In a sad news that resonates in the world of music, the death of rock ‘n’ roll legend JM “Jimmy” Van Eaton has been confirmed.
One of the last surviving icons of the golden age of Sun Records in Memphis, he passed away at the age of 86 at his home in Alabama.
His legacy will endure, as Van Eaton has left an indelible mark on the history of music, being the drummer who set the beat for Sun Records.
Van Eaton, who joined Sun Records as a teenager in the 1950s, gained fame for his outstanding performances behind legendary figures such as Jerry Lee Lewis and Billy Lee Riley.
His distinctive rhythm and frenetic energy have left a void in the music scene that will never be completely filled.
Having struggled with health problems over the past year, Van Eaton’s family confirmed his passing, casting a shadow on music fans who recognize his unique contribution to the sound of Sun Records.
His influence will endure in timeless classics such as “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On” by Jerry Lee Lewis, “Red Hot” by Billy Lee Riley, “Raunchy” by Bill Justis, and “Lonely Weekends” by Charlie Rich.
James Mack Van Eaton, initially a trumpet player in a school band, found his true passion in the drums, describing it in a 2015 interview as an instrument that intrigued him.
Not only did he set the rhythm in countless legendary Sun Records recordings, but he also led his own rock ‘n’ roll band called The Echoes.
It was at the studio operated by Sam Phillips where Van Eaton left a demonstration that would change his life and connect him with iconic figures like Billy Lee Riley and later, Jerry Lee Lewis.
Van Eaton’s distinctive sound, his ability to intricately weave blues rhythms, and his frenetic fills became an integral part of the Sun Records’ identity.
Sam Phillips, the founder of the label, recognized Van Eaton’s innate talent and incorporated him into recordings that would become musical milestones.
Additionally, Van Eaton is survived by a son and a daughter, according to ABC News.
After years of traveling to Muscle Shoals to perform, in 2020, Van Eaton left his old farm in Saulsbury, Tennessee and moved to Alabama, where he was a revered presence, doing session work at Wishbone Studios and working with old friends from Memphis like guitarist/composer Travis Wammack.
Van Eaton, a long-time member of the Rockabilly Hall of Fame, was inducted into the Memphis Music Hall of Fame in 2022.
Through social media, some users remembered the golden age of the rock ‘n’ roll star and took the opportunity to bid him a final farewell.
“Sad news in Memphis music: JM ‘Jimmy’ Van Eaton has died at the age of 86. One of the last surviving figures of the golden age of Sun Records,” said one user.
“I’m proud to have had the opportunity to meet JM. He was a great guy,” commented another social media follower.
“I love his drumming on Warren Smith’s Sun tracks,” continued the messages.
This news has cast a shadow on the music world, but Van Eaton’s legend and the mark he left on the music industry will live on.