Induction into the Rock and Rock Hall of Fame in 2009 saw Spooner Oldham’s unique contribution to soul music recognised – not only for having played on some of classic tracks of the genre but also composed them. He was born today in 1943.
Keyboardist / songwriter Dewey Lyndon Oldham aka Spooner Oldham born, Center Star, Alabama. Inspired by hearing the harmony singing of his father and uncles from an early age, Spooner first tried his hand at the piano at school.
That led to him joining a group that played high school dances and ultimately to a job as a studio musican at Rick Halls’ Muscle Shoal Sound Studios, initially playing truant from his college course.
Adding keyboards to classic tracks such as Percy Sledge’s “When a Man Loves a Woman” and “I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You)” by Aretha Franklin, Oldham also befriended studio engineer Dan Penn and the duo began song-writing, scoring an early success with “I’m Your Puppet” – a hit for James and Bobby Purify in 1965.
By 1967 the pair were both in residence at Chips Moman’s American Studios in Memphis, continuing their respective “day jobs” roles and coming up with further classics out of hours, notably “Do Right Woman, Do Right Man” and “The Dark End of the Street.”
Later relocating to Los Angeles, Spooner released a solo album “Potluck” and developed his reputation as guest keyboard player to the stars, backing the likes of Neil Young and Bob Dylan – encountering the latter at Muscle Shoals in 1979 during sessions for “Slow Train Coming” and receiving an invitation to join his band on the road (also playing on follow-up album, “Saved”.)
A reunion with Dan Penn in 1994 saw them play live together for the first time in 25 years and later tours would result in the 1998 live recording, “Moments from This Theatre”. Maintaining his long-term relationship with Neil Young, Spooner has also collaborated with young pretenders including Drive-By Truckers and the North Mississippi All Stars.
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And here’s some footage of Spooner in action: