Jimmy (J.M.) Van Eaton


Oral History Information

Interview Date
Birth Date
Deceased Date
Job Title
Musician, Drummer

Jimmy (J.M.) Van Eaton was the house drummer for a little recording company in Memphis that began one of the centers of the birth of rock’n’ roll. Sun Records was formed by Sam Philips in 1951 and was put on the map when Elvis Presley began recording at Sun in 1954. Just a few months after Elvis left for RCA, J.M. was hired to provide the beat for artists, such as Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison, Jerry Lee Lewis and countless other performers. With sticks in hand, Jimmy laid the foundation for the birth of rock ’n’ roll at Sun Records. He played drums on “Whole Lot of Shaking Going On,” which was one of Jerry Lee Lewis’ first hits, and Jimmy went on to record several more No. 1 hits. His bluesy backbeat and frenetic fills defined the unmistakable sound of Sam Phillips' label, leaving an indelible mark on rockabilly classics for generations to come — just a few of which included “Lonely Weekends” by Charlie Rich, “Raunchy” by Bill Justis and “Red Hot” recorded by Billy Lee Riley.