The original heartbeat of rock & roll, drummer Earl Palmer died yesterday at the age of 84 at his Los Angeles home after a long illness. Originally based in New Orleans, Palmer laid down the bedrock beat for a boatload of early rock & roll/R&B classics, including Little Richard's "Tutti Frutti," Fats Domino's "Walking to New Orleans," Smiley Lewis' "I Hear You Knockin'" and Lloyd Price's "Lawdy Miss Clawdy," bringing that crucial Crescent City second-line swing to the groove.
The second phase of Palmer's career was just as impressive; he moved to L.A., where he worked as a preeminent session man throughout the '60s and '70s. During this time, his unmistakable rhythms drove recordings by (deep inhale) Sam Cooke, The Righteous Brothers, The Monkees, Charles Wright, B.B. King, Bonnie Raitt, Randy Newman, David Axelrod, Tim Buckley, Tom Waits, Van Dyke Parks, Dr. John, and many, many more. In later years, as an elder statesman, he continued to be called upon for projects by Elvis Costello, Waits, and others.