Elvis Presley Drummer D.J. Fontana Dead at 87

D.J. Fontana (left), the longtime drummer for Elvis Presley, died at the age of 87. Frank Carroll/Gary

Dominic Joseph “D.J.” Fontana, the longtime drummer for Elvis Presley who helped pioneer the backbeat swing of rock and roll, died Wednesday, The Tennessean reports. He was 87.

Fontana’s son David announced the drummer’s death on Facebook, writing, “My Dad passed away in his sleep at 9:33 tonight. 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.”

Fontana played with Presley for 14 years, accompanying him on over 460 cuts for RCA including rock and roll standards like “Blue Suede Shoes,” “Heartbreak Hotel,” “Hound Dog” and “Jailhouse Rock.” Fontana was with Elvis during his landmark appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1956, as well as his legendary “68 Comeback Special.” In 2009, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Known for his no-nonsense style of drumming, Fontana injected early rockabilly with the swing of big band music. At a time when many country and bluegrass groups were shunning drums altogether, Fontana’s mere presence behind the kit was revolutionary in its own right. Still, Fontana aimed to keep things simple in a way that complemented not just Elvis, but also his other bandmates, bassist Bill Black and guitarist Scotty Moore (Black and Moore died in 1965 and 2016, respectively). “I just learned how to stay out of their way and let them do what they had to,” he said in 1987. “It sounded better to me that way.”

Born in Shreveport, Louisiana, Fontana began playing…