Jacob Mendez
Jacob Mendez

J. M. Van Eaton is dead. The esteemed drummer was 86 years old

The musician died at his home in Alabama. His death was announced by his family and then by the label with which he had been associated for many years – Sun Records. Van Eaton had been struggling with health problems for many years.

James Mack Van Eaton was born in 1937. In the 1950s, while still a teenager, he joined Sun Records, and thanks to it he established cooperation with, among others, with a rock legend Jerry Lee Lewis and Billy Lee Riley.

Van Eaton contributed to such classics as: “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On” (Jerry Lee Lewis) “Red Hot” (Billy Ray Lee Riley), “Raunchy” (Bill Justis) and “Lonely Weekends” (Charlie Rich).

The first band in which the musician took steps was a rock band The Echoes (he previously performed with jazz musicians). It was the group’s activities that made people in the industry interested in Van Eaton and offered him cooperation with Riley.

In the following years, Van Eaton’s drumming could be heard at Johnny Cash, Ray Orbison, Warren Smith and Charlie Feathers. Jerry Lee Lewis allegedly praised his friend’s talent. The usually ruthless star called him “rock’n’roll’s creative drummer.”

Despite his success in the 1960s, Van Eaton moved away from the music industry (at that time he was selling food and drink vending machines). He resumed his career – and on a slightly smaller scale – only in the following decade, focusing mainly on rockabilly aesthetics.

In 1982, the musician married his partner Deborah and left the music industry. For the next 40 years, he worked in the financial sector and gave concerts only as a hobby.

Van Eaton also became an advisor on the film “Great Balls of Fire”, who talked about Jerry Lee Lewis. In 1998, his solo album “The Beat Goes On” was released.

Towards the end of his life, the drummer moved from Saulsubry, Tennessee to a farm in Alabama.