Charles “Keep A Knockin” Connor, original drummer for Little Richard, created the unique “Choo Choo Train” style of successive eighth notes with a loud back beat used by nearly all subsequent rock ‘n’ roll drummers. His drumsticks are on display at the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame Museum in Cleveland, Ohio. In 1956, Little Richard’s band appeared in popular feature films as The Girl Can’t Help It with actress Jayne Mansfield, Don’t Knock the Rock, and Mr. Rock ‘n’ Roll. Then, as rock ‘n’ roll exploded on the music scene, the band recorded several hit songs like “Keep a Knockin’,” featuring Connor’s first four-bar drum intro on a rock ‘n’ roll record; “Ooh! My Soul,” also featuring Connor’s distinctive “Choo Choo Train” beat and “She’s Got It,” with a regular back beat. When Little Richard “retired” for the ministry in 1957, legendary performer Sam Cooke took over the Upsetters and Connor again toured the United States. During breaks between bookings, Connor toured with other talented artists like James Brown, Jackie Wilson, Lloyd Price, the original Coasters, and “Big” Joe Turner. He recorded with “Champion” Jack Dupree, Larry Williams, Don Covay, “Papa” George Lightfoot, Christine Kitrell, Larry Birdsong, and Dee Clark.
In October 1994, Connor received a Certificate of Special Recognition from Congresswoman Maxine Waters. He joined the esteemed ranks of other 5-4 Ballroom honorees such as Billy Eckstine, Dinah Washington, Dizzy Gillespie, and Miles Davis. In 2010, Connor was inducted into the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame, joining a list of other illustrious honorees including Little Richard, Louis Armstrong, Fats Domino, and Jerry Lee Lewis. Connor will be featured in a 2015 documentary miniseries for BBC TV exploring the genesis, explosion and legacy of rock ‘n’ roll in America.Â He will also be joining other notable music legends, such as, Paul McCartney, B.B. King, Elton John, Brian Wilson, and more in an upcoming PBS documentary miniseries airing early 2016. This will explore the extraordinary influence of recorded music in the modern world. Connor released his second EP in 2013, Still Knockin’, which debuted an original song written and sung by him, “Beginning of Rock n’ Roll,” including brand new recordings featuring the voice of Kate Flannery.
Charles Connor will discuss his new book, KEEP A KNOCKIN’ The Story of a Legendary Drummer, on Saturday, August 29, 7pm, at D.G. Wills Bookstore, 7461 Girard Avenue, La Jolla (858) 456-1800/www.dgwillsbooks.com