Home Lifestyle Jimmy Van Eaton, Purveyor of the Sun Records Beat, Dies at 86

Jimmy Van Eaton, Purveyor of the Sun Records Beat, Dies at 86

Jimmy Van Eaton, Purveyor of the Sun Records Beat, Dies at 86


In 1960, Mr. Van Eaton left Sun to join Mr. Riley and the guitarist Roland Janes, both of whom were disenchanted with how Mr. Riley was being promoted, as the staff drummer at the newly formed Rita Records. Their biggest success came with the singer Harold Dorman’s 1960 Top 40 hit, “Mountain of Love.”

Mr. Van Eaton also released a single under his own name for Rita, an atmospheric, surf-style recording called “Beat-Nik,” also from 1960. By the middle of the decade, however, he had all but retired from the music business. He worked for his father-in-law’s vending machine company before establishing himself as an asset manager in the 1980s.

Mr. Van Eaton performed only occasionally over the ensuing decades, appearing at rockabilly reunion concerts and playing on the soundtrack of the 1989 movie “Great Balls of Fire!,” which starred Dennis Quaid as Jerry Lee Lewis. (The singer Mojo Nixon, who died this month, played Mr. Van Eaton onscreen.) He also did periodic session work into the 2020s at the Muscle Shoals Sound Studio in Alabama. In 1998, he released “The Beat Goes On,” an album featuring his drumming, vocals and songwriting.

A longtime member of the Rockabilly Hall of Fame, he was also inducted into the Memphis Music Hall of Fame in 2022.

Besides his daughter Terri, Mr. Van Eaton is survived by his brother, Richard; another daughter, Anna Blumberg; two sons, Mack and Tim; a stepson, Alex Lebrija; 13 grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.

“There are a lot of influential people that nobody ever gets to hear about, like guitarist Roland Janes and also Jimmy Van Eaton, who was drummer on a lot of stuff,” Mr. Clement was quoted as saying in “Good Rockin’ Tonight.”

“The sound that became magic to a lot of people,” he added, “was partly due to him; it was so funky, but at the same time it captured the fun.”


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