Like his friend Spooner Oldham, session musician, songwriter and recording artist Donnie Fritts was involved in many of the early songs and recordings created in the music community of Muscle Shoals, Alabama, in the sixties.
Donald R. Fritts was born on November 8, 1942 in Florence, Alabama, and began playing drums in local bands at 15. He developed into a session keyboard player and worked closely with, among others, Rick Hall, Arthur Alexander and Dan Penn, first in Tom Stafford's recording studio above the City Drug Store in Florence, later at FAME in Muscle Shoals. In 1965, he was employed as a staff writer by a Nashville publishing company and had songs recorded by Charlie Rich and Jerry Lee Lewis. He also met Kris Kristofferson, who asked him to join his band. Together, they performed all over the world and appeared in films, including 'Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid', 'Convoy' and 'A Star Is Born'.
Donnie Fritts wrote or co-wrote - often with the late Eddie Hinton - some indelible songs, including 'Breakfast in Bed' for Dusty Springfield, 'Choo Choo Train' for the Box Tops and 'We Had It All', recorded by Ray Charles, Willie Nelson and many others. As an artist in his own right, he recorded the albums Prone To Lean (1974, produced by Kris Kristofferson and the legendary Jerry Wexler), Everybody's Got a Song (1978, produced by Jon & Sally Tiven, with guest appearances by Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, Dan Penn, Spooner Oldham, Waylon Jennings, Delbert McClinton, Tony Joe White, Lucinda Williams and John Prine) and One Foot in the Groove (2008, produced by Dan Penn).
Recently, Donnie became friendly with artist, producer and label and studio owner John Paul White (formerly of the Civils Wars), who convinced him to record a new album, the brilliant 'Oh My Goodness'. Check it out on Spotify!
"Five years after The Roadmaster - A Tribute to Spooner Oldham, this album is my second homage to the songwriters and players behind the great music that came out of Muscle Shoals, Alabama, in the ‘60s and ‘70s. I first heard a Donnie Fritts tune in the summer of 1968, when he and his pal, the late Eddie Hinton, wrote the infectious ‘Choo Choo Train’ for The Box Tops. Later, I discovered that this man not only co-wrote with Hinton and other fellow Alabamians Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham but also with, among others, Tony Joe White, John Prine and Troy Seals. Their songs were recorded by The Rolling Stones, Dusty Springfield, Willie Nelson, Charlie Rich and Dolly Parton.
Donnie Fritts started out as drummer (so did I!) but switched to keyboards and played with Kris Kristofferson for 40 years. As an artist in his own right, he released four great albums (check out his latest on Spotify
, Oh My Goodness, it’ s a gem!). My admiration led to this tribute, which I recorded with a group of friends.
Once again, I traveled to the Shoals to cut one track with the man himself. He happened to be a sweet and incredibly humble guy, who couldn’t believe that I had come all the way from Europe just to sing with him.
That says it all, doesn’t it?”
Jan De Vos a.k.a. JD Fox