Floyd Cramer was a top session pianist in Nashville when he came up with a string of instrumental hits in the early 60's.
Floyd was born in Samti, Louisiana in 1933. He moved with his family at a young age to Huttig, Arkansas and was raised there. Cramer learned to play piano at age five (he was self-taught) and developed into a fine piano player. He toured with back-up groups, eventually making appearances on the Louisiana Hayride in Shreveport. He moved to Shreveport and recorded on the Abbott label there in 1953 and 1954.
In 1955 Floyd moved to Nashville, where he became a session pianist at RCA. This led to his playing on a number of records that went on to become pop hits, by artists such as the Browns, Jim Reeves, Elvis Presley, Brenda Lee, Patsy Cline, the Everly Brothers, Don Gibson, and Roy Orbison, among others. As a session man at RCA he played on a number of Presley's early hits, the most notable of these being Heartbreak Hotel in 1956. By the late 50's Cramer had earned his reputation as a fine musician. He toured with Presley, Perry Como, Chet Atkins, and Johnny Cash.
Floyd's distinctive piano style is described as "slip-note," a method by which an out-of-key note slides into the correct note, or as he calls it the "whole-tone slur." In addition to his very full schedule of session work, he also did some recording on his own, mostly of instrumental pieces. Although he was well-known and respected by those within the music industry, he was virtually unknown outside of it. That changed when he recorded another instrumental, Last Date, and it shot up the pop chart to number two in late 1960. The record that prevented it from reaching the top was by his friend Elvis, Are You Lonesome To-night? Cramer's Last Date sold over a million copies and would prove to be his most successful single ever.
But he was not finished making hits. Within a year he would place two more instrumental hits in the top ten on the pop chart, On The Rebound (which was #1 in the UK) and San Antonio Rose. He had composed the first of these, as well as Last Date, himself. He recorded many songs over the years, and issued dozens of albums. His final top forty record as a solo artist came in 1962 with his instrumental recording of the Glenn Miller hit Chattanooga Choo Choo.
Floyd Cramer remained active, recording his own songs, touring with his friend Chet Atkins and with Boots Randolph through the 60's and 70's. He is acknowledged by some as one of the best piano players ever. He continued performing into the 90's. Floyd contracted lung cancer and died in 1997 at age 64. He died and is buried in the Nashville suburb of Madison, Tennessee. In 2003 he was inducted into both the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Country Music Hall of Fame.
Floyd Cramer is most closely associated with his most popular record, which went to number two in 1960, Last Date.
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