Tag Archives: Earl Palmer

Little Richard’s “Rill Thing” is Just That

20 Jun

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Collector’s Choice has recently released 3 vintage Little Richard recordings. Set to wax in the late ’60s and early ’70s, these LPs were a real hodge podge of musicians and musical styles. Sure, Richard’s trademark falsetto is evident throughout. But Mr. Penniman bounces around wildly from blues to country to rhythm and blues and the results are somewhat mixed.

All three CDs have their moments, but the clear cut winner in my book is the collection entitled “The Rill Thing.” Ably accompanied by the fabulous Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, Little Richard finds his groove with cuts like “Freedom Blues,” “Greenwood, Mississippi,” and the 10-minute instrumental blowout called “The Rill Thing.” The playing is as tasteful as a platter of fried green tomatoes and Richard’s over the top personality never overpowers his talented band mates.   

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The same cannot be said for the other two releases. I will admit that the cover art on “The Second Coming” is very cool, but the LP suffers from spotty production and a sameness that grows weary after the first few cuts. The highlights are the tracks where Penniman is joined by LA session legends like saxman Lee Allen and drummer Earl Palmer.

I would have to say the “King of Rock and Roll” collection is the worst of the lot. Richard fails to live up to the album’s title and his between track ramblings don’t hold up to repeated listening. The song choices are bold (CCR’s “Born on the Bayou” and Motown’s “Dancing in the Street” to name a pair) and I give him some credit for that. And the cover art again scores points with Penniman sitting high atop a majestic throne with sceptor in hand and his trademark hair piled high on a sesame seed bun.

Forget the latter two, but please don’t miss “The Rill Thing.” You will surely love it if you are a fan of the greasy, down home Southern R&B sound that made stars out of names like Clarence Carter, Wilson Pickett, Percy Sledge, and Aretha Franklin.

R.I.P. Earl Palmer

20 Sep

Earl Palmer provided the backbeat for many rock n’ roll classics

LOS ANGELES – Earl Palmer, the session drummer whose pioneering backbeats were recorded on such classics as Little Richard‘s “Tutti Frutti” and The Righteous Brothers‘ “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin‘,” has died. He was 84.

Palmer died Friday at his Los Angeles home after fighting a lengthy illness, his spokesman Kevin Sasaki said. Born in New Orleans in 1924 and later moving to Los Angeles, Palmer worked extensively in both cities, recording with some of the music world’s all-time greats on thousands of tracks.

His beats form the backdrop on Ike and Tina Turner’s “River Deep, Mountain High,” Fats Domino’s “The Fat Man” and “I Hear You Knockin'” by Smiley Lewis. From his Los Angeles home, Palmer drummed for music producer Phil Spector and Motown, and his session credits include artists as diverse as the Monkees, Neil Young and Frank Sinatra.

“He was groundbreaking,” said Ed Vodika, the pianist in the Earl Palmer Trio. Palmer “shaped American music for the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s.” Vodika said he met Palmer about 10 years ago and was asked to join the trio. The pianist said he spent the next five years playing weekly gigs in Los Angeles that attracted a host of big-name musicians, from Bonnie Raitt to Ringo Starr.

“He worked with so many people in his career … you never knew who would be in the audience,” Vodika said. Palmer was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2000. According to the institution’s Web site, Little Richard wrote in his autobiography that Palmer “is probably the greatest session drummer of all time.”

Palmer married four times and is survived by his seven children.