January 14, 1935 |
New Orleans, Louisiana, United States
|Genres||Rhythm and blues, rock 'n' roll,|
|Associated acts||Little Richard, James Brown, Sam Cooke, Jackie Wilson|
Charles Connor (born January 14, 1935) is an American drummer, best known as a member of Little Richard's band. Richard's shout of "a-wop bop-a loo-mop, a-lop bam-boom" at the beginning of "Tutti Frutti" is said to be a reference to Connor's drum rhythms. James Brown described Little Richard and his band, with Connor as the drummer, as "the first to put funk into the rhythm."
Connor was born in New Orleans, Louisiana. His father, a merchant mariner, was from Santo-Domingo in the Dominican Republic and his mother was a native Louisianan. As a young boy, Connor was inspired by his father singing calypso songs and by the marching bands playing Dixieland jazz near his home in New Orleans' French Quarter, as well as by Bob Alden, Art Blakey, Charles Otis, Gene Krupa, Buddy Rich, and Max Roach. He received his first drum kit at the age of five.
Connor's first professional work as a drummer came in 1950, at the age of 15, when he was hired by Professor Longhair to play drums with him at Mardi Gras. Over the next three years, Connor played drums with Smiley Lewis, Guitar Slim, Jack Dupree, and Shirley and Lee. At the age of 18, in 1953, Connor became the drummer of Little Richard's new, hard-driving rhythm & blues road band, The Upsetters. The Upsetters began to tour successfully, even without a bass player on songs, forcing drummer Connors to thump "real hard" on his bass drum in order to get a "bass fiddle effect." Connor continued to drum for Richard as his fame increased throughout the 1950s, drumming on records such as "The Girl Can't Help It", and "Keep A-Knockin'", and "Ooh! My Soul". On 1957's "Keep A-Knockin'", Connor played a four-bar drum intro (known as the "flattened out double shuffle") that was copied 15 years later by John Bonham as the introduction to Led Zeppelin's "Rock and Roll". At times when Connor was not working with Richard, he drummed with James Brown, after Richard connected The Famous Flames with his promoter Clint Brantley. Brown described Connor, while playing in Richard's mid-1950s band, as "the first [drummer] to put funk into the rhythm".
Connor is married to Zenaida; they have a daughter named Queenie.
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- Charles Connor Interview NAMM Oral History Library (2006)