Floyd Cramer

Gary (from Texas) “I have a very close friend, Paul Denyes, who is a piano player, so this is for him.  He has just had a little scare, medically speaking, but I hope  everything will be good from now on.  This is just a lead-in to one of the best and, if not the best, maybe the busiest piano player to come out of my era.  He played with all of the Greats and had a music career all his own.
Floyd Cramer
(October 27, 1933 – December 31, 1997)
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Video:  1965 Chet Atkins & Floyd On the Rebound/

(Cannot be embedded; watch only on YouTube)

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Video:  Last Date/
1.  Flip Flop and Bop/ RCA 7156/ April 1958/ #87
2.  Last Date/ RCA 7775/ October 1960/ #2 (4)
3.  On the Rebound/ RCA 7840/ March 1961/ #4
4.  San Antonio Rose/ RCA 7893/ June 1961/ #8
5.  Chattanooga Choo Choo/ RCA 7978/ February 1962/ #36

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Born in Shreveport, Louisiana, Cramer grew up in the small town of Huttig, Arkansas, teaching himself to play the piano. After finishing high school, he returned to Shreveport, where he worked as a pianist for the Louisiana Hayride radio show.

In 1952, he made his way to Nashville at a time when the use of piano accompanists in country music was growing in popularity. Before long, Cramer would become one of the busiest studio musicians in the industry, playing piano for stars such as Elvis Presley, Brenda Lee, Patsy Cline, The Browns, Jim Reeves, Roy Orbison, Don Gibson and the Everly Brothers, and many others. It is Cramer’s piano that is heard, for example, on Presley’s first national hit, “Heartbreak Hotel.”

However, Cramer remained a virtual unknown to anyone but music industry insiders until he recorded a 45 rpm single in 1960 called “Last Date.” An instrumental, the music exhibited a relatively new concept for piano playing known as the “slip note” style. The record went to #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 pop music chart.

By the mid-1960s, Cramer had become a respected performer, making numerous record albums and touring with guitar maestro Chet Atkins and saxophonist Boots Randolph.

Floyd Cramer died of lung cancer in 1997 at the age of 64 and was interred in the Spring Hill Cemetery in the Nashville suburb of Madison, Tennessee.

In 2003, he was inducted into both the Country Music Hall of Fame and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

East Tennessee State University in Johnson City, Tennessee offers the “Floyd Cramer Competitive Scholarship.”

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4 responses to “Floyd Cramer

  1. I recognized the name Floyd Cramer. He played with all the mainstream recording artists. I have a Whistling Bill Anderson album with Floyd’s playing on some of the tracks. He was always doing a great job playing the right thing.

  2. I saw him a couple of years before he died in Reno,Nevada.
    He autographed a CD we bought from him.
    He talked a lot about his grandchildren in between his piano playing.
    He was a very shy, nice and humble man.

    Drew

  3. Hi Gary; Interesting stuff about Paul Denyes. I rented pianos from him when he worked at Long & McQuade a zillion years ago. At that time I think he was with one of the ‘remakes’ of Little Caesar. I think before that he had a group called the Twilights. Got to know him a little in those days. I remember him telling me that when he played ‘If’ by Little Caesar, he had to play steady eighth notes as opposed to the ‘bolero’ thing that was so common back then. Funny how small our music world is and yes, Floyd was the guy although I always thought that Mike Stoller did that little lick in ‘Heartbreak Hotel’. It is a great lick even as short as it is. All the best……..Ron.

    • Ron: Paul and I have been friends off and on since 1958. We hooked up again a few years ago and yes you are correct regarding the groups. He has had some health problems, but I think everything is better now. I will tell him about your comment.
      Gary

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