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BACKBEAT: Earl Palmer's Story Hardcover – Bargain Price, April 17, 1999


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 196 pages
  • Publisher: Smithsonian (April 17, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1560988444
  • ASIN: B005Q7HAMI
  • Product Dimensions: 0.1 x 0.1 x 0.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,047,403 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

By the time Earl Palmer moved from New Orleans to join the Los Angeles session musician Mafia in 1957, he'd already had a couple of careers in entertainment. As a kid tap dancer in black vaudeville, he saw the country, crossing paths with the likes of Art Tatum and Louis Prima before embarking upon a stint in the segregated World War II Army ("You was always running into stuff you didn't like. At first you took it. After two years you ready to hurt somebody"). Back in Louisiana, he took up work as a jazz drummer, little knowing that he'd soon be part of a revolution in music. As a regular on the scene, Palmer played on the seminal sides by Little Richard, Fats Domino, and many other R&B and early-rock & roll performers. Marked by a preternatural sense of propulsion and delightfully sly fills, Palmer's drumming was an indispensable part of shaping the new sound. By the '60s, he was working with Sinatra and Phil Spector, playing jazz (his first love) in clubs and contributing to dozens of movie and TV soundtracks (you'll hear him next time you watch Harold and Maude, Cool Hand Luke, or a rerun of M.A.S.H. or The Odd Couple). Backbeat is an incisive, frequently hilarious read that opens doors on recording studios, show business, and race in America. --Rickey Wright

From Publishers Weekly

Earl Palmer, the New Orleans jazz musician who became one of rock and roll's great drummers, is a name known chiefly to connoisseurs. By transforming rhythm and blues' lope into a powerful headlong thrust, he propelled hits by Little Richard, Fats Domino, Sam Cooke, Ritchie Valens, Ike and Tina Turner, Ricky Nelson, the Beach Boys, the Supremes and the Mamas and the Papas, among others. Moving to Los Angeles in 1957, Palmer practically lived in the studio for the next dozen years, co-creating hundreds of hits as drummer or arranger, though never sharing royalties or credits. Between sessions, he played big-band pop and jazz with Sinatra, Gillespie, Basie and Ray Charles, besides doing film and TV soundtracks. In a vibrant oral autobiography, Scherman (who edited The Rock Musician and co-edited The Jazz Musician) lets Palmer tell his own story through interviews, adding chapter introductions and meticulous, informative endnotes that often amount to brief essays. Born in 1924, Palmer joined his mother and aunt on the black vaudeville circuit around age eight as a professional tap dancer. In World War II, he issued live ammo to his noncombatant mates during training (so they could shoot back at racist whites); tried to go AWOL before shipping out; and took a two-week joyride through France. A great raconteur, at once hip, opinionated and irreverent, Palmer reels off stories and lets the good times roll. This exhilarating book offers a rare first-person window on the New Orleans musical scene from honky tonk to bebop, the insular world of black vaudeville, the bitter combat experience of African-Americans during WWII, and rock's early days. 32 photos.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

One of the best music and history reads ever!
S.C. Drummer
If you like behind the scenes stories of the old days of music, this is a book you'll like.
Fred Decker
Earl Palmer's name is synonymous with studio drumming!
JL

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Fred Decker on April 30, 2001
Format: Hardcover
If you like behind the scenes stories of the old days of music, this is a book you'll like. Palmer has a gunfighter mentality that enhances his story, and a career that began back in the 1930's when he was a child dancer. He's experienced alot in his career, including the start of rock and roll. His explanation of the rhythmic changes that set early rock and roll apart from the music that came before it is fascinating. Palmer was playing in Little Richard's band and he noticed that Little Richard wasn't playing blues shuffle rhythms on his piano. Although the band could play a blues shuffle behind Little Richard and sound acceptable, as was the case on "Tutti-Frutti," the sound was better when the drummer and the band adapted to the rhythm that Little Richard was playing, as they did on "Lucille". Palmer doesn't know if Little Richard or Chuck Berry invented the rock and roll rhythm first, but he points out that Berry's band always played blues shuffles behind him, while Little Richard's band had a more modern beat. The records bear this out. I thought it was a fascinating explanation, and a cool insight.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on May 14, 2007
Format: Paperback
The life story of the 'inventor' of the rock and roll backbeat! Great insight on life in the 50's era of music in New Orleans.

His success in LA as the premier drummer and his great down to earth language in reliving some of the times when he was in his prime.

He and Hal Blaine are the reason so many of the record labels recorded in LA, and their ability to not only provide the beat, but many times either arrange or help arrange the tunes made Earl invaluable in the studio.

A must read if your into the rock and roll history of the roots of the music.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By "mrbubblebutt" on September 19, 2002
Format: Paperback
I am a great fan of Earl Palmer and eagerly read the book. I was even lucky enough to get him to sign my copy at a jazz fest appearance.
That said, this is a moving book chronicling his rise as THE New Orleans drummer to being the premier studio drummer in the world .
Music is the background of this book-the foreground is more about Palmer's life, loves and career. Palmer is frank, unapologetic, opinionated and somewhat cocky.
He discusses New Orleans in the 40's and 50's, race relations and the music scene from a first person perspective. Its refreshing and full of surprises.
He moves on to chronicle his career in L.A.- how he comes into the scene- who he displaces and eventually how he gets displaced. Anecdotes abound about various sessions and gigs- though not as many as one might want to hear.
What this book clearly is not is some sort of insight into technique or musical philosophy. This disappointed me at first - then I realized Earl can let the huge body of recorded work do the talking there. ( I have seen some video tape for sale where Earl demonstrates various beats and techniques)
The book is a bit choppy and somewhat unpolished at times- but it makes up for it in frankness.- over time I came to appreciate that.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Bernie Koenig on March 24, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Earl Palmer is an incredibly important figure in pop music. His drumming virtually defines early rock 'n' roll, especially his recordings for the Specialty label in the 1950's.
It was great to hear him talk about his early years and how he became such a major performer in the studios of New Orleans and Hollywood.
It is also fascinating to hear him talk aout his desire to be a bebop drummer.
As a result of reading this book I went out and bought a whole bunch of records with Palmer.
Anyone interested in the roots of rock or in what makes a good drummer should read this book.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By John Preble on September 26, 2004
Format: Paperback
If is fun for me to read first hand accounts of pop music - especially from people who are from New Orleans - who go outside of the Cresent City and make it big - etc. Earl seems to paint an honest picture of the people and places of his career.

I will probably be reading it again. If you are a New Orleans' drummer - this book may be of more interest to you then anyone else on the planet.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Christopher A. Edwards on January 30, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Yeah, it's gritty - but it's real! This is how rock and roll was shaped in America, or at least a very big part of it. New Orleans history musical history lesson with names, places, dates that are invaluable for future historians and of extreme interest for today's students of R&R. Above all, Earl was GOOD, GREAT - a musical genius. There isn't a person in the world who listens to Western music (American) that hasn't danced to Earl's drum beats. Little Richard to Sinatra to movie scores (reading EVERY note) and even the most difficult scores - CARTOONS! He did it all!
RIP, Earl. We all thank you for your gift!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By James A. Harger on May 31, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A well written book about one of the most recorded musicians to come out of New Orleans since Louis Armstrong. From Little Richard to Frank Sinatra, Earl Palmer was the drummer of choice. Racism forced Earl to leave The Crescent City but the Los Angeles music scene couldn't have benefited more. What a life !!!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Michael P. Moore on November 23, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As a drummer and a fan of great music of the fifties, sixties and seventies, this book was a must-read. What a life Earl had! From child dancing prodigy to first-call L.A. session-drummer, Earl Palmer IS the story of Rock and Roll, and any and all forms of recorded music. His approach, his instincts, his professionalism, and his humor are all here in this great bio on a man so important to contemporary music, that most people don't even know it was him playing on their favorite hits, which is a shame. Read this book and let anyone and everyone know that Earl Palmer was THE man that made them dance.
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