DJ Fontana dies aged 87 – last member of Elvis’ band dies in his sleep

DJ Fontana, the drummer in Elvis’ rock band, has died at the age of 87.

The musician died in his sleep on Wednesday night, his son confirmed in a heartbreaking Facebook post.

David Fontana wrote: "I told everyone that I would keep you posted. My Dad passed away in his sleep at 9:33 tonight.

"He was very comfortable with no pain. I will post more tomorrow when I have more information. We ask for privacy at this time. Thank you for your love and prayers."


Dominic Joseph Fontana, as he was born, started working with the King in 1954, with his drum sound appearing on Elvis’ hits Jailhouse Rock, Hound Dog, Heartbreak Hotel and Don’t Be Cruel.

He joined Elvis’ early band The Blue Moon Boys, alongside Scotty Moore on lead guitar, Bill Black on bass and Elvis on rhythm guitar.

He once said of their unique sound: "I learned the value of simplicity at the Hayride. I heard Scotty and Bill and Elvis one night and knew that I couldn’t mess up that sound.

"That’s why I always play what I feel. If that won’t work, I just won’t do it again. I think the simple approach comes from my hearing so much big band music. I mixed it with rockabilly."

Tributes to the talented musician have been rolling in from other famous people.

Comedian Tim Vine tweeted: "So DJ Fontana has left us. The last of that magic early Elvis sound."

Larry Pancake wrote: "I found out that DJ Fontana passed away tonight, he was Elvis’s first drummer and was in countless movies, recordings, and TV appearances with Elvis."

And a fan tweeted: "Sad news this morning that Elvis’ legendary drummer DJ Fontana passed away in his sleep last night aged 87. Now at last Elvis and his band are back together, RIP DJ."

His friend Larry Geller posted a Facebook snap of himself with DJ as he wrote a moving tribute.

"I’m deeply saddened to learn of the passing of my friend DJ Fontana. With the sadness, though, comes a flood of wonderful memories from over the years, as we shared many great moments. DJ was not only a legendary drummer but a close and dear friend to Elvis," he said.

"I remember back when Graceland had that big tent on the plaza, and one Elvis Week I appeared with Scotty Moore and DJ. We had a great time sharing stories with the fans and reminiscing with each other. The last time I saw DJ was about two years ago at the Honeymoon House in Palm Springs. The photo below is from that weekend."

He added: "We’ve lost one very special human being. My heart goes out to his wonderful, loving wife Karen."

DJ leaves behind his wife Karen Arrington Fontana and their sons.

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