Floyd Cramer (October 27, 1933 – December 31, 1997) was an American Hall of Fame pianist who was one of the architects of the Nashville sound. He was known for his "slip note" piano style, in which an out-of-key note slides into the correct note.
Cramer in 1965
|Birth name||Floyd Cramer|
|Born||October 27, 1933|
Shreveport, Louisiana, United States
|Origin||Huttig, Arkansas, United States|
|Died||December 31, 1997 (aged 64)|
|Instruments||Piano, organ, harpsichord|
|Associated acts||Elvis Presley, Chet Atkins, Patsy Cline|
Cramer was born in Shreveport, Louisiana, and grew up in the small town of Huttig, Arkansas. He taught himself to play the piano. After finishing high school, he returned to Shreveport, where he worked as a pianist for the radio show Louisiana Hayride.
In 1953, he cut his first single, "Dancin' Diane", backed with "Little Brown Jug", for the local Abbott label. In 1955 he played dates with an emerging talent who would later figure significantly in his career, Elvis Presley.
In 1955 Cramer moved to Nashville, where piano accompaniment in country music was growing in popularity. By the next year he was, in his words, "in day and night doing session". Before long, he was 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, Eddy Arnold, Roy Orbison, Don Gibson, and the Everly Brothers, among others. It was Cramer's piano playing, for instance, on Presley's first RCA Victor single, "Heartbreak Hotel". However, Cramer remained strictly a session player, a virtual unknown to anyone outside the music industry.
Cramer had released records under his own name since the early 1950s and became well known following the release of "Last Date", a 45-rpm single, released by RCA Victor in 1960. The instrumental piece exhibited a relatively new concept in piano playing known as the "slip note" style. The record went to number two on the Billboard Hot 100 pop music chart, sold over one million copies, and was awarded a gold disc. The song was kept out of the number 1 position by Elvis Presley's "Are You Lonesome Tonight". The session pianist for Elvis's recording of that #1 song, in a very early morning session (about 4:00 AM) at RCA Studio B in Nashville, was none other than Floyd Cramer himself.
Of the characteristic "slip note" style, Cramer commented, "The style I use mainly is a whole-tone slur which gives more of a lonesome cowboy sound. You hit a note and slide almost simultaneously to another." The origin of the style is uncertain. It seems to have first emerged at the 1960 session for Hank Locklin's hit "Please Help Me, I'm Falling", when Cramer was asked by Chet Atkins to copy the unusual piano styling of songwriter Don Robertson, who had played on the demo. Cramer also acknowledged the influence of "Mother" Maybelle Carter's autoharp playing.
In 1961, Cramer had a hit with "On the Rebound", which went to number 4, and number 1 on the UK Singles Chart. ("On the Rebound" was featured during the opening credits of the 2009 Oscar-nominated film An Education, which was set in England in 1961.) Also in 1961, Cramer had a hit with "San Antonio Rose" (number 8).
By the mid-1960s, Cramer had become a respected performer, making numerous albums and touring with guitar maestro Chet Atkins and saxophonist Boots Randolph, sometimes headlining and sometimes as the opening act for Eddy Arnold. Cramer also performed with them as a member of the Million Dollar Band.
Over the years, he continued to balance session work with his own albums. Many of these featured standards or popular hits of the era. From 1965 to 1974 he annually recorded a disc of the year's biggest hits, entitled Class of . . . . Other albums included I Remember Hank Williams (1962), Floyd Cramer Plays the Monkees (1967), Sounds of Sunday (1971) and Looking for Mr. Goodbar (1978). In 1977 Floyd Cramer and the Keyboard Kick Band was released, on which he played eight different keyboard instruments.
His grandson, Jason Coleman, inherited his grandfather's skill on the piano, performing with him on television and in concert at a young age. At age 17, he played "Please Help Me, I'm Falling", the first song to feature Cramer's signature slip notes, with Hank Locklin at the Grand Ole Opry, and two years later played piano for the Medallion Ceremony at Cramer's induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame. He carries on his grandfather's legacy with recordings and a touring tribute concert, The Piano Magic of Floyd Cramer, sharing the piano arrangements and story of Cramer's contributions to American music.
In 2003 Cramer was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In 2004, his recording of "Last Date" was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame, established to honor recordings of lasting qualitative or historical significance. In 2008 Cramer was inducted into the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame.
Trying to launch myself on a solo career, after being Elvis Presley's pianist for so long, placed me in an unenviable position. Some people thought I was trying to cash in. If I had wanted to cash in on my association with Elvis, I would have done it five years ago.
|1957||That Honky Tonk Piano||—||—||MGM Records|
|1960||Hello Blues||—||—||RCA Victor|
|On the Rebound||—||70|
|1962||America's Biggest Selling Pianist||—||—|
|Floyd Cramer Gets Organ-ized||—||113|
|I Remember Hank Williams||—||130|
|1963||Swing Along with Floyd Cramer||—||—|
|Three Great Pianos (with Peter Nero and Frankie Carle)||—||—|
|1964||Country Piano-City Strings||—||—|
|Cramer at the Console||—||—|
|The Best of Floyd Cramer||—||—|
|1965||Hits from the Country Hall of Fame||10||—|
|Class of '65||—||107|
|The Magic Touch of Floyd Cramer||—||—|
|1966||The Distinctive Piano Style of Floyd Cramer||—||—|
|Only the Big Ones||—||—|
|Class of '66||—||123|
|Here's What's Happening!||20||166|
|Floyd Cramer Plays the Monkees||—||—|
|Class of '67||21||—|
|We Wish You a Merry Christmas||—||26|
|1968||Floyd Cramer Plays Country Classics||16||—|
|Class of '68||—||—|
|Floyd Cramer Plays MacArthur Park||36||—|
|The Best of Floyd Cramer Volume 2||—||—|
|1969||Class of '69||31||—|
|Floyd Cramer Plays More Country Classics||17||—|
|1970||The Big Ones, Vol. 2||—||183|
|With the Music City Pops||—||—|
|This Is Floyd Cramer||39||—|
|Class of '70||43||—|
|Chet Floyd & Boots (with Chet Atkins and Boots Randolph)||—||—|
|Sounds of Sunday||44||—|
|Class of '71||34||—|
|Class of '72||—||—|
|Best of the Class of Floyd Cramer||—||—|
|Date with Floyd Cramer||—||—|
|1973||Floyd Cramer Plays the Big Hits||—||—|
|Super Country Hits||—||—|
|Class of '73||34||—|
|1974||Young and Restless||—||—|
|Floyd Cramer in Concert||25||—|
|1975||Piano Masterpieces 1900–1975||—||—|
|Class of '74 and '75||—||—|
|1976||Floyd Cramer Country||46||—|
|1977||Floyd Cramer & the Keyboard Kick Band||50||—|
|Chet Floyd & Danny (with Chet Atkins and Danny Davis)||46||—|
|1978||Looking for Mr. Goodbar||—||—|
|1981||Great Country Hits||—||—|
|The Best of the West||—||—|
|1982||20 of the Best||—||—|
|Country Classics||—||—||Pair Records|
|1988||Special Songs of Love||—||—||Step One Records|
|Just Me and My Piano||—||—|
|1989||Forever Floyd Cramer||—||—|
|We Wish You a Merry Christmas||—||—|
|1994||The Piano Magic of Floyd Cramer||—||—||Ranwood|
|1995||Favorite Country Hits 1||—||—|
|1996||The Piano Magic of Floyd Cramer 2||—||—|
|Favorite Country Hits 2||—||—|
|US Country||US R&B||US AC||UK|
|1958||"Flip Flop and Bop"||87||—||—||—||—||Last Date|
|1961||"On the Rebound"||4||—||16||—||1||On the Rebound|
|"San Antonio Rose"||8||8||—||3||36|
|"Your Last Goodbye"||63||—||—||—||—||America's Biggest Selling Pianist|
|1962||"Chattanooga Choo Choo"||36||—||—||9||—||(single only)|
|"Let's Go"||90||—||—||—||—||Floyd Cramer Gets Organ-ized|
|"Lovesick Blues"||87||—||—||20||—||I Remember Hank Williams|
|"Hot Pepper"||63||—||—||—||46||(singles only)|
|1963||"Java"||49||—||—||12||—||Swing Along with Floyd Cramer|
|"(These Are) The Young Years"||129||—||—||—||—||Comin' On|
|"How High the Moon"||121||—||—||—||—||(single only)|
|"Heartless Heart"||124||—||—||—||—||Country Piano-City Strings|
|1967||"Stood Up"||—||53||—||24||—||(single only)|
|1968||"By the Time I Get to Phoenix"||—||—||—||32||—|
|1970||"Theme from Two-Twenty-Two"||—||—||—||39||—|
|1977||"Rhythm of the Rain"||—||67||—||—||—||Floyd Cramer & the Keyboard Kick Band|
- A"Dallas" peaked at No. 8 on the RPM Country Tracks chart in Canada.
- Wadey P., "Obituary: Floyd Cramer", Independent Monthly (UK), Independent News and Media Limited, January 1998.
- Friday, April 1; Saturday, April 2; Sunday, August 14; Monday, September 5, the beginning of a five-day tour. Guralnick, Peter; Jorgensen, Ernst. Elvis Day by Day. Random House. Retrieved February 2014.
- "Floyd Cramer", Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. Retrieved September 17, 2014.
- Chet Atkins interviewed on the Pop Chronicles (1969)
- "Last Date" is the closing theme of Ray Hadley's radio show on Sydney's radio station 2GB.
- Murrells, Joseph (1978). The Book of Golden Discs (2nd ed.). London: Barrie and Jenkins. p. 123. ISBN 0-214-20512-6.
- Rice, Jo (1982). The Guinness Book of 500 Number One Hits. Enfield, Middlesex: Guinness Superlatives. p. 57. ISBN 0-85112-250-7.
- Steffen Hung. "Floyd Cramer – Theme From Dallas". hitparade.ch. Retrieved March 14, 2016.
- Tobler, John (1992). NME Rock 'N' Roll Years (1st ed.). London: Reed International Books Ltd. p. 100. CN 5585.
- Whitburn, Joel (2011). Top Pop Singles 1955–2010. Record Research, Inc. p. 207. ISBN 0-89820-188-8.
- Escott, Colin (1998), "Floyd Cramer". In Paul Kingsbury (ed.), The Encyclopedia of Country Music, New York: Oxford University Press., pp. 117–18.