Elvis Tribute Artists Radio

_________interview with DJ Fontana


Dominic Joseph (D.J.) Fontana was born in l934. He began playing the drums at a young age and started out professionally playing in cocktail lounges..eventually becoming the staff drummer on the country music show, The Louisiana Hayride. It was here, in l954, that he met Elvis, Scotty Moore, and Bill Black and became a part of their group shortly thereafter.

D.J. was Elvis’ drummer from 1955 to l969, starting out in the early days when Elvis and his original band traveled all over the South in an old car.....all the way up to the ‘68 Comeback Special and a bit beyond. He set the standard for all drummers in the early days of rock ‘n’ roll. He played on over 460 RCA record cuts with Elvis and he also appeared in several of Elvis’ movies (e.g. Jailhouse Rock and Loving You). In l969, he left Elvis’ band and became a session musician in Nashville -- he has also been involved in producing and recording for many years.

In addition to his work with Elvis, D.J. has also worked with many, many other musicians (to name only a few:.. Carl Perkins, Ringo Starr, Paul McCartney, Keith Richards, Ron Wood, Lee Rocker, Gene Vincent). And one project in recent years has been to record, along with other musicians, a tribute to Sun Records.

D.J. has also authored several books over the years –the most recent being “The Beat Behind the King,” which tells of his days with Elvis.

D.J. Fontana at work in a Los Angeles studio, January 2001. (www.rockabilly.com)

Well, what can I say or write about D.J. Fontana that hasn’t already been said and written!

I just love D.J. Fontana! I’ve seen and met him numerous times -- many times at the Collingwood Elvis Festival in Ontario, in Toronto, in Memphis, in Wisconsin, in Indiana, in Connecticut and I look forward to seeing him again at least three more times when he comes to Canada again this month.

D.J. is one of the most genuine, real people I’ve ever met. He is what he is, with none of the airs and pretensions of many who don’t even have the talent that he has in his little finger. He is a truly legendary musician and entertainer, respected world wide by generations of musicians, yet remains down to earth, humble, and unassuming, nice to everyone, kind, courteous, gracious, encouraging, accessible to fans, and a professional always.

And that’s not all...D.J. Fontana is also a member of the Rockabilly Hall of Fame and the North American Country Music Association Hall of Fame. Along with Scotty Moore, he was also nominated for a Grammy for their CD “All The King’s Men.”

These days, D.J. can be found touring and performing with the likes of Scotty Moore and the Jordanaires. He has also backed many of the top Elvis singers and tribute artists in Canada, the US, and other parts of the world. He travels to Europe several times a year and was in Chile, South America last fall. This month he is off to Switzerland. D.J. is also a popular VIP guest at many of the Elvis Fests in North America.

In this interview, which originally aired in February 2001, D.J. talks about the “Elvis phenomenon” and how he’s seen it grow over the past 10 years, with even young children and teenagers knowing all the lyrics to Elvis’ songs.

When discussing tribute artists, D.J. says that some of the ETA’s he’s seen do a pretty good job, especially with the “moves” and the “look.” The main advice D.J. gives to ETA’s is to concentrate on developing their singing voices.

D.J. also remembers the early years with Elvis when the band had only one car and after a show they’d all jump in and head for the next town. Often the sound system was terrible at the venues they played, but as D.J. says, “it really didn’t matter as the kids would be hollering and no-one could hear what Elvis was singing anyway!!”

You can hear the rest of D.J.’s answers and comments in this interview with ETARadio’s Joanna Johnson. Many thanks to the legendary D.J. Fontana for this interview!

Foreword by Carol Hunter

Live interview conducted by Joanna Johnson

To check D.J. Fontana’s upcoming schedule,