100 Greatest Drummers of All Time

From rock thunder machines to punk powerhouses, we count down the kings and queens of slam

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D.J. Fontana
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13. D.J. Fontana

On hundreds of early Elvis Presley recordings, Dominic Joseph "D.J." Fontana was the cutting edge of rock & roll­ drumming, making hillbilly music swing at a time when country and bluegrass groups were shunning drums altogether. He pioneered a litany of oft-imitated licks from the jumpy snare hits of "Blue Suede Shoes" to the waves of punchlines that made "Hound Dog" howl. "He had incredible technique and fast hands, so he could deploy those Buddy Rich press rolls whenever he wanted to. He played like a big-band drummer — full throttle," Levon Helm once said. "Now Elvis had a real foundation, some architecture, and he made the most of it. D.J. set Elvis free."

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