Born March 20, 1950 in Birmingham,
Carl Frederick Kendall Palmer was born on March 20, 1950 in Birmingham, England, to a musically inclined FAMILY. His paternal grandfather was a drummer and maternal grandmother was a symphony violinist. He developed an interest in classical music at an early age. Carl's father was an entertainer, who sang, danced , played the guitar and drums. His mother could play various instruments, as well, and Palmer's older brother, who, played guitar. (In 1958, another brother named Steve, would also later play - the drums). Naturally, Carl took an interest in playing music. He first started playing the violin, his first instrument, ("..... to keep up the family tradition", he now jokes...). When he turned 11, he took a liking to the drums, after seeing Sal Mineo play them in the film "Drum Crazy".
Carl got a set of drums for his eleventh birthday, and began to study the instrument a while later. He took lessons from Tommy Cunliffe who was a local instructor, and also played in the Midland Light Orchestra who were heard on the radio.
Carl continued taking lessons from Cunliffe for about 2 1/2 years. It was during the first year of playing the drums that he joined his father's dance band.
"By the time I was 14, I was halfway there", he told People magazine in 1982. Carl's influences were Buddy Rich and Gene Krupa. (Palmer would later go on to being a close friend of Rich's).
His first record was Buddy Rich Sings Tony Mercer . He swapped that record for his drum instructor's copy of Buddy Rich's This One's For Basie LP. Carl became more interested in jazz and using the drums in unusual forms of music.
His first professional band, The Mecca Dance Band earned him 23 pounds a week. He played in this band for six months.
But it was American rock'n'roll, Beatlemania, and R&B that was sweeping Britain in the early 1960s. Palmer soon placed less interest in his formal studies and decided to catch the wave of pop music.
At 15, he joined the Motown-styled King Bees, which later changed its named to The Craig. A year later joined Chris Farlowe and the Thunderbirds, which included guitar wizard Albert Lee and keyboardist Dave Greenslade.
It was with Farlowe ( who had already been signed to a record deal) that Palmer began developing a style combining tremendous speed, energy, and dazzling techniques.
"I played with Chris Farlowe and the Thunderbirds when I was 16," says Palmer. " That was soul, yeah that was a blues band, a soul band with saxophones and everything. At the time, we were produced by none-other-than Mick Jagger. "
When Palmer joined the band, Chris Farlowe had a minor hit in the charts in England called "My Way of Giving".
One year later, still only 18, Carl became a member of The Crazy World of Arthur Brown at the peak of their popularity. Brown had signed to Track Records ( which also had The Who and Jimi Hendrix). Brown scored a huge hit with a quirky pop single called "Fire". His frantic stage show, verged on the edge of lunacy when, at the climax, Brown would set himself on fire in an asbestos suit.
Carl Palmer told Janis Schacht in Circus Magazine March 1972 issue: "I don't know how the audiences were. I couldn't see them with Arthur Brown. I was wearing too many masks, there were too many strobe lights, it was very hard to tell. The audiences were nothing like what we have today and with Arthur being so visual you never got a chance in the band. Not even Vincent Crane, being the lead instrumentalist got a chance. The audience anticipation was all Arthur's. So, musically, I was left behind. They would clap when he lit his fire helmet up. If I did something good, they wouldn't clap. Mind you, it might not have been good. I have no impressions from the last time."
There was a third US tour in 1969, but ticket sales were slow. Sometime in mid-June, both Carl Palmer and Vincent Crane left the band. Carl Palmer told Rolling Stone magazine August 5, 1971 issue: "We were stuck in NYC for 3 months and Arthur didn't want to play. He was into black mysticism, you know. Always running off to health farms. His price went from $10,000 to $100,000. It was no use talking to him so I just left him in the middle of the night. "
Returning from an 18-month American tour, Palmer and Crazy World organist Vincent Crane split to form Atomic Rooster.
Musically akin to The Nice, Atomic Rooster was Palmer's first real success as a band founder. By August 1969 the band was up and running and had released its debut album. The group was immediately accepted by press and fans that were eagerly embracing the growing "progressive" rock scene coming out of London. Palmer's lightning fast drum solos helped build the band's reputation on the competitive London club scene. They also had hits with two songs, "Tomorrow Night" and "Devil's Answers."
It was in the spring of 1970, however, that Palmer received a call from Keith Emerson. Emerson explained he was forming a new trio with King Crimson's Greg Lake. The two wanted Palmer to try out for the new band.
At first, Palmer wasn't interested because Atomic Rooster's popularity was starting to grow, however, he did agree to go to the rehearsal room and check it out.
The moment they played together it was a magical feeling amongst the three musicians. Palmer was offered the job on the spot, but told Emerson and Lake he had to think about it.
He returned for another jam the next day, and decided to join.
After searching for a band name, the trio decided on EMERSON, LAKE & PALMER.
ELP would go on to become one of the biggest rock acts of all time, with sales of over 30 million records and sold out tours around the globe. (See The History of ELP on this Website for all the specifics).
While the members of ELP were working on the material that made up their legendary Works Volume I and Volume II albums, Palmer wrote and recorded a percussion concerto, which has yet to be released.
When ELP disbanded in 1979, Palmer formed his own band with a group of US musicians. They would be called PM and would make one album. But hits would elude the band, and it would splinter, soon after.
In 1981, Palmer was approached by manager Brian Lane, who was helping Yes guitarists Steve Howe form a new band. Already on board Howe, and Buggles keyboard whiz, Geoff Downes. Palmer checked it out, and quickly joined. After an unsuccessful attempt to finish the band line up off with Roy Wood, John Wetton from King Crimson joined.
They were called Asia ( taken from thumbing through a dictionary), and like ELP, were labeled "a supergroup". That, in itself, should have been cause for the band's demise, but, fortunately, they would skyrocket to the top of the charts in a matter of months.
Asia picked up in the early 1980s were the great FM bands of the seventies left off. The band's debut album, spearheaded by Geffen A&R guru John Kalodner, yielded several hits ( including "Only Time Will Tell", "Heat Of The Moment" and "Sole Survivor") and went multi platinum.
"We were unique," says Palmer. " Asia was English rock with a technical side. It's sophisticated rock mixed in with melodies and singles. It was taboo in those days. And you very rarely hear that today, either."
The band then embarked on an 18 month world tour, that would have them selling out arenas around the world.
Asia returned in 1983 with Alpha and two more hits ( "Don't Cry" and " The Smile Has Left Your Eyes.").
Soon after, however, conflicts within the band emerged. John Wetton left briefly ( and was temporarily replaced by Greg Lake), and upon his return, Steve Howe exited and was replaced by a series of axemen.
In 1988, with Asia's popularity starting to wane, Carl Palmer left to re-group with ELP's Keith Emerson. Together with Californian musician, Robert Berry, they formed a trio named 3.
3 released one Geffen album, ( To The Power Of Three ), did a successful tour of showcase clubs, and gained considerable FM airplay with a song called "Talking 'Bout."
But with the same instrumentation as ELP, 3 was quickly compared to Emerson, Lake & Palmer, and they were often pressured to add ELP material to the band's set. They disbanded early in 1989.
In 1990 and 91, Palmer returned to the re-vamped line up of Asia. They released one album, and toured extensively, including shows in Moscow. While Asia was getting ready to write and record another album in 1991, Palmer was asked to participate in an ELP reunion.
Initially, the three would just write and record material for a movie soundtrack, but as the project progressed, the trio decided to work on a proper LP. In 1992, ELP returned triumphantly with Black Moon, and a global tour that went from mid 1992 through the summer of 1993. In The Hot Seat a follow up studio album was recorded and released in 1994, and in 1996, the band resumed touring, which it plans to continue for many years to come.
An internationally known showman, Carl Palmer has thrilled rock fans with his dazzling speed and mastery of drumming techniques. He has remained at the forefront of the contemporary rock world and thirty years after he was introduced to music fans, he remains, " the drummer's drummer."
Bio from The Official Carl Palmer Site.