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Carl Palmer: Prog God 2017

Prog is delighted to be presenting Carl Palmer with this year’s Prog God Award at the Progressive Music Awards. Here we pay tribute to this founder member of Emerson, Lake and Palmer

When the greats of modern music reach pensionable age, it seems reasonable to expect everything to slow down a little. Enthusiasm for touring the world and churning out new music often diminishes as the years pass and energy levels inevitably start to flag. That’s how things work for most veteran musicians, but Carl Palmer is not most musicians. Now aged 67, the man who has conquered the music world on at least two separate occasions has never seemed less likely to ease off on the accelerator.

He speaks to Prog a matter of hours after returning home after an extensive tour with Asia (now fronted by Billy Sherwood, in the wake of former incumbent John Wetton’s death in January 2017) as main support to AOR legends Journey. Within days of concluding our conversation, he’ll be off again to play shows with his own current band, Carl Palmer’s ELP Legacy.

Caught between gigs, Palmer sounds like a man with no time to waste. He speaks quickly, eager to affirm how lucky he feels to have pursued his greatest love for the last 50 years but never slow to herald his own achievements, not least his new‑found status as our choice for this year’s Prog God. Above all, he sounds thrilled to still be making a living from playing the drums, something he was plainly destined to do.

“I don’t want to sound too blasé, but it was like a duck to water thing for me,” he says. “I actually started off playing banjo when I was five, had a go on the violin when I was 10 and moved to the drum set when I was 11. My great-grandfather was a drummer. His brother was also a professional musician – he conducted at the London Palladium and was a Professor of Music at the Royal Academy. Their mother was a classical guitar player, so that’s where the line came from.

“I learned by ear to start with, but then I got a teacher and learned to read. The story was that my family thought that as long as you could read music, you always had a chance of getting a job somewhere. There was no thought of being a Prog God back then!”


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