It’s not an exaggeration to say that JM (Jimmy) Van Eaton was at rock and roll ground zero. It certainly didn’t hurt that he was unknowingly living in one of the great hot beds for American music, 1950s Memphis, TN. Although it’s no longer in the top echelon of music cities, being significantly overshadowed by its eastern neighbor a mere 200 miles away, Memphis paved the way for future generations of rock, RnB, country, and jazz musicians.
After a long stretch of living in rural West Tennessee JM recently retired from his long-time occupation in financial services. I caught up with JM at his new residence is Memphis. From there we discussed his upbringing and how it led to his initial musical training on trumpet. He soon moved to percussion in his school’s concert band and subsequently cobbled together a complete drum set using different pieces from their percussion cabinet.
Van Eaton transitioned to professional gigs ultimately landing him at the world-famous Sun Recording Studios. JM quickly moved from demo sessions to master tracks. The rhythm section on one of the sessions included a young, hungry up and coming pianist named, Jerry Lee Lewis. JM continued playing sessions and live gigs with Jerry Lee and ended up on several of Lewis’ iconic hits including, “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On”.
Aside from his long-standing relationship with Lewis, JM played on over 200 records and has worked with legendary musicians, Roy Orbison, Johnny Cash, and Carl Perkins to name but a few. We finish up hearing about his recent playing endeavors and then we run him through the gauntlet that is the Drummer’s Weekly Groovecast, Rorschach Test.
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