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My grandfather, Floyd Cramer, has had a profound impact on my life. He was one of the most loving, most generous, and most talented individuals I have ever known; yet despite his celebrity status, I am thankful that he was always just "Grandad" to my family and me. Floyd Cramer left a lasting impact on the world around him, and his legacy continues to inspire me in both my musical career and my personal life.

—Jason



 

Floyd Cramer
October 27, 1933 - December 31, 1997

Floyd Cramer is unparalleled in his field - he is among the most celebrated and most recorded pianists of all time.

In recognition of his achievements in the music world, in 2003, he was posthumously inducted into both the Country Music Hall of Fame and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Below is a brief synopsis of Floyd Cramer's career, featured on his Country Music Hall of Fame biography:

When the piano became an integral part of Nashville arrangements in the early 1960s, the pianist who shouldered the load was Floyd Cramer. He popularized the “slip-note” technique on dozens of hits by a wide range of artists, but deserves to be just as famous for his unerring taste and his understanding of what not to play.

Cramer grew up in the small sawmill town of Huttig, Arkansas. He learned piano by ear, and, after graduation from high school in 1951, he moved to Shreveport and found a job on the Louisiana Hayride. He arrived just as Lefty Frizzell’s records were popularizing what Cramer termed “a plinking honky-tonk type piano.” He played in that style on Jim Reeves’s “Mexican Joe” and made his first record for Abbott Records in 1953.

Aside from Owen Bradley, there were virtually no studio pianists in Nashville when Cramer first went there in 1952 with radio and TV announcer T. Tommy Cutrer. After a year or two of commuting, Cramer talked to Chet Atkins about becoming a session pianist and left Shreveport for Nashville in January 1955. “By 1956 and ’57, I was in day and night doing sessions,” he said. One of the few records on which he played something other than piano was Jimmy Dean’s “Big Bad John” (he created the pickaxe sound-effects by hanging an iron doorstopper on a coat hanger and hitting it with a hammer).

In 1958 Atkins signed Cramer to RCA as an instrumental artist; his fourth single was “Last Date,” featuring the slip-note style. Earlier, Cramer had worked on the Hank Locklin session that had produced “Please Help Me, I’m Falling”; the composer, Don Robertson, had sent a demo on which he played piano, sliding up into a note from the one beneath, and that was the technique that Cramer incorporated into his style.

“It’s been done for a long time on the guitar by people like Maybelle Carter,” Cramer said, “and by lots of people on the steel guitar. Half-tones are very common, but the style I use mainly is a whole-tone slur which gives more of a lonesome, cowboy sound.”

It was at Atkins’s suggestion that Cramer wrote “Last Date” to showcase the slip-note style. It was a bigger pop than country hit, climbing to #2; the only record keeping it from #1 was Elvis Presley’s “Are You Lonesome Tonight,” another record Cramer had played on. By the mid-1960s, Cramer was established as an album act, recording prolifically for RCA and touring widely with RCA labelmates Chet Atkins and saxophonist Boots Randolph.

Cramer stayed active in the studio for years thereafter, and he continued to do occasional concerts and record television-marketed albums until sidelined by cancer, which eventually took his life.

—Colin Escott

adapted from the Country Music Hall of Fame® and Museum’s Encyclopedia of Country Music, published by Oxford University Press

 

Notable Records:

"Heartbreak Hotel"
Elvis Presley

"Crazy"
"Sweet Dreams"
"She's Got You"

Patsy Cline

"Only the Lonely"
"Pretty Woman"

Roy Orbison

"I'm Sorry"
Brenda Lee

"Oh Lonesome Me"
Don Gibson

"('Til) I Kissed You"
"All I Have To Do Is Dream"

The Everly Brothers

"The End Of The World"
Skeeter Davis

"Please Help Me, I'm Falling"
Hank Locklin

"I Can't Stop Loving You"
Eddy Arnold

"Welcome To My World"
Jim Reeves

"On The Rebound"
"Flip Flop And Bop"
"Last Date"

Floyd Cramer

 

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