D.J. Fontana, WS Holland, and Richie Albright will receive the Church’s Chicken Legends Series Award. Fontana played with Elvis Presley, Holland played with Johnny Cash and Albright played with Waylon Jennings. The award ceremony is considered to be a featured event during the Summer National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM). The awards will be presented by well-known television and radio personality Charlie Chase.
“The passion and innovation that these drummers demonstrated throughout their careers helped shape what Rock and Roll, country, and outlaw music is today,” Boo McAfee, creator of WFD events, said in a press release. Church’s Chicken will make a $1,000 donation to the W.O. Smith Music School in Nashville in the name of each of the three award recipients. Church’s Chicken has been a supporter of music education.
Fontana played as a part of the Louisiana Hayride. He described the show as “fun,” and kind of like the Grand Ole Opry. He said performers would come out and play a couple songs and then come out again later in the evening to do a couple more songs.
According to Fontana, he was playing the Louisiana Hayride for about a year before Presley played there. “When he came in, the whole place exploded,” Fontana said.
Fontana said it really only took him one day to realize that Presley was a special performer. He said Presley had the movements and the charisma during the days of the Louisiana Hayride. He said Presley always wanted to do the best he could.
Fontana did not play on Presley’s Sun Records sessions, as those were recorded in Memphis. However, Fontana played on many songs Presley did on RCA Records, starting with “Heartbreak Hotel,” which was recorded in early 1956.
Did Fontana know when he played on the some of these now-iconic songs that they would be hits? “You never know,” he said.
He said his favorite song done with Presley was “Don’t,” which was released in 1958.
Most of the arrangements of the songs they recorded were made in the studio. There weren’t a lot of practice sessions. “[Presley] never practiced much at all,” Fontana said.
Holland said he has been playing drums for 61 years, having started with Carl Perkins in 1954. He played on Perkins’ recording on Sun Records. One of those songs was “Blue Suede Shoes,” which was recorded in 1955. He also played with Cash throughout his career.
Holland was a part of the session known as the “Million Dollar Quartet,” in which he played with Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Perkins and Presley. He said he is asked how it felt to play with those big stars. “There were no big stars there,” adding that the Cash, Lewis, Perkins and Presley didn’t achieve fame until after the session in late 1956.
The Sun Records sound is now famous. However, Holland said he didn’t know how to play and didn’t know what to play. “I was so lucky from day one – Carl never had any suggestions telling me what to play,” he said.
Holland added that all of the players and all the singers just did what they knew how to do. He said that Producer Sam Phillips just let them do it.
Holland said he was going to retire in 1960 and he was asked by Cash to go on the road with him for two weeks. Cash told Holland during that time that he wanted Holland to play with him for as long as he was in the business. Holland was the only one in Cash’s band during his entire career.
Albright played drums on Jennings’ records for nearly three decades, but he did not play consecutively during that time.
Albright is credited on IMDb for being music producer for 13 episodes during the 1979 season of “The Dukes of Hazzard” television show. Albright also played drums on “Good Ole Boys,” which was sung by Jennings and the theme of the television show.