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DJ Fontana, Elvis Presley's drummer, dies

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(RNN) - D.J. Fontana, the legendary drummer who played alongside Elvis Presley, has died at the age of 87.

His wife reported his death Thursday, according to the Associated Press. The rock 'n' roll pioneer died in his sleep Wednesday in Nashville, she said.

The sideman, along with bandmates  Bill Black and Scotty Moore, helped Elvis bring rock 'n' roll to a nationwide audience. He performed with The King on "The Ed Sullivan Show" and for such hits as "Hound Dog" and "Jailhouse Rock."

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inducted Fontana in 2009. 

The staff of Elvis Presley Enterprises expressed their sorrow at Fontana's passing.

"DJ's groundbreaking recordings and performances with Elvis, Scotty Moore and Bill Black launched Elvis’ career and forever changed music and the world. DJ was a dear friend to all of us at Graceland. We send our heartfelt condolences to DJ's family, friends and his millions of fans worldwide,” the statement said.

Priscilla Presley joined the mourning, saying in part, "Lisa and I, and the entire Presley family, join the staff of Graceland in expressing our deepest condolences on DJ Fontana's passing. DJ was Elvis' original drummer and good friend. He was a tremendously talented musician and a wonderful man. Together with Elvis, Scotty Moore and Bill Black - DJ made history as part of the legendary 'Blue Moon Boys' - creating music that will live forever and influence generations to come."  

Fontana was born March 15, 1931. He performed on the Louisiana Hayride, a radio show in his hometown of Shreveport, when he was hired to play with Elvis in 1955.

He would stay on with Presley through the '50s and continue working with him in recording sessions in the '60s, including a reunion for the 1968 Christmas TV special.

"I just learned how to stay out of their way and let them do what they had to," said Fontana of the band in a 1987 interview, per the Rock Hall. "It sounded better to me that way."

Fontana and Moore reunited in 1997 to make the album "All the Kings' Men," with the help of music all-stars, including Keith Richards and Jeff Beck.

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