Saturday, September 18, 2021

VIDEO: Charles Connor, Famed Drummer for Little Richard, Dies at 86

charles connor
Drummer Charles Connor

*Charles Connor, best known as a drummer for Little Richard in his 1950s heyday, and decades later a familiar sight to L.A. radio veterans as a security guard at KROQ, died Saturday at age 86, reports Variety.

His daughter, Queenie Connor Sonnefeld, told the Associated Press he died peacefully in his sleep while under hospice care for normal pressure hydrocephalus in Glendale, Calif.

Connor established the “choo choo” style of drumming heard throughout Lil Richard’s “Keep a Knockin’,” one of the most instrumentally influential songs in rock history.

He performed with Little Richard as a member of his backup band, the Upsetters, in the seminal rock ‘n’ roll movies “The Girl Can’t Help It,” “Mister Rock and Roll” and “Don’t Knock the Rock.”

After Little Richard quit rock ‘n’ roll to join the ministry in the early ’60s, Connor went to work for Sam Cooke and James Brown. Other artists he performed with included Jackie Wilson, the Coasters, Lloyd Price, “Big” Joe Turner, “Champion” Jack Dupree, Larry Williams, Don Covay, “Papa” George Lightfoot and Larry Birdsong.

Later in life, he went to work at the headquarters of KROQ. “Every day I went in the studio, I’d ask Charles for a story,” said longtime KROQ air personality Kat Corbett, about “growing up in New Orleans, what it was like for Black musicians playing for white audiences, the ladies… oh, he loved the ladies. He was truly one of a kind.”

Last year Connor took to Twitter to post a video he’d come across of himself sitting in with Little Richard to play “The Girl Can’t Help It” at a gig in 1990, noting it was the first time they’d played together since the late ’50s.

Connor was inducted into the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame in 2010.

Connor was born in 1935 to a merchant marine seaman from Santo-Domingo and a Louisiana-born mother in New Orleans and said he was” born to be a drummer… probably ’cause of that exotic Creole and Dominican blood coursing through my veins.”

He met a girl on a tour in the Philippines in 1955 and reconnected with her after his first two marriages ended in divorce, wedding Zenaida Connor in 1981. She survives him, along with his daughter, his son-in-law Joe Sonnefeld and his granddaughter, Viviana.

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