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Remembering Charles Connor, The Longtime Drummer For Little Richard

A MARTINEZ, HOST:

One of the men who gave rock 'n' roll its beat has died, drummer Charles Connor.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE GIRL CAN'T HELP IT")

UNIDENTIFIED SINGERS: (Singing) She can't help it. The girl can't help it. She can't help it. The girl can't help it.

LITTLE RICHARD: (Singing) If she walks by, the men folks get engrossed.

UNIDENTIFIED SINGERS: (Singing) She can't help it. The girl can't help it.

LITTLE RICHARD: (Singing) If she winks an eye, the bread slice turn to toast.

MARTINEZ: Charles Connor was just 18 when he joined Little Richard's band, The Upsetters. And that group helped to define what rock music would become. James Brown reportedly said that Connor was the first to put funk into the rhythm.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

And if James Brown isn't enough, take it from one of the most respected rock drummers of all time, John Bonham of Led Zeppelin.

(SOUNDBITE OF LED ZEPPELIN SONG, "ROCK AND ROLL")

INSKEEP: Your head is moving, isn't it? That's the intro to the Zeppelin song "Rock And Roll." Now check out old Charles Connor.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "KEEP A KNOCKIN'")

LITTLE RICHARD: (Singing) Keep a knockin', but you can't come in.

INSKEEP: OK, so yeah, John Bonham kind of swiped Charles Connor's intro to the song "Keep A Knockin'."

MARTINEZ: And my head was moving. Connor went on to play with James Brown, Sam Cooke, Jackie Wilson and many more. He died on Saturday in Glendale, Calif. He was 86 years old.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "KEEP A KNOCKIN'")

LITTLE RICHARD: (Singing) You said you love me, but you can't come in. Come back tomorrow night and try it again. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.