On The Fringe
Floyd Cramer was born October 27, 1933 near Shreveport, La., and grew up in the small sawmill town of Huttig, Ark. He balked at piano lessons but learned to play piano by ear at age 5.
After graduating from high school, he joined the cast of the Louisiana Hayride country show in Shreveport. He began playing in Webb Pierce's country band and doing session work with artists such as Jim Reeves and Hank Williams, Sr.
In 1955, he moved to Nashville and became one of the most sought-after session musicians in town. He played on sessions by Roy Orbison, the Everly Brothers, Patsy Cline and Perry Como, as well as the historic 1955 recordings Elvis Presley made in his debut at RCA. He recalled that Presley "was always nice to us. He enjoyed the musicians and felt very comfortable."
Along with Chet Atkins, Boots Randolph and Owen Bradley, Cramer is credited with helping create "The Nashville Sound" in the 1950s and 1960s. He played a "bent note" or "slip note" style - hitting a note and almost instantly sliding into the next - that influenced a generation of pianists. His 1960 hit, "Last Date," became an instrumental classic that has been learned down through the years by thousands of young piano students. "It's a simple melody," Cramer told The Associated Press in 1989. "It's good exercise for both hands. You are playing solid left hand patterns and a dominant melody with the right hand. It's different and fresh to most piano students."
He also recorded more than 50 solo albums. Other Cramer hits included "San Antonio Rose," "Fancy Pants" and "On the Rebound." He won a Grammy Award in 1979 for best country instrumental for the song, ``My Blue Eyes.''
Besides country and rock, Cramer played jazz, blues, gospel and light classical. "Music is emotion, mood, regardless of what you name it," he once said. "I wouldn't want to be pigeonholed as playing only country or pop."
Cramer died on December 31, 1997, six months after being diagnosed with cancer.
Written by Sherry Anderson, Countrypolitan.com, January 2001.
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