Carl Palmer, The Great Dynamic Showman

Carl Frederick Kendall Palmer or Carl Palmer is an English drummer & percussionist best known as a founding member of the rock supergroups Emerson, Lake and Palmer, Asia, and The Carl Palmer Band. He began playing drums at the age of 12 when he discovered his grandmother’s banjolele in the attic.

The Birth of Carl Palmer’s ELP Legacy

In 2001, Palmer has toured with his own bands since 2001, including Palmer, the Carl Palmer Band, and currently, Carl Palmer’s ELP Legacy. Carl Palmer formed his own band, initially known as Palmer and then the Carl Palmer Band, featuring guitarist Shaun Baxter and bassist Dave Marks.

They were replaced by Paul Bielatowicz and Stuart Clayton, and later by bassist Simon Fitzpatrick, performing instrumental versions of ELP songs as Carl Palmer’s ELP Legacy.  ELP Legacy is a power trio who have been on a world tour together.

The thought of Carl Palmer assembling a progressive trio might seem like he was relying on formula, especially since the band’s material consisted mainly of ELP classics.

carl palmer drumming

Young Carl Parmer

Carl Palmer was exposed to music from an early age. His grandfather played the drums, his grandmother was a symphony violinist, his mother played an assortment of instruments, and his father sang, danced, and played the guitar and drums as a semi-professional entertainer.

As Carl Palmer grew older, his tastes began to broaden. Carl’s fascination with music began early and classical violin studies followed, and by the age of 7 had learned to play the banjolele.

From the beginning, it was clear that music was in the stars for the young Carl Palmer. His grandfather played the drums, his great-grandmother was a classical guitarist; and his father sang, danced, and played the guitar and drums as a semi-professional entertainer. In a musical family where even his brothers picked up the guitar and drums.

At age 15, young carl palmer enlisted in the Motown influenced King Bees along with Richard King on guitar, Len Cox on bass, and Geoff Brown on lead vocals. The band would later be known as The Craig. Somehow, at the age of 18, Palmer replaced drummer Drachen Theaker, he joined up with The Crazy World of Arthur Brown at the absolute peak of their success following the smash single “Fire”.

By the age of 14, Carl Palmer started practicing on a drum kit that his aunt had bought for him. His biggest influence was Gene Krupa whose thunderous style of big band jazz drumming captivated Palmer and drum legend Buddy Rich who would later become a close personal friend of Carl’s.

For his eleventh birthday, Carl Palmer received a new drum set and immediately began to study the instrument. There was one time on ABC’s “In Concert” Palmer recalled how he was influenced by a film he saw during these formative years. The 1959 film “Drum Crazy” (aka “The Gene Krupa Story”), starring American film icon Sal Mineo (“Rebel Without A Cause”, “Exodus”), captured Carl Palmer’s imagination and set him on his way – he was hooked. 

On the strength of ELP’s success, Palmer formed Asia with former Yes guitarist Steve Howe, keyboardist Geoff Downes (formerly of The Buggles), and bassist/vocalist John Wetton; Wetton came up with the band’s name. They released their first album in 1982, which topped the album charts in both the UK and US. The band’s second release, Alpha (which Palmer considers to be their best work), was released in 1983.

When the band (ELP) decided to split up in 1980, Carl had more time on his hands and decided to put together a solo project that would allow him to stretch out as a drummer & percussionist.The result was the rock drum feature album “Stratavarious”, which featured Larry Fast (Synergy) & John Rutsey (Rush). 

Palmer’s First Professional Gig with Arthur Brown

Palmer’s first professional gig was with The Crazy World of Arthur Brown in 1968. In 1970, he was invited by Greg Lake to join him and Keith Emerson in a new group. This led to the formation of Emerson, Lake & Palmer, one of the most successful rock bands of the 1970s.

ELP recorded six albums between 1970 and 1978. Carl Palmer also began to collaborate with The jazz trio Back Door toured with ELP circa 1974  producing their fourth album.

In 1969, Carl returned to the UK to form Atomic Rooster. It was with Atomic Rooster that Carl enjoyed his first real success as a founding member of a band. But it would be in the spring of 1970, Carl received a phone call that changed his life forever. Keyboard virtuoso Keith Emerson from The Nice, was forming a new band with King Crimson founder Greg Lake. 

The studio album was launched with a live show at Shepperton Studios that included guest appearances by Steve Hackett and Keith Emerson, as well as an extended drum solo. Since then, he has toured extensively with his own band and released a further nine studio albums.

‘Palmer is a brilliant technician, a dynamic showman, and a great drummer. He has inspired many young drummers over the years. He also performs live on several occasions, and it is an experience that everyone will never forget.

Carl Parmer: The Royal Albert Hall Gig

Carl Palmer does not like the idea of reinventing Emerson, Lake & Palmer with holograms. Earlier, he said Frank Zappa’s Hologram Tour had he been cold because of his lack of sincerity.

The drummer has told UCR he is now close to finishing a project which incorporated the footage of a 1993 gig at London’s Royal Albert Hall, so he can return to the stage with late drummers Keith Emerson and Greg Lake.

Along the way, his dexterity, speed, and mastery of the drums, combined with his infectious stage personality, have secured for him a respected place in history as one of Rock and Roll’s greatest drummers

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Written by Andrea

Andrea is a music lover and an experienced drummer with more than 15 years of drumming with different bands and music projects, such as Seditius and Hermano & the Marines.

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