Destined to become a primary force in the development of the southern soul, R&B sound, Dewey Lyndon Oldham, better known as Spooner, has played in the studio and on stage with some of the most notable and noteworthy musicians in history.
Born in Alabama on June 14, 1943, Spooner, in the rhythm section that also featured guitarist Jimmy Johnson, bassist David Hood, and drummer Roger Hawkins, helped define the sound that made Rick Hall’s FAME (Florence Alabama Music Enterprises) Studio the place for artists to record in the 1960s. Playing keyboards on such recordings as Percy Sledge’s 'When a Man Loves a Woman', Wilson Pickett’s “Mustang Sally', Arthur Alexander’s 'You Better Move On' and Aretha Franklin’s 'I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You)', to name a few, Spooner established a solid reputation among industry insiders and artists.
After moving to Memphis, Spooner resumed a writing partnership with singer-guitarist Dan Penn in 1967 to write songs that have since become soul classics, including 'I’m Your Puppet' for James and Bobby Purify, 'A Woman Left Lonely' for Janis Joplin and 'Cry Like a Baby' for the Box Tops. The duo have estimated that they’ve written nearly 500 songs together.
Spooner later moved to Los Angeles to record with numerous artists, from Gene Clark, Ry Cooder and Jackson Browne to Linda Ronstadt and the Flying Burrito Brothers. He’s featured on Bob Dylan’s Saved album and on numerous Neil Young albums in a professional friendship with Neil that spans more than 25 years.
On April 4, 2009, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inducted the keyboardist, honoring Spooner for his long and legendary service as a sideman.
"Ever since I first heard 'Respect' by Aretha Franklin on the radio, southern soul has been my favourite kind of music. I was only 10 years old, but the power of the song and Aretha’s voice moved me deeply. Years later, I realised that the magic of that record was also due to the unique performance of the (mostly white) musicians in the studio band. According to specialists, Spooner Oldham’s piano and organ work was a defining sound of the great music that came out of Muscle Shoals, Alabama, in the ’60s. I couldn’t agree more. Later, I discovered that Spooner Oldham is not only a great musician, but also a prolific songwriter, usually in tandem with his pal, Dan Penn. He has recorded and performed with, among others, Bob Dylan and Neil Young. In 2009, he was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. But above all, he is a sweet guy, who in 2004 even took the time to congratulate me on my French version of one of his songs. That eventually led to this tribute album, which I had the pleasure of recording with some friends from Holland. The icing on the cake was a trip to the Shoals, where I recorded one track with the Roadmaster himself. It was an honour, a privilege, and a thrill to sit next to him at the piano."
Jan De Vos a.k.a. JD Fox