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Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Spooner Oldham and Patience For Good Things



Spooner Oldham on the Roots of American Music Trail...

"I'm Spooner Oldham, and I play keyboards, mostly piano and organ, and, in a lot of cases Wurlitzer electric pianos. 

"I think the first instrument, I learned a few chords, was probably a mandolin. And then, I was picking cotton one day -- Center Star -- and back then you could pick cotton for like $3.00 a hundred pound, and on weekends I'd make a few (dollars) spending money. So, my buddy over here in the next row, (points behind) he's picking a sack dragging back there, says 'I got a guitar I want to sell.'

I said, 'What you got, Bill?'

"'It's a Stella.'

"'How much you want for it?'

"'$12.00.'

"I said, 'I'll take it.'

"Then, I sorta... I wouldn't say accidentally, but faithfully found the piano. And somehow I was able to transfer the little information course, mandolin and guitar, pretty quick once I found C note. 

"I got sort of mesmerized early about the spirit of a band and the music in a room, so convergence for me to a recording studio was almost natural in a sense that I'm used to bands. I've heard them all my life. It's sort of like, somebody asked Ron Howard once what he thought about child acting, and he said, 'Well, I though everybody was.' That's sort of the way I grew up -- thinking everybody had a band in their house, you know.

"(Muscle Shoals music 'coming out of the soul') I think it's an ongoing music tradition that hopefully won't die here anytime soon. The aspiration to do good things is seated in everyone's heart and mind, and how you do you put it all together and make it happen is that you just got to be patient."


who’s who of records at FAME Studios. He recorded on numerous hit R&B songs including “When a Man Loves a Woman” recorded by Percy Sledge, “Mustang Sally” recorded by Wilson Pickett and “I Never Loved a Man” recorded by Aretha Franklin. He toured with Aretha Franklin and played with Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Linda Ronstandt, Jewell and Janis Joplin - See more at: http://musictrail.una.edu/?page_id=11#sthash.1FsrROMv.dpuf73 year-old Dewey Lyndon "Spooner" Oldham is much more than just a man with a penchant for playing keyboards and mixing studio recordings. By the way, he acquired his nickname literally by accident. As a boy he reached for a pan on the stove, and a spoon temporarily injured his right eye. What a coincidence because this homespun moniker seems to fit perfectly his lifelong nurturing nature.
Oldham has a subtle, simplistic grace like no other. He says his mom in her rocking chair sang gospel songs and nursery rhymes to him in his childhood, and when he heard "Rock-a-bye baby in a tree top, down would come baby cradle and all," he thinks he felt sorry for the little nameless child.

When Paul Shaffer introduced Spooner as an inductee into the Rock Hall of Fame, he said this of Spooner's legendary opening to Percy Sledge's "When a Man Loves a Woman": "Spooner coaxed a mellow sound out of the organ and proceeded to have church right there in the studio." Soul, gospel, rhyme and rhythm never fail Spooner's productions.

Shaffer said, "It's the musician's mantra: 'It's not what you play, it's what you don't play.' Easy words to say. Not so easy to put into practice, and no amount of practice will help you play what Oldham's playing preached because Spooner's got soul, and from listening to Spooner, I learned that when it comes to soul, sometimes the silence is more powerful than the sound."

The Alabama-born musician was part of the prolific crew that made records at Rick Hall’s FAME (“Florence Alabama Music Enterprises”) Studio and Muscle Shoal Sound Studios, in the northwest corner of the state.

Oldham played keyboard on hits that catapulted the Muscle Shoals music scene into the limelight. In addition to the Sledge smash, Spooner played on such classics as "You Better Move On" by Arthur Alexander, "Steal Away" by Jimmy Hughes, “I Never Loved a Man” by Aretha Franklin, “Mustang Sally” by Wilson Pickett, and “The Dark End of the Street” by James Carr.

Oldham and his songwriting partner Dan Penn have written great songs like Bobby Purify’s “I’m Your Puppet,” James Carr’s “The Dark End of the Street,” the Box Tops’ “Cry Like a Baby,” and Janis Joplin’s “A Woman Left Lonely.” The duo estimate that they’ve written between 400 and 500 songs together.

songwriting partnership with singer/guitarist Dan Penn - See more at: http://rockhall.com/inductees/spooner-oldham/bio/#sthash.87TmWMR9.dpuf
Just a few of the acts Spooner has toured with include Bob Dylan, Aretha Franklin, Linda Ronstadt, Jackson Browne, and Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young.

The fame of Spooner Oldham is, indeed, legendary. But, this soft-spoken, unassuming man is not one to live on his laurels. He continues to make great music and generously to help young and aspiring musicians. You see, when Spooner says, "The aspiration to do good things is seated in everyone's heart and mind, and how you do you put it all together and make it happen is that you just got to be patient," he is not spouting words for publicity; instead, he is affirming his honest, simple beliefs.

Maybe the planets were aligned right when Spooner Oldham took his first breaths and joined his musical family on June 14, 1943, in Center Star, Alabama. It seems he grew up in a special environment. Some even say the water in the region is blessed. The legend of The Singing River is well known to many people in northwest Alabama, a beautiful story and description of the early Muscle Shoals of the Tennessee River.

The legend associated with the Yuchie tribe, who in their language called the Tennessee Nunnuhsae or The Singing River. According to the Yuchi, these flowing waters sounded to them like a woman singing.

The Alabama-born musician was part of the prolific crew that made records at Rick Hall’s FAME (“Florence Alabama Music Enterprises”) Studio and Muscle Shoal Sound Studios, in the northwest corner of the state. - See more at: http://rockhall.com/inductees/spooner-oldham/#sthash.aqQV84c4.dpuf
Alabama historian William L. McDonald notes "the cascading waters . . . to the Indian was the spirit of a princess calling for her lover. Sometimes her song was loud and boisterous. On other occasions she sang softly. Now and then could be heard a most inaudible humming from her throat and lips. Yet, the princess is always here, hidden under the mysterious waters of an ancient river as she reveals her secrets through a thousand summers."

Water, it seems, has always been important to the legacy of Muscle Shoals. Helen Keller even lived there, after all, and anyone who has seen the film The Miracle Worker knows her first word was "water." 

 
Maybe it's a combination of the water, natural talent, family, friends, and country life that lent to Spooner's decision to spend $12.00 of his hard-earned money to buy that Stella. Whatever the case, we music lovers all benefited from his purchase. For decades, our lives have been blessed with the sweet sounds generated by Oldham. It is the simple, slightly ragged and genuine harmony of the man and his native land that lends to the longevity of the measures.

Spooner Oldham, the musician and the songwriter, remains a humble man who patiently infuses his music with his own soul, a spirit you can grasp if you open your ears and listen to the man from the soil of the Singing River. I urge you to feed your own heart and soul with the man and his music. I know the world is a much better place when we become attuned to Dewey Lyndon "Spooner" Oldham. Play the cuts and you too can "have a band in your house."


Out of Left Field
Percy Sledge, written by Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham

When least expected
Fate stumbles in
Bringing light to the darkness
Oh, what a friend

I needed someone to call my own
Suddenly, out left field
Out left field, out left field
Love came along, ooh

I was walking down a road that went no where
Building dreams that were all left by the way side
And then outta the blue
Honey, I found you, ohh, yeah

Sugar and peaches in a paradise land
Good love and sweetness, have taken their stand
She made a mountain of love
From a little grain of sand

Suddenly, out of left field
Came a lover and a friend
She was a lover and a friend
Came out of nowhere

She made me a man
Every thing is alright
How sweet it is


When least expected
Fate stumbles in
Bringing light to the darkness
Ohh, what a friend

I needed someone to call my own
Suddenly, out left field
Out left field, out left field
Love came along, ooh

I was walking down a road that went no where
Building dreams that were all left by the way side
And then outta the blue
Honey, I found you, ohh, yeah

Sugar and peaches in a paradise land
Good love and sweetness, have taken their stand
She made a mountain of love
From a little grain of sand

Suddenly, out of left field
Came a lover and a friend
She was a lover and a friend
Came out of nowhere

She made me a man
Every thing is alright
How sweet it is
Read more at http://www.songlyrics.com/percy-sledge/out-of-left-field-lyrics/#97A60ujU8KxKmp1T.99

Click for more on Spooner Oldham:

The Roots of American Music Trail Interview: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1o4m56xsV0g

Moments From the Theater CD: http://www.amazon.com/Moments-This-Theater-Penn/dp

Sweet Inspiration CD: http://www.amazon.com/Sweet-Inspiration-Songs-Spooner-Oldham/dp/B004FEDV8A/ref=sr_1_2?s=music&ie=UTF8&qid=1400602642&sr=1-2&keywords=spooner+oldham

The Fame Studios Story CD: http://www.amazon.com/Fame-Studios-Story-1961-73/dp/B005LOIEM6/ref=sr_1_3?s=music&ie=UTF8&qid=1400602642&sr=1-3&keywords=spooner+oldham

Spooner At Rock Hall of Fame Induction: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AP8B24ap0m8



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