D. J. Fontana: The Forgotten Shreveporter in Elvis’ Band
When you think of Elvis Presley and Shreveport, a lot of different things come to mind. The Municipal Auditorium, the Louisiana Hayride and James Burton are generally the first three things to pop into everyone's head. But a guy that should be top of mind when it comes to Elvis and rarely ever is is DJ Fontana.
Fontana, a Shreveport native, was Elvis' "original" drummer. I put original in quotes because arguably Elvis' first drummer was bass player Bill Black pounding his stand up bass like a percussion instrument (on most of those early Sun recordings, Elvis didn't have a drummer...just Bill beating the hell out of his bass).
But, Fontana was the house drummer for the Louisiana Hayride. He, Bill Black and Scotty Moore started a band called The Blue Moon Boys. That band went on to back up Elvis and play on some his biggest hits including "Heartbreak Hotel", "Hound Dog" and "Don't Be Cruel".
In fact, in the 15 years Fontana was Elvis' drummer, he played on over 460 RCA cuts with Elvis.He also played with Elvis on the Ed Sullivan show and was Elvis' drummer on the '68 Comeback Special.
But, this is just me rattling on about how great a local Shreveport guy is. I understand that sometimes I can be a bit biased. So don't take it from me. Take it from Stan Lynch, long time drummer for Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. Here's what Stan had to say about DJ:
Armed with accuracy, power, swing, dynamics, great time and — the biggest compliment of all — simplicity whenever it was best, D.J. rocked the greatest singer and the greatest songs ... ever. He did it year after year, record after classic record. In a world of one trick ponies and lucky "Rock Stars," D.J. is the real deal.
So next time you think about Elvis, keep DJ in mind. I LOVE James Burton, but he wasn't the only Shreveport bad ass to be apart of Elvis' amazing career.
D. J. Fontana was inducted into the Rockabilly Hall of Fame on January 14, 2009, and on April 4, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, in the "sidemen" category.
Sadly, D.J. passed away in 2018.