As a high school student in Arkansas, the Band drummer Levon Helm was lucky enough to see Elvis Presley perform twice -- once with drummer D.J. Fontana and once without.
Nearly 50 years later, Helm and three of rock's most famous drummers -- Ringo Starr, Charlie Watts and Max Weinberg -- are leading a campaign to get Fontana into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. They signed a letter to the hall urging Fontana's induction, saying his influence cannot be overstated.
"Elvis and Scotty (Moore) and Bill (Black) were making good music," Helm said, "but it wasn't rock 'n' roll until D.J. put the backbeat into it."
"You can't get better than that!" Fontana said in an interview from his Nashville home. Now 70, Fontana performs about a dozen times a year -- on tour behind Elvis impersonators. Fontana said he, Moore and Black should have entered the hall together.
"It's a big honor," he said. "I'd like to see the name in there, but who knows what those guys up there are going to do."
Seymour Stein, president of the New York chapter of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and a member of the committee that helps select inductees, said there wasn't a consensus on obvious sidemen candidates this year. It's likely the category will return in the future, he said.
He rattled off names -- Steve Cropper, Jim Keltner, Johnny "Guitar" Watson -- of other deserving candidates who haven't made the cut yet. Of Fontana, Stein said, "his name always comes up. He does get some votes. I think eventually he will" be inducted. Committee members take seriously the opinion of rock royalty, but also value the views of fans, he said.
Source: Google / Updated: Mar 12, 2004