A drummer’s drummer, Carl Palmer anchored Atomic Rooster, The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown, Asia and the legendary Emerson, Lake & Palmer. ELP megahits including “Picture’s At An Exhibition,” “Lucky Man,” “From the Beginning” and “Tarkus” helped define Progressive Rock. Now, Carl has reinvented the music of ELP with this new trio that captures all the power of its hits in hard driving instrumental performances that are winning raves globally.
“When Carl Palmer’s ELP Legacy comes to your town, you’ve got to see the show…it’s a dynamo.” –Vintage Rock
The Progressive Rock boom of the late ’60s and early ’70s produced its own pantheon of superstars — Keith Emerson and Rick Wakeman at the keyboards, guitarists Robert Fripp, Bill Nelson and Chris Squire on the bass all come to mind. Among the drummers in the field, Carl Palmer stands out as the best known of them all — he has peers within the genre, to be sure, including Michael Giles, and at least one rival, Bill Bruford, who transcends the field, but Palmer is easily the biggest name, principally by virtue of his work with Emerson, Lake & Palmer.
Palmer was born in England’s West Midlands in 1950, placing him among the youngest members of his generation of Rock musicians. He was an indifferent student within the context of formal education, a frequent truant who preferred to practice his drums, and he was serious enough to take lessons with a proper teacher in London. He reached his teens just as the Liverpool sound started sweeping the country; he was a fan of the Beatles, but already Palmer had musical idols far removed from anyone who had come out of the Cavern Club and other Merseyside venues, including drummer Buddy Rich, whom he came to know personally (after brazenly showing up at his hotel on one occasion when the American legend was on tour in England), Philly Joe Jones, Art Blakey, Gene Krupa and other figures from jazz and the big-band swing era. He was also influenced R&B and was already a formidable player when he joined his first professional group, originally known as the King Bees but later rechristened the Craig. They were a solid R&B-based band, and on their first record, recorded when Carl was just 16 years old, revealed a prowess that might have made Keith Moon, if he’d been listening, start keeping an ear pointed in his direction.
He found a steady gig easily enough with Chris Farlowe’s backing band the Thunderbirds, playing alongside Albert Lee et al. for a couple of years and followed this with a stint in the Crazy World of Arthur Brown. Out of that, and his friendship with keyboard player Vincent Crane, he co-founded Atomic Rooster. While working with Atomic Rooster, Carl realized he liked working with small groups, preferably a trio, in which he got to open up his playing and try doing some of the things that he’d long admired in the work of his idols like Buddy Rich and Art Blakey. In 1970, following his exit from Atomic Rooster, Palmer managed to cross paths with Greg Lake, a bassist/guitarist/singer who was a refugee from the first lineup of King Crimson and Keith Emerson of the Nice, who had split with his group amid a chaotic year that saw the collapse of its label, Immediate Records. In a sense, Palmer was the vertex of the triangle formed by the three personalities, a Beatles fan and a Pop/Rock listener like Lake, but also a Jazz enthusiast like Emerson. Within a year of Emerson, Lake & Palmer’s debut in the summer of 1970, Palmer had become one of the most idolized Rock drummers in the world.
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