Being known as “The Drummer’s drummer” is not a title to be taken lightly, but Carl Palmer is one of the few percussionists for whom the name is totally merited.
As a child growing up in Handsworth, Birmingham, he started his career in a band called The Craig as well as earning his crust as a session musician.
He was spotted by soul singer Chris Farlowe and then later joined the Crazy World of Arthur Brown, bringing us the sixties hit Fire.
He later became one third of the legendary Emerson Lake and Palmer and is now returning to Birmingham to play a gig at the Town Hall, with fond memories.
“The Town Hall is where my career started,” Carl explains.
“It was in this very hall I was spotted as a young musician by Chris Farlowe, one of the great soul singers of our time.
“So to be going back 40 years later and playing there with my own group Carl Palmer ELP Legacy is a landmark in my career.”
Along with Keith Emerson and Greg Lake, he recorded a string of hit albums like Brain Salad Surgery and Pictures at an Exhibition and Works, from which the classic hit single Fanfare For the Common Man was taken.
He then co-founded the “super-group” Asia, with whom he is still touring and recording.
In 2012, he was awarded a Virtuoso award at the inaugural Prog awards.
Away from Asia, he is a man of many talents; not only is he touring with his own band, he is also an artist.
Utilising state of the art technology, he creates works by harnessing the kinetic power in his playing, and the results have been exhibited in Los Angeles to rave reviews (see more at www.carlplamerart.com ).
Named after his art collection, the Twist of the Wrist tour sees Carl and his band undertaking a short 12-date tour of the UK, which includes a date at Birmingham Town Hall next month.
“I still feel blessed to be doing something I love,” he explains.
“And I certainly didn’t come into this business to be rich.
“My grandfather was a professor of music and I’ve been a working musician all my life and I don’t care whether I’m playing in front of four or 4,000 people. I just love what I do, and amazingly I’m still improving.”
Carl’s desire to play the drums came at an early age.
“My father took me to see the film Drum Crazy starring Gene Krupa and when I walked out, I knew what I wanted to do with my life,” he says.
Carl’s show is billed as The Carl Palmer / ELP Legacy and it encompasses a lot of ELP material as well as his solo work.
Among the numbers that Carl and his band will be playing will be Tarkus, Pictures at an Exhibition, Hoe Down and of course Fanfare For the Common Man.
As well as the tour, he has just finished recording a new album with Asia, has a live DVD on the horizon and also lectures at Southampton University in the faculty of creative industries.
In such a long career, Carl says there has been many highlights.
“There are too many major landmarks, but among them are when ELP played in front of 78,000 people at the Montreal Olympic Stadium, and in front of 200,000 at the Ontario Speedway.
“Of course, Asia was a great moment in my career and Arthur Brown was very influential.”
It must seem strange that after playing to such huge crowds, his tour takes in more intimate venues?
“I don’t let it affect me,” he says, frankly.
“It’s the fact that I’m keeping this music alive that matters, and I’m keen on going down in history as being one of the great rock drummers.”
* Carl Palmer and his band will be performing at the Town Hall, Birmingham, on Thursday, February 20. For details visit www.thsh.co.uk .