Leading R&B drummer Earl Palmer, best known for his New Orleans recording sessions with the likes of Fats Domino and Little Richard, died on Friday at his home in Los Angeles at age 84, his family said.
Palmer, who died after a lengthy illness, played on hundreds of hits during a career that ran from the 1940s through the 1970s and earned him an induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
His drumming on such hits as Fats Domino's "The Fat Man," Richard's "Tutti Frutti and Smiley Lewis's "I Hear You Knockin'" featured the strong back beat that was his signature and helped transform the lope of rhythm and blues into the full-tilt thrust of rock 'n' roll.
"That song required a strong after-beat throughout the whole piece," Palmer wrote of his work on "The Fat Man" in his 1999 autobiography, "Backbeat -- The Earl Palmer Story."
"With Dixieland you had a strong after-beat only after you got to the shout last chorus," he said. "It was sort of a new approach to rhythm music."
Palmer also played drums on Domino's "I'm Walkin,'" the Righteous Brothers' "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin,'" Ike and Tina Turner's "River Deep, Mountain High," and Sam Cooke's "Twistin' the Night Away."
His handiwork behind the drums was featured as well on a number of popular television themes, including "The Odd Couple," "77 Sunset Strip" and "The Brady Bunch."
In addition to his collaboration with R&B and blues artists in New Orleans, Palmer was a highly sought-after session player for recording stars ranging from Frank Sinatra and Sarah Vaughan to Elvis Costello, Ray Charles, Dizzie Gillespie and Count Basie.