Spooner Oldham

Dublin Core


Spooner Oldham


Center Star, Lauderdale County, FAME Studios, Rick Hall, Muscle Shoals Sound Studio, Dan Penn, R&B music, Soul music, Rock and Roll Hall of fame, Alabama Music Hall of Fame


Spooner Oldham (June 14, 1943 - )

The writing credits of Spooner Oldham read like a jukebox selection. From Percy Sledge to Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett to Janis Joplin, Spooner is at the heart of what has come to be called “The Muscle Shoals Sound.” Born June 14, 1943, in Center Star, Alabama, a community so small it hasn’t been listed on the U.S. census rolls since 1880, Dewey Lindon Oldham, Jr., comes from a family with a musical background. His father played in a band when Spooner was young child, and, per Spooner, he would just “sit over in the corner and watch them,” as his father and bandmates would practice out on the porch. It was also as a child when Spooner “accidently” acquired his nickname. Reaching for pan on the stove, he was left blind in his right eye when it was injured by a spoon. Following in his father’s footsteps, he began playing piano for local bands while in high school. After graduation, Spooner briefly attended the University of North Alabama in Florence, but dropped out soon after realizing he was skipping more classes than he attended, preferring to Rick Hall’s FAME Studios to learn his trade against that of an official classroom. It was there that Spooner started on his journey to becoming one of the premier sidemen in music. In this role, Spooner played keyboards on some of the most successful songs to come out of, first FAME Studios, then Muscle Shoals Sound Studios. Songs like Percy Sledge’s “When a Man Loves a Woman” (1966), Wilson Pickett’s “Mustang Sally” (1966), and Aretha Franklin’s “I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You” (1967), all saw Spooner on keyboard. Spooner also played on Franklin’s signature song, “Respect” (1967), recording at Atlantic Records Studio in New York City in 1967. Shortly afterwards, Spooner headed west to Memphis, where he connected with a songwriting partner he had met while at FAME, Dan Penn. Together they had written the James & Bobby Purify hit, “I’m Your Puppet” (1966), while both were still at FAME. Reconnecting in Memphis, the duo continued to churn out songs, including those recorded by The Box Tops (“Cry Like a Baby”-1968) and Percy Sledge (“It Tears Me Up”-1967). The assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., in Memphis, in April of 1968, was a turning point for Spooner. The once-open racial atmosphere of R&B and soul, where all that mattered was your skill with music, took a hit with King’s murder, especially in the South, leading Spooner to make the move to Los Angeles, where things were somewhat like they used to be. The next decade saw Spooner recording with the likes of Linda Ronstadt and Neil Young. Relocating once more, this time to Nashville, Spooner toured extensively with Young and with Bob Dylan, with whom he had worked on Dylan’s 1980 gospel album, “Saved.” 1984 saw one of Spooner’s older songs become a hit on the country charts when Steve Wariner recorded “Lonely Women Make Good Lovers,” which went all the way up to number four. In the 1990s, Spooner returned home to Alabama, settling down in Rogersville, just up Highway 72 from Center Star. Returning to his roots hasn’t slowed Spooner down, as he has gone out on tour with his writing partner Dan Penn several times, as well as going out on the road with Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young on their 2006 “Freedom of Speech” tour, and with the Drive-By Truckers, the Athens, Georgia-based band co-founded by Patterson Hood, the son of Spooner’s former Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section partner, David Hood. For his contributions to the music industry, Spooner Oldham was inducted into the Musicians Hall of Fame in 2008, the Rock and Rock Hall of Fame in 2009, where he was inducted by Paul Shaffer, sidekick to David Letterman on both his late-night talk shows, and the Alabama Music Hall of Fame in 2014.

Watch and Listen:
"I'm Your Puppet - Spooner Oldham, Dan Penn" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-nnLE-aBoPQ
"Paul Schafer Inducts Spooner Oldham into R&R Hall of Fame" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iGQiPUTu3z4
Spooner Oldham R&R Hall of Fame Speech" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AP8B24ap0m8
"RESPECT - Aretha Franklin" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fzPXozDgvYs
"Two In The Morning - Spooner Oldham" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tehBrFqX1iw


John Griffin, University of North Alabama


Spooner Oldham Biography http://www.encyclopediaofalabama.org/article/h-2510/ Accessed December 2, 2016
Spooner Oldham discography http://www.allmusic.com/artist/spooner-oldham-mn0000155405/discography/ Accessed December 2, 2016
Dan Penn-Spooner Oldham interview http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/music-good-ol-boys-in-the-hood-1123527.html Accessed December 2, 2016
Spooner Oldham bio - Rock and Roll Hall of Fame website https://www.rockhall.com/inductees/spooner-oldham/ Accessed December 2, 2016
Dan Penn-Spooner Oldham interview http://www.furious.com/PERFECT/pennoldham.html/ December 2, 2016

All images courtesy of Mr. George Lair and the Alabama Music Hall of Fame, unless otherwise noted.


Alabama Cultural Resource Survey




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