Elvis Presely’s first and longtime drummer Dominic Joseph ‘DJ’ Fontana, who played on countless Presley hits has died at the age of 87. DJ recorded with Elvis beginning in 1956 and throughout the 1960s, most notably on “Hound Dog,” “Jailhouse Rock,” “Treat Me Nice” and “All Shook Up.” DJ was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a sideman in 2009.
In a Facebook statement, DJ’s son David wrote yesterday:
“I told everyone that I would keep you posted. 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.”
David has since posted that a public viewing will take place in Nashville on Sunday June 17 and Monday 18 with a private service to follow
Nicknamed “D. J.,” 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 Presley, which marked the beginning of a fifteen-year relationship. He performed on the NBC television special, referred to as Elvis’ 68 Comeback Special.
Fontana joined a band (originally assembled by Sam Phillips that was without a drummer). The band included Scotty Moore (lead guitar), Bill Black (bass) and Elvis Presley (rhythm guitar), and called 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. Along with the occasional piano and backing vocals from the Jordanaires),
The band officially broke up in 1958, although Fontana and Elvis still played and recorded together regularly throughout the 1960s. Moore would sometimes join them. Moore and Fontana have also performed together without Presley, including a 2002 recording of “That’s All Right (Mama) with Paul McCartney.
Photo of DJ with Ronnie Wood and Charlie Watts courtesy of DJ Fontana Facebook page