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Andy Sullivan; Against The Grain

The other day, I was listening to Steven Van Zandt’s show on Little Steven’s Underground Garage (yes, he is Little Steven), I learned of Al Kooper.  He’s a songwriter, record producer and musician, known for organizing the group Blood, Sweat & Tears, although he didn’t stay long enough to enjoy their popularity.  Throughout the ‘60’s and ‘70’s, he was a prolific studio musician, playing organ on the Bob Dylan song “Like A Rolling Stone”.  Coincidentally (or maybe not so coincidentally), LSUG played “Like A Rolling Stone” as the payoff to the story Steven was telling about Al.  They really enjoy Bob Dylan on that station.

Kooper also played French horn and piano on the Rolling Stones’ “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”, lead guitar on Rita Coolidge’s “The Lady’s Not For Sale”, among many other appearances.  He also produced a number of one-off collaboration albums, such as the Super Sessions album that brought together guitarists Mike Bloomfield and Stephen Stills.  In the 1970’s he was a successful manager and producer, noticeably recording Lynyrd Skynyrd’s first three albums.  He also has a successful solo career, written film soundtracks, and has lectured in musical composition.  He continues to perform live.

Kooper has played with the Rolling Stones, B. B. King, The Who, Jimi Hendrix Experience, Alice Cooper(the other Al Cooper), and Cream.  During the late 1980’s, Kooper had his own dedicated keyboard studio room in the historic Sound Emporium recording studio in Nashville, next to Studio B. (SiriusXM LSUG.  Wikipedia).

I went to his website( and saw this write-up which chronicles some of his accomplishments.

You know his defining classic Hammond organ sounds on classic Dylan.  And you may know Flute Thing, which is just one of the lyrical works he created with Blues Project.  And then there is the haunting French horn on “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”.  That’s also Al.  There is the powerhouse Rock of Lynyrd Skynyrd, whom Al discovered and produced.  Along the line, Al played Jimi Hendrix, George Harrison, Paul Butterfield, B.B. King, Tom Petty and dozens more.  And, if you’re old enough, you walked along singing “This Diamond Ring”, which hit #1 in 1965.  Al co-wrote that in his days as songsmith at 1650 Broadway in New York City.  

Al’s autobiography-Backstage Passes and Backstabbing Bastards- available at Amazon and other stores, is a compelling look into the life of a rock star who was there at countless history-making events.  You can bet I’ll be heading to my Kindle to buy the book as soon as I finish this column.


I hope you got as much enjoyment reading about this legendary, yet perhaps unsung, figure in music as I did learning about him.


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