he was there at ground zero. I was on a speaking panel with him once (I have since learned my lesson) and as we, the panelists were telling of our "grand moments" in rock, spewing on about eighties excesses, D.J. quietly waited his turn. Then he very humbly spoke of the day that Scotty Moore, Bill Black, Elvis and himself were after months of playing dives, finally breaking big. As this particular gig was wrapping up, they were in the middle of a field when a couple of thousand kids (moistly girls) started going ape shit tearing Elvis apart (remember big-time rock security had not yet been pondered). As they begin to realize that they might not get out with their lives, (here's the part I love) D.J. is hit with his grand moment "I realized that this Rock 'n' Roll music we was playin' was catchin' on." Just a little. The master of understatement.

Armed with accuracy, power, swing, dynamics, great time and - the biggest compliment of all - simplicity, D.J. rocked the greatest singer and the greatest songs.... ever. He did it year after year, record after classic record. In a world of one trick ponies and lucky "Rock Stars," D.J. is the real deal.

So much has been written about rock music and Elvis. All I really know is when I try to imagine music today without the contributions of D.J. Fontana, Scotty Moore and Bill Black my brain goes numb. Think about it. If you're a musician, they are the founding fathers on the face of Mount Rushmore and when I trace my roots up the long family tree of drummers, I can't tell you how proud I am to be a musical bastard son of the great D.J. Fontana.

Thank you D.J.
- Stan Lynch

DJ Plays on Elvis Songs ...
1956 - 1968 Includes movie sound tracks. (On some of these sessions Hal Blaine, Bernie Mattinson, Murrey "Buddy" Harman or Emiel Radocchia are listed as also being on percussion.)
A Big Hunk O' Love
A Boy Like Me, A Girl Like You
A Dog's Life
A Fool Such As I
A Little Less Conversation
A Mess Of Blues
A Whistling Tune
A World Of Our Qwn
Adam And Eve
Ain't That Loving You Baby
All I Need Was The Rain
All Shook Up
All That I Am
Almost Always True
Almost In Love
Am I Ready
Animal Instinct
Anyone (Could Fall In Love With You)
Anyplace Is Paradise
Anything That's Part Of You
Any Way You Want Me
Are You Lonesome Tonight
Ask Me
As Long As I Have You
Baby, I Don't Care
Baby, If You'll Give Me All Of Your Love
Barefoot Ballad
Beach Boy Blues
Beach Shark
Because Of Love
Beginners Luck
Beyond The Bend
Big Boots
Big Love
Big Boss Man
Blueberry Hill
Blue Christmas
Blue Hawaii
Blue Moon
Blue River
Blue Suede Shoes
Bossa Nova Baby
By And By
Can't Help Falling In Love
Carny Town
Catchin' On Fast
City By Night
Clean Up Your Own Back Yard
Come Along
Come What May
C'mon Everybody
Cotton Candy Land
Could I Fall In Love
Cross My Heart And Hope To Die
Crying In The Chapel
(You're The) Devil In Disguise
Didja' Ever
Dixieland Rock
Do The Clam
Do The Vega
Doin' The Best I Can
Don'cha Think It's Time
Do Not Disturb
Don't Ask Me Why
Don't Be Cruel
Don't Leave Me Now
Double Trouble
Down By The Riverside/When The Saints Go Marching In
Down In The Alley
Drums Of The Islands
Earth Boy
Easy Come, Easy Go
(Such An) Easy Question
Echoes Of Love
Everybody Come Aboard
Fame And Fortune
Farther Along
Finders Keepers, Losers Weepers
Five Sleepy Heads
First In Love
Flaming Star
Follow That Dream
Fools Fall In Love
For The Millionth And The Last Time
Forget Me Never
Fort Lauderdale Chamber Of Commerce
Fountain Of Love
Frankfurt Special
Frankie And Johnny
G.I. Blues
Girls! Girls! Girls!
Girl Happy
Give Me The Right
Go East Young Man
Goin' Home
Golden Coins
Gonna Get Back Home Somehow
Good Luck Charm
Got A Lot O' Livin'To Do
Guitar Man
Happy Ending
Hard Headed Woman
Hard Knocks
Hard Luck
Harum Scarum
Have I Told You Lately That I Love You?
Hawaiian Sunset
Hawaiian Wedding Song
He's Your Uncle, Not Your Dad
Heartbreak Hotel
Here Comes Santa Claus
Hey, Little Girl
High Heel Sneakers
His Hand In Mine
(Marie's The Name) His Latest Flame Home Is Where The Heart Is
Hot Dog
How Can You Loose What You Never Had
How Great Thou Art
How Would You Like To Be
Hound Dog
How Do You Think I Feel
How's The World Treating Me
I Beg Of You
I Believe
I Believe In The Man In The Sky
I Don't Wanna Be Tied
I Feel So Bad
I Feel That I've Known You Forever
I Forgot To Remember To Forget
I Got A Woman
I Got Lucky
I Got Stung
I Gotta Know
I Met Her Today
I Need Somebody To Lean On
I Need You So
I Need Your Love Tonight
I Love Only One Girl
I Love You Because
I Slipped, I Stumbled, I Fell
I Want To Be Free
I Want You, I Need You, I Love You
I Want You With Me
I Was The One
I'll Be Back
I'll Be Home For Christmas
I'll Be There
I'll Never Let You Go
I'll Remember You
I'll Take Love
I'm A Fool
I'm Comin' Home
I'm Counting On You
I'm Falling In Love Tonight
I'm Gonna Sit Right Down And Cry (Over You)
I'm Gonna Walk Dem Golden Stairs
I'm Not The Marrying Kind
I'm Yours
I've Got To Find My Baby
If Every Day Was Like Christmas
If The Lord Wasn't Walking By My Side
If You Think I Don't Need You
If We Never Meet Again
Indescribably Blue
In My Fathers House
In My Way
In The Garden
In Your Arms
Is It So Strange
Island Of Love
It's A Sin
It's A Wonderful World
It's Carnival Time
It's Now Or Never
It Hurts Me
It's No Secret
It Feels So Right
It Won't be Long
Jailhouse Rock
Jesus Knows What I Need
Joshua Fit The Battle
Just Call Me Lonesome
Just Because
Just For Old Time Sake
Just Tell Her Jim Said Hello
King Creole
King Of The Whole Wide World
Kiss Me Quick
Kissin Cousins
Kissin' Cousins (No.2)
Know Only Him
Ku-U-I-Po (Hawaiian Sweetheart)
Lawdy, Miss Clawdy
Let Yourself Go
Let's Be Friends
Let's Forget About The Stars
Little Egypt
Little Sister
Lonely Man
Lonesome Cowboy
Long-Legged Girl
(It's A) Long Lonely Highway
Long Tall Sally
Look Out Broadway
Love Me
Love Letters
Lover Doll
Loving You
Mansion Over The Hilltop
Memphis, Tennessee
Milky White Way
Money Honey
Moonlight Swim
My Baby Left Me
My Desert Sereande
My Wish Came True
Night Life
Night Rider
Never Ending
Never Say Yes
New Orleans
No More
Paradise Hawaiian Style
(There'll Be) Peace In The Valley (For Me)
Petunia, The Gardener's Daughter
Please Don't Drag That String Around
Please Don't Stop Loving Me
Playing For Keeps
Pocketful Of Rainbows
Poison Ivy League
Puppet On A String
Put The Blame On Me
Queenie Wahine's Papaya
O' Little Town Of Bethlehem
Old Shep
One Boy, Two Little Girls
One Broken Heart For Sale
One Night
One Sided Love Affair
One Track Heart
Once Is Enough
Old MacDonald
Ready Teddy
Return To Sender
Riding The Rainbow
Rip It Up
Rock-A-Hula Baby
Run On
Sand Castle
Santa, Bring My Baby Back
Santa Claus Is Back In Town
Santa Lucia
Sentimental Me
Scratch My Back
Shake, Rattle And Roll
Shake That Tambourine
She's A Machine
She's Not You
Shoppin' Around
Shout It Out
Slicin' Sand
Silent Night
Sing You Children
Singing Tree
Smokey Mountain Boy
So Close, Yet So Far
So High
So Glad You're Mine
Something Bigger
Something Blue
Song Of The Shrimps
Sound Advice
Spring Fever
Stand By Me
Starting Today
Startin' Tonight
Stay Away Joe
Steadfast, Loyal And True
Steppin' Out Of Line
Stop, Look And Listen
Stop Where You Are
Stuck On You
Such A Night
Summer Kisses, Winter Tears
Swing Down Sweet Chariot
Take Me To The Fair
Take My Hand Precious Lord
Teddy Bear
Tell Me Why
Tender Feeling
Thanks To The Rolling Sea
That's Someone You'll Never Forget
That's When Your Heartaches Begin
The Fair Is Moving On
The Love Machine
The Meanest Girl In Town
The Walls Have Ears
There Ain't Nothing Like A Song
There's A Brand New Day On The Horizon
There's Always Me
There's Gold In The Mountains
There Is So Much World To See
They Remind Me Too Much Of You
This Is Living
This Is My Heaven
Today, Tomorrow And Forever
Tomorrow Is A Long Time
Tommorrow Night
Tonight Is So Right For Love
Too Much
Treat Me Nice
True Love
Tryin' To Get To You
Tutti Frutti
US Male
Viva Las Vegas
Wear My Ring Around Your Neck
What A Wonderful Life
What'd I Say
What Every Woman Lives For
What Now, What Next, Where To
What's She Really Like
We Call On Him
We'll Be Together
We're Comin' In Loaded
Western Union
Wheels On My Heels
When It Rains, It Really Pours
When My Blue Moon Turn To Gold Again
Where Could I Got But To The Lord
Where Do You Come From
Where No One Stands Alone
White Christmas
Who Are You
Wild in the Country
Wisdom Of The Ages
Without Him
Wolf Call
Wonderful World
Wooden Heart
Working On The Building
Yellow Rose Of Texas/The Eyes Of Texas
Yoga Is As Yoga Does
You Don't Know Me
You Gotta Stop
You'll Be Gone
You'll Never Walk Alone
Young And Beautiful
Young Dreams
Your Cheatin' Heart
Your Groovy Self
Your Time Hasn't Come Yet Baby


  • PHOTOS. The Jazz Drummer Pucture Galley of D.J. Fontana

  • PHOTOS FROM PARIS. November 3, 1999

  • A GROUP PHOTO with the Jordanaires, Ringo, Charlie McCory & Friends

  • ALL THE KINGS MEN CD and recording details.

  • Rockabilly Hall of Fame