Elvis Presley’s First Drummer D.J. Fontana Has Died

One of my most prized musical items is a Sun Records sleeve signed by Scotty Moore and D.J Fontana, who passed away Wednesday at the age of 87.
In the mid-80’s, I had D.J over at the house for an entire afternoon- and tape was rolling as we talked…tomorrow I’ll be going through my archives looking for it. It was a wonderful conversation, flowing easily through story after story about his time with Elvis when they first got together in ’55 and thet meteoric rise in 56,57, and into 58.. A genuinely nice guy, he was unassuming, open,funny, and just a great guy to spend an afternoon with. – Steve Goddard

Here’s how ‘The Wrecking Crew’ announced it on their facebook page:

RIP- drummer D.J. Fontana who passed away on June 13, 2018 at the age of 87. He was born Dominic Joseph Fontana March 15, 1931 in Shreveport, Louisiana.

Fontana was employed by the Louisiana Hayride to be an in-house drummer on its Saturday night radio broadcast. In October 1954 he was hired to play drums for ELVIS PRESLEY, and that marked the beginning of a fifteen-year relationship.

Fontana joined a band (originally assembled by Sam Phillips without a drummer) consisting of Scotty Moore (lead guitar), Bill Black (bass) and Elvis Presley (rhythm guitar), calling themselves “The Blue Moon Boys”.

This became the band that would perform and record the vast majority of the Elvis Presley hits of the 1950s (some also including piano and backing vocals from the Jordanaires) including “Heartbreak Hotel”, “Hound Dog”, “Don’t Be Cruel”, and “Jailhouse Rock”. The band also toured extensively and performed on several television appearances including The Ed Sullivan Show through 1956 and 1957.

The band officially broke up in 1958 although Fontana and Elvis still played and recorded together regularly throughout the 1960s.

Fontana’s pioneering contribution to the genre has been recognized by the Rockabilly Hall of Fame in Nashville, which inducted him on January 14, 2009.

On April 4, 2009, Fontana was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland in the sidemen category.