Little Richard’s drummer Charles Connor dies aged 86


Charles Connor, known to be the drummer for Little Richard who has performed with other musical greats including James Brown and Sam Cooke, has passed away. He was 86 years old.

Connor’s daughter, Queenie Connor Sonnefeld, said her father passed away peacefully in his sleep early Saturday while in hospice care at his home in Glendale, Calif. She said her father was diagnosed with normal pressure hydrocephalus, a brain disorder that causes fluid to build up.

Connor Sonnefeld called the drummer an always positive “grandfather” and one who never gave up on his dreams.

“He was one of those drummers who was a mason in creating this rock’n’roll genre,” she said. “He played behind so many legendary musicians in the 1950s. He was a loving grandfather and was very proud of his family and was very proud of his contributions to rock ‘n’ roll.

Musician Little Richard performs on stage with his band while saxophonist Grady Gaines stands at the piano circa 1957 in the scene from the movie 'Mister Rock And Roll.'
Musician Little Richard performs on stage with his band while saxophonist Grady Gaines stands at the piano circa 1957 in a scene from the movie “Mister Rock And Roll”.
Michael Ochs Archives

Connor started playing the drums at the age of 12. Three years later, he began his professional career when Professor Longhair, singer and pianist, hired him as a last-minute replacement for the 1950 Mardi Gras in New Orleans.

After Connor turned 18, he joined Richard’s original road band, The Upsetters. The group has appeared in several popular feature films including “The Girl Can’t Help It” with Jayne Mansfield as well as “Don’t Knock the Rock” and “Mr. Rock n Roll.”

“He was one of those drummers who were a mason in creating this rock’n’roll genre. He was a loving grandfather and took great pride in his contribution to rock’n’roll.

Queenie Connor Sonnefeld, Connor’s daughter,

During his career, Connor has toured with various musicians such as James Brown, Jackie Wilson and the original Coasters. He also received a Certificate of Special Recognition from Representative Maxine Waters in 1994.

Connor published his motivational book “Don’t Give Up On Your Dreams: You Can Be A Winner Too!” 2008. He was inducted into the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame two years later.

In 2013, Connor released his EP album “Still Knockin”. At the time of his death, he was working on his autobiographical documentary.

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