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Op-Ed: Barry Beckett – By Bob Lefsetz

Someday, long after Paul Simon’s dead, people are going to realize "There Goes Rhymin’ Simon" is one of the best albums of all time.

Paul Simon is not lovable. And he’s not dangerous. And without those two qualities, you get neither a victory lap nor a ton of gossip ink. But the work, the work endures.

Paul’s first solo album ended up with a couple of hits, but the intimacy didn’t register with the cognoscenti, hipsters avoided it. And missed out on intimate tracks like the almost creepy because it’s so personal "Duncan" and the exquisite "Armistice Day". Almost pissed that he didn’t get his due, Paul went back into the studio with something to prove. And recorded "There Goes Rhymin’ Simon", an album with no losers, as perfect in its own way as "Who’s Next".

But although "Baba O’Riley" and "Won’t Get Fooled Again" cleaned up on the FM, "Kodachrome" and "Loves Me Like A Rock" were gigantic on the AM, in an era when Top Forty was pooh-poohed, considered a joke. "There Goes Rhymin’ Simon" was purchased by millions, but without that hipster FM play, no one seems to remember the album cuts.

But I do.

The reason I’ll never forget "Rhymin’ Simon", the reason I speak of it today, bring it up in conversation on a regular basis, is Barry Beckett’s playing on "One Man’s Ceiling Is Another Man’s Floor".

It’s like a fairy emerged in the twilight and started walking upon the keyboard in your bedroom, and when you were finally startled awake, this fairy said BOO!

Someone with a degree can explain the technical magic, how Barry does it, all I know is Mr. Beckett’s playing on "One Man’s Ceiling Is Another Man’s Floor" is the essence of music. With no words, no visual cues, this piano player creates an entire mood, you’re brought to a special place, with all of your history and emotions in your kit bag.

I’m not sure even Barry could have explained it. Tons of practice, tons of sessions, and this stuff comes out on instinct.

There are great songwriters, great singers, but let us never forget the great players, without whom the songs would be just tracks, not classics.

I learned Barry Beckett’s name by reading the credits. Over and over again as the LP spun. I memorized who did what not because there was going to be a quiz, but because I needed to know. I needed to know everything about the cats who made this music. My only goal was to get closer.

That’s what blew up this business. We were like lemmings. Our minds were absent. Like some zombie movie, we just had to get closer to the sound. Not only did we want to go to the gig, we wanted to go to the studio, be a fly on the wall, to find out how these records were made!

Barry Beckett made a lot of records. His name is strewn over countless classic tracks. He, more than any other player, not to denigrate his compatriots, made Muscle Shoals, Muscle Shoals. It sounded so exotic! It was hard to believe it was just an industrial room in a backwater town. Because from inside came the sound of life itself!

Barry played with Traffic. Never mind Aretha and Duane Allman. You went to Muscle Shoals to get that sound, of the swamp. Where it was dark, but definitely alive.>{?
I followed him like you do an older brother who’s left home. Examining every clipping, digging deep whenever I found a reference. I bought Lenny LeBlanc’s "Breakthrough" just because Barry produced it. And if you don’t know "Somebody Send My Baby Home" you’re at a true loss, because in my pantheon, this is the number one track about being left behind.

Check Or the Wikipedia . You’ll be stunned who Barry Beckett was.

Yes, was.

Yesterday Barry Beckett died. He may be a footnote in the press, but in music, he was truly one of the giants.

Barry Beckett, founding member of Swampers, dies after long illness

Re-Barry Beckett

Somewhere tonight……. Someone listens to their favorite song. Maybe on the radio…. Maybe on satellite…. Maybe on cd or vinyl …. Odds are barry beckett is playing piano.. He produced my first two albums. He Taught me! Inspired me! Made me reach for more. He was one of the first to ever believe in a kid from Knoxville, Tennessee who used to sit out in the back yard in the middle of the night and stare at an open sky….. Knowing that there was something more…. I loved him….. I will take barry everywhere! I always have and I always will. He taught me to put a smile in everything. That’s important in life and especially to those of us who have music on our lives. Who are consumed by it…. My life is consumed by it and Barry Beckett is to blame and I am forever grateful !!!!

Kenny Chesney

Sent from my iPhone


Thanks for what you wrote…… I am in moline, Illinois tonight….. Just finished a show and tonight I am so proud to be a music man….. Barry taught me how along with countless others…… Kenny

Sent from my iPhone


I had the great honor of working with Barry on the Bob Seger record he was producing "The Fire Inside" many years ago.
He was such a great guy and a total pro and I was the weird guy from LA in Nashville before Nashville became what it is today. I remember him taking me in to the hallway of the studio saying "we do things a little slower here so just relax and enjoy". He was referring to the fact that in LA everything was done at a faster pace. I guess I was a little nervous working with legends.
He was a gentleman’s gentleman and one of the very best keyboard player/Producers I have had the pleasure of working with. I learned alot. He will be missed. God Bless him.

(Steve Lukather)


I had the pleasure of working with Barry Becket in 1971 down in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. Ahmet Ertegun had just signed Mark Rodney and myself and that’s where he wanted to produce our first album, Off The Shelf. I was 18 years old at the time and had never heard of Muscle Shoals but I am so glad I got to enjoy that experience. Barry was clearly the leader but the rhythm section of Roger Hawkins, David Hood and Jimmy Johnson. They were the perfect choice for Mark and myself. I would sit with Barry and he would chart out the songs for the other guys. I don’t think he’d seen the likes of us before and at one time during writing the charts he looked up and asked, "How do you come up with this stuff?"

Most of the takes we did were first takes including "Can You See Him" which had a four minute jam which sounds as if we’d played it forever. I realize that our record was not nearly as famous as many Barry and the gang played on but his piano part on "Working Man, Blind Man" was made up on the spot as we cut the track and it was great. His parts were subtle but fantastic! I later ran into to him hanging out at the Troubadour when he was touring with Traffic and he got me some tickets for their Long Beach show which I thought was very cool and they sounded great!

John Batdorf

More Barry Becket

I'm very saddened to hear about Barry Beckett's passing. He played organ and
keyboards on my very first LP "I'm Just A Prisoner" for Rick Hall's Fame
label in 1969. A lot of people give Rick credit for the Muscle Shoals
southern soul sound and he deserves it. But, Barry also deserves a lot of
that credit because Rick picked him and Eddie Hinton, David Hood and the
rest of those guys to help create and establish that sound.

I got to see Barry again back in 2005. After being away from R&B music for
over 20 years, Honest Jons label in London got me in the studio to record
"His Hands" at Mark Nevers' Beech House studio in Nashville. Mark thought it
would be cool to get some of the people who played on my first album and he
reached out to Barry and he came and we had a nice reunion. It was so good
to see him again. He was walking really slow but once he stood at that
organ, no one could out run him. His fingers were as nimble and fluent as
they ever were. He was a special man and I loved the sounds he made.

One day during a recording break on "His Hands", Chip Young, who had played
guitar with Elvis and and so many others, and I sat on the swing as Barry
and Chip were trading war stories. I'll never forget that day.

Candi Staton



Ya left out Beckett's electric piano on Dylan's "You Gotta Serve Somebody"
and fearful, you might have missed it, I am enclosing one of the HEADFUCKS
of ALL TIME – Don Covay's reggae take on Chuck Berry's "Memphis" one of
Muscle Shoals greatest exports featuring Barry's wonderfullness.

Al Kooper


I made my second album in Muscle Shoals with Beckett and the Rhythm Section.
It was an eye opening experience, I was really just a kid. He was great to
me, they all were. I met him again many years later when I lived and worked
in Nashville, and we were always happy to see one another.
I am so sorry to hear of his passing. He was a giant talent, quiet and
brilliant, and a very good man.
So sorry.

Wendy Waldman

P.S. he was only 66. wow.


When I was about 20 years old I met this drummer, Mark. I was trying to put
together a band and we got together to 'jam'. We met at his old man's house
to play in some underground basement like kids do. We played a few things.
New songs, old songs. Good covers, bad covers, etc. About 30 minutes in we
tried an original that I'd written. We finished, the door opens and it's
Barry Beckett.

Shit Mark's last name is…… Beckett….. his DAD is Barry Beckett, didn't
put that together. Sorry, I was 20! Anyhow, he said, "What was that?" I
gave him the title. He said, "Did you write that?" "Yes sir." A sly,
semi-approving grin and then, "Pretty good. Keep it up."
It felt like high praise to me at the time. Mark and I never started a
band. I've seen him again off and on over the years. To he and his whole
family my most sincere condolences.

Will Hoge


I had the pleasure of working with Barry Beckett in 1978 while playing sax
with Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes. We went to Muscle Shoals to
record the album, "The Jukes", and I'll never forget the feeling of awe I
had during those sessions. Beckett was warm, enthusiastic but, as he should
have been, unsparing in his desire to get the best performances out of us.
Sadly, I never worked with him again. What an amazing musician.

Stan Harrison


Barry and I decided we were going to make an album with Lonnie Mack
somewhere back in the '80's. Barry's first order of business was to spend
several hours discussing EXACTLY how far behind the beat the kick drum
should be in order to create maximum grease in the pocket. What a great
lesson in priorities. God bless him.

Larry Hamby


Bob, Sad to read this news! Barry Beckett was the absolute best!!!! A very
nice guy to boot. He produced "Gotta serve somebody" if my memory serves me
well. Sad. He was a one of a kind genius.

Are you aware that a great and generous guy in Nashville named Joe Chambers
has made a "Musicians Hall of Fame" to honor the great unheralded studio
players. It's a block from the country Music Hall of fame here in Nashville.
He's spent a fortune to honor the session players who've for the most part
been ignored. It's fabulous! Not to be missed. I can put you in touch with
Joe if you'd like. You'll love the whole deal. Henry (Gross)


Barry Beckett was once very nice to me, when he didn't have to be. I was the
new kid at Warner Bros. in Burbank, a lowly creative services writer, and
they sent me to Nashville because I was from Texas and they thought I'd dig
the division. It was in an old home for unwed mothers near Music Row. Cool,
with an Austin vibe. But I wandered around the building and didn't know
anyone. I came across Beckett, who invited me into his office and asked me
what I did. We started talking about music, and he quickly discovered not
only was I a huge soul music fan, I knew all his playing. But that didn't
matter to him, really. He just liked to talk about singers and songwriters
and what was going on in music. It was 1986, and he made a very observant
comment: he said the next ten years were going to see who kept growing:
George Strait or Randy Travis. Well, we know who won that race, but Barry
was talking about how each would be challenged with material and players and
how they really defined themselves. Barry Beckett was one of the greatest
keyboard players who ever lived, but even more he was an elegant and
intelligent man who was nice to strangers. That's what made him truly great.

Bill Bentley


In late 1980 I took my first trip to Muscle Shoals to meet Barry and plug
songs for his upcoming Delbert McClinton session.

I will never forget the hospitality shown me by Barry and his entire staff,
family, and friends.

Unlike L.A., where I was living and working at the time, everyone in Muscle
Shoals opened their doors, and invited me in.

It was at Halloween and Barry invited me to come to his home for a costume
party. I'll never forget when I arrived at his spectacular home a beautiful
woman with Dolly Parton size breasts, whom I had never met, approached me
and asked me to dance. In the middle of a slow dance she reaches down and
pulls two balloons out of here top and says to me, "now, isn't that better?"
The beautiful woman was of course Barry's wife, Diane. Barry definitely met
his match with Diane. Barry, Diane, and their son Mathew, all had a way of
making you feel right at home. In later years I had the great opportunity of
working with Barry at Warner Bros. Nashville. Barry produced a young
singer/songwriter I was working with at the time by the name of Pam Tillis.
If you ever get a chance to hear the first single release that Barry
produced on Pam at WB's it is a knock-out "One Of Those Things".

I have had many exciting and wonderful music business experiences over the
past 30 odd years but getting to know Barry and his sweet family rank right
at the top.

My heart goes out to you Barry, Diane, and Mathew.

Your pal,
Randy Talmadge


Hi Bob,

My very first day in the studio as a greenhorn was at Criteria in Miami,
circa 1974. I was the gopher on a Paul Stookey record, and Barry Beckett was
arranging and more or less conducting the string section. Everybody took a
break after they nailed the take and the double track. I remained in the
control room with Barry. I looked at him and said, "Wow, that guy's really
good." Meaning the artist.

Barry looked at me and responded, "You have no idea who that GUY is, do
you?" I knew who Peter Paul and Mary were, but never knew Paul by his last

Ten years ago, I met with Barry while in Nashville. It was the first time
we'd seen each other since that day in 1974. He was old and somewhat shakey.
I reminded him of our first meeting, and he said, "I'm surprised you're
still in the business. You weren't smart enough to bullshit me back then,
and you were dumb enough to remind me of it today…. actually, you might be
PERFECT for the music business!"

He roared with laughter, tapped me on the head with his cane, gave me a
little wink and hobbled away.

Long may you run Barry,

Michael Laskow


You are absolutely right that this is one of the best albums ever, and Barry
Beckett's contribution was enormous.

I consider this to be Phil Ramone's classic as well. The sounds, textures,
balances, and arrangements are all exquisite. Listen to it with headphones
and your eyes closed. The way he mixes, he identifies the one moment where
an instrument is at it's most interesting, and then pushes it in the mix.
The result is a feeling like the parts are randomly but majestically
exploding like fireworks.

Barry Beckett is truly great. So is Paul Simon. A room full of greatness
orchestrated by one of the top producers of all time. No wonder it's a

Michael McCarty

EMI Music Publishing Canada


Barry Beckett…the first impression could be of this giant of a muso with
the reputation to dwarf anyone – Dylan's first Grammy, Paul Simon, Rod
Stewart, Joe Cocker, Traffic, Delbert McClinton, Kenny Chesney, Hank Jr,..oh
uh…gruff, intimidating, large……but then…the twinkle in those blue
eyes, that sardonic grin…and you were swept away by his quiet magnetism,
his eternal love of music and you were comforted and assured by his deep
knowledge of how a studio "works" and how a musician feels…that was Barry
Beckett the producer…Barry the player? ..books will be written, stories
will be told about that undefinable groove and magic that he brought to
every song he played on.

I worked with him several times…once with a very well known band from
Europe. They came to Nashville to record an album. After the first studio
meeting..not session…he took me aside and said, "we can do this two ways.
1, they can play on the album…it'll take weeks and it'll sound like
shit…2, they can sing and I'll get the players. It'll take a few days and
it'll sound like a real record"

Initially the band – who had been together for years and had many platinum
records etc, were a little put out…so Barry said, "OK, you guys try..and
then let me try my way". So they did. They did try…and this wasn't a
country record

Barry played keys and booked the most suitable Nashville studio players for
that particular sound he was going for…The band did all the vocals and

It took a few days, the band had the most incredible fun in the studio, made
a huge selling album, made life long friends with Barry and it sounded
like a real record..

Barry was generous, humorous, curious, particular, warm.and frighteningly

We lost a great one on Wednesday….and Heaven got a great player with
impeccable taste.


Paul Zamek.


Don't forget Mavis Staples calling Barry's name on "I'll Take You There,"

Richard Pachter


I'm a lifelong Nashvillian you've never heard of. About four or five years
ago, I worked at a small talent agency/management company that had an all
girl band trying to get a deal. Barry was producing the demos. This was
before he was in a wheelchair full time. I remember how arduous it was
watching him go from his PT Cruiser to the office.

A guy with his kind of accomplishment in this modern music world would bury
you in a narcissitic frenzy. I knew some of the things he did, but
unfortunately his obituary opened up my eyes even farther. He didn't know
me from Adam's housecat, but looking back I am stunned at how unassuming he
was. In a PR driven world where shoplifters become gangsters to pump up
their street cred, it's nice to remember that talent brings it's own

Thank you,

Scott Hogue


It was 1974 and my band was at RCA studio D in NY doing a demo for one of
the RCA A&R guys…We were having all kinds of problems on 2 of our songs as
we need piano for the song to sound correct and we did not have a piano
player….We didn't know what to do when out of nowhere a voice came from
the control room in a southern twang, " you boys look like you could use a
hand, I will be glad to take a shot for you, How bout it" we didn't have any
idea who it was but we needed help so we said yes…When the A&R guy
introduced us to him and we found out it was Barry Beckett we freaked as we
totally knew who he was and what Muscle Shoals was all about..My God he had
played on some of our favorite records and he was willing to sit in with us
on our demo….We only had the studio for 2 more hours but Barry pulled the
A&R guy out of earshot and when he came back we were told we could stay
until we were satisfied we did the best demo we could….Needless to say we
did not get signed but I will never forget what a gentleman he was and later
when I ran into him numerous times in Nashville I would always thank him for
that day and he would smile and say" nothin to it buddy""Glad I could
help"….R.I.P. Barry…There aren't many more like you around…

Al Marks


Right on again, Mr Bob

Charlie Gillett


bob, this is beautiful.

barry and i were in leadership music together in 2000. he was a giant of a
man with a sweet, gentle spirit. we talked for hours about all those
sessions. the record he did with delbert mcclinton is still one of my
favorites. his son mark is now playing drums on the grand ole opry. he was
really proud. he used to share his love of model trains with my kids. god
bless you for this wonderful, insightful eulogy.


Billy Block


Bob – Alongside the industry facts that make Barry a giant and a legend, I
want to share my memory of him as a generous teacher. Years ago, he brought
me to MS to play guitar on an album project. I was young, and, as became
clear to me after one day with the MS guys, inexperienced. Barry could have
given me the "Look, it's just not working" speech. But, each evening,
hanging out in the Beckett kitchen, he would find ways to encourage and
school me in how to raise my game. I remain grateful.

Dave Perkins


Like you, I followed Barry's career via liner notes but I met him once and
was very impressed by him. I think it must have been at the time he was
working at Warner Bros. in Nashville. A wonderful guy to talk music to.

And I have been to Muscle Shoals and my buddy Rodney Hall, Rick's son, still
runs the Fame Studio there and you can feel the magical presence of all of
those early Swamper sessions there even though many of the players long
migrated to Nashville where there was more work (some have drifted back into
town). But the feel is still there.

I deeply mourn Barry's passing.

Larry LeBlanc


As former studio manager of Ocean Way Nashville, I had the honor and the
pleasure to work with Barry on a few occasions in the studio. I can honestly
say that Barry was the real deal. He demanded and nurtured the best from the
people around him and it was all about how it moved him or made him feel. He
produced and played keyboards from his soul, not from his head. He was a
good man and truly one of the pioneers of our industry. He and his ability
to create something amazing, brilliant and life changing out of an emotion
will be sorely missed. Rest in peace Barry. Music Row will never be the

Sharon Corbitt-House


Beckett on Communique: still my favorite Dire Straits album – the production
on that captures an atmosphere that made me play it ad infinitum!

Neville Klotz


I bought Etta James' Seven Year Itch in the early 90s when I was about 22
years old – around the time when Muscle Shoals became the center of my music
universe. I would pour over the credits, too, trying to learn about players
and producers and such.

Barry Beckett produced that album. Check out her incredible take on "The
Jealous Kind." I've been trying to do that version justice since then.

Thank you for recognizing Mr. Beckett today.

Kristi Johnston


So sorry to hear that about Barry. He was a player's player but also had the
knowledge & understanding about the business to create a musical Mecca of
"feel" & "grooves" in the middle of nowhere ( Muscle Shoals, Alabama) He
was, ( and his rhythm section of players) for the most part the sound of
Muscle Shoals. If you wanted that fat back beat, skanky, swampy groove, that
could make U move, Muscle Shoals Sound had it goin' on.

As a young session player, I transplanted myself from NY to Alabama in the
late 70's just to be part of that scene. I did the right thing. RIP BB.

Michael Panepento


Amen Bob. Traffic on the Road was my first introduction to Traffic, and
imagine my shock when I discovered that Barry Beckett and David Hood and
Roger Hawkins were not regulars of the band and were not on the other more
famous albums!

Doctor Alias


RE: Re-Barry Beckett/Fire Inside

Bob :

So THAT'S Bobby Beckett, playing piano on the greatest song Springsteen
never wrote and Roy Bittan never played on? Amazing work, on an amazing
song. Talk about songs you wanna hear blasting out of your car stereo,
windows rolled down, pedal to the metal, screaming down an open highway in
the middle of the night.

Russ Novack


Thank you for your great words about a great man-Barry. He was a gentle
giant whom Mavis Staples urged to "play on it, play on it, play your piano"
in I'll Take You There. And another great record by Mel and Tim- Starting
All Over Again- was co-produced by Barry and Roger Hawkins.—-

I knew him well and saw him work with Wexler a lot. He will be greatly

Thanks again Bob,–
Charlie Feldman


You're wrong about the "was." He lives on in every "southern" or soulful
musician, singer-songwriter…whether they knew him or not. The real music
transcends anything as puny as death. John "hound" brown


i worked with barry in nashville in the 1980's.

thank you for bringing this legend to light.

miss you barry.

randy singer


…he was a humble, lovable guy who just liked to play piano as part of the
process…no ego….just "let's go."

Mitchell Fox



I read your articles weekly, if not daily. Great stuff, and without blowing
"smoke", I truly thank you for providing insight at a much-needed time in
our business.

I especially thank you for giving honor and a tip of the cap to Barry
Beckett; I had the honor of spending some time with him while he was still
with us, and he will be missed here in Nashville.

Best regards,

George Ducas


This is the first I've heard of Barry's demise. Damn.

He was a monster player, but also a true gentleman. I facilitated his
getting the production gig for Jason & The Scorchers when I was with A & M,
and later had the pleasure of pitching songs to him on numerous occasions
(one of which he actually cut). He was always gracious, funny, and willing
to tell a good story.
We'll miss him here on Music Row.


Max Hutchinson


Dear Bob,

Barry Beckett was my friend. Not a close friend, but as music publisher, he
, being a record producer, always took my calls, told me what artists he was
looking for, or what sessions were coming in to the studio. He always
listned to the songs I sent him and he always told me the truth….If he
hated a song, he told me, and if he liked it, he would file it away in his
song file.

To me, he was always a straight shooter and he cut a lot of songs of mine
with his artists. We last spoke a few years ago. We were both laughing at me
giving up my carear to be a "house mom" to my daughter and about him
producing country artists….Where life takes us is always a mystery. Yes,
he was an incrediable talent, but to me he was always a great human
being…one who left this place called earth, a much better place to be,
simply because he was here!

R.I.P. Barry Beckett
Always and forever my friend

Stephen-Craig Aristei
Creative Talent Management
The Rights Company


Very sad, and also sad that he might get more attention now than he did when
he was alive.

Barry also produced Phish's album, Rift, which might be their best studio
album from beginning to end (in my opinion).

Marc Lawrence


I loved his keyboard work with Bob Seger.That was the first I had heard of

On a "Against the Wind" the subtle touches that he added were just
perfect,not a note out of place.

Thanks Barry R.I.P

And thanks Bob for reminding us of him and many others that we sometimes
take for granted when listen to our favorite music.

Tino Perez


In the early '80s I went to Muscle Shoals to interview Barry Beckett for a
British radio series. Fascinating as our conversation was for a fan of '60s
R&B like me, I remember thinking it wouldn't make such ear-catching radio as
a more excitable man exclaiming, "Wow, we really nailed it that night!" In
spite of his crucial contribution to some of the greatest records ever made,
what I got on tape was a working musician talking about his job with
strikingly diffident modesty – a trait shared by just about every other
Southern musician I was lucky enough to talk to.

John Pidgeon


He was a truly a good man. He loved music, made great records and treated
people (particularly songwriters) with the respect they deserved. Although
there are too many great performances to accurately pick a "best", I
personally loved the piano on the end of "I Go Crazy" by Paul Davis. May a
great man rest in peace and his family find comfort in this sad time.
Brian Rawlings


Wait until well after midnight, turn off all the lights save one candle,
pour a long pull of your favourite drink, turn the tuner up to 10 and drop
the needle on "Loan Me A Dime" from Boz Scaggs' 1st album recorded with
Duane Allman and the Muscle Shoals house band. Boz dives to the depths of
his soul, Duane reaches for the sky but the first thing you hear is Barry
Beckett framing this piece with a keyboard riff that sets up one of Rock's
most emotive tracks.

Andrew Forsyth


Barry Beckett will be remembered by all as one of the greatest
"groovemeisters" of all time He once produced tracks to try to get me a deal
on Warner Bros. He could dial in a feel for the track by the way he played
time He cut slot of my songs through the years and I was always so proud,
cause he honestly loved the music. I've already been missing seeing him
anymore, I'm glad he's free now as he was when he made music

Gary Nicholson


Hi,Bob! I was so very happy that you led off your tribute to Barry Becket by
mentioning his out-of this- world work on the wonderful Paul Simon track
"One Man's Ceiling".Many years ago,a sort of semi-supergroup lurked in these
parts comprised of all the best players in town not otherwise occupied.For a
spell this band worked the bar circuit here(I live in Winnipeg,Manitoba).For
a time I found that if I hustled,I could wrap my gig up and get to a club to
see Papa Pluto(featuring Kurt Winter of Guess Who fame on guitar),thrash out
an insanely wonderful version of the Simon chestnut,featuring a young
gentleman named Fred Redeckop on piano and vocals.Some nights I can still
the shivers doen my spine recalling the song,the band,(to a man,they all
deserved to go farther,can't say enough about the talent level).Many years
later,I found myself laid over in Florence,Alabama,and slipped over to Fame
Studios for a look.During my time there I was fortunate enough to meet
Barry,(and a couple of other local legends),And found him to be a genuine
kind-hearted'down-to-earth guy.He clued me in on where to see some great
live music and some of the very best bbq it's ever been my privilige to
overindulge in.There were giants in those days.Ernie B.



Jeffrey Ainis


In late 1983, when Phil Ramone was asked by Ahmet Ertegun to produce John
Lennon's son, Julian, Phil was determined to make the best album possible.
Phil knew it would be a daunting task with John Lennon having left us just a
few years earlier, but he was of the firm belief he could do it. (And if
you know Phil Ramone, you know he does what he puts his mind to!)

Phil listened to Julian's demos, had several creative meetings with Julian
and Ahmet and suggested we go and cut basic tracks at Muscle Shoals, where
he did the legendary Paul Simon masterpiece There Goes Rhymin' Simon.

I was just a few years older than Julian and we spent quite a bit of time
together. Julian didn't know the legacy of the place we were about to
inhabit, wasn't perfectly sure this was the right move, yet had faith in
Phil. I knew that once we hit the searing heat of the South and learned
about this vaunted venue, Julian would know why we were there.

We arrived at the local airport, picked up our 12 seat white Dodge
passenger van, which I drove as the young production manager, dropped off
our gear and bags at the local Holiday Inn and made our way to one of the
most historic recording studios on the planet. (Yes, right up there with A&R
Recording and The Hit Factory in NY, Air Studios and Abbey Road in London,
Criteria in Miami, Guillaume Tell in Paris, Oceanway, The Village Recorder,
Conway, Westlake and so many others in Los Angeles.

Muscle Shoals Studios was a legendary recording studio not only because of
its stellar clientele—Aretha, Paul Simon, Wilson Pickett, the Staple
Singers–as well as all the local products who made memorable records there,
but because of the best rhythm section on the planet. THAT WAS WHY WE WERE

On a boiling hot day, Phil, Julian, myself, his manager and his guitar
player walked into an old, battered shell of a recording facility in the
deep South. Everyone's reaction (excluding Phil's of course) was, sheesh,
what is this? Nothing fancy, incredibly-plain looking, dull white walls,
older than old, quite ordinary.

One by one, out of the kitchen area stepped David Hood, Roger Hawkins, Jimmy
Johnson and the one and only Barry Beckett to introduce themselves. Humble,
introspective, quiet, warm. It was the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section. They
were delighted to see Phil and sincerely happy to meet Julian and his

We sat around and Phil laid out his plan on how this two week jaunt was
going to play out. Then Barry start to talk. I'll always remember Barry for
how well he treated Julian and us. Like a father figure, listening to Phil
and Julian's creative ideas, guiding them, the band and the boy wonder,
Julian, to his million-plus selling debut release.

He was the band leader for our dates, but so much more. His storytelling
was amazing and it wasn't just from all the dates the Rhythm Section played
on in their life. He had a true sense of caring and it lived in all the
stories he shared. His keyboard playing was indescribable: fluid, melodic,
sweeping, grand, rhythmic and much more.

Etta James, Aretha Franklin, Bob Dylan, Laura Nyro, Bob Seger, Leon Russell,
Linda Ronstadt, Boz Scaggs, Willie Nelson, Rod Stewart and so many others.
Just a snapshot of those he played with and/or produced.

He was a major, major star, producing Dylan, playing on scores of massive
hits and he was the complete humble Southern gent to a t. I think of Barry
often and cannot believe he's gone.

Session Player. Producer. Teacher. Friend.

My trip to Muscle Shoals at a young age remains one of many deeply-ingrained
magical memories in my mind.

Go in peace, Barry. There was no one like you.

Joe D'Ambrosio



Thanks for this, studio players like Barry were artists themselves in their
ability to bring these great songs to life with groove, imagination, melody
and soul.

I've had the pleasure of playing with quite a few great session players from
that era (some you would know and some who have remained in obscurity),
these individuals are our greatest teachers and very very few young cats
coming up today have had the opportunity to learn directly from these
masters (the way guys like Barry did in the 40s/50s when a vibrant music
community was essential at all levels).

In 2009, with no "studio scene" or even a vibrant "club scene" for live
music, music education has moved into the schools where it is turning out
lots of great technicians who then graduate and have no way to make a living
and no strut in their step. Great musicianship used to be earned with the
hard knocks of late nights gigging and begging to get on the band stand only
to finally get on and get screamed at by old bad asses like Barry Beckett!
That makes you go home and practice! I was lucky enough to come up in
Milwaukee in the early 90's where clubs like the Up & Under guaranteed this
environment, even for a 16 year old who snuck in and jammed…that era
appears to be gone.

We need to embrace our great rhythm sections again (the old and the new),
music does not truly come alive without them, the groove is in the rub and
that comes from flesh and bone communication, soul to soul.

I've had the honor of playing guitar in Gregg Allmans band since 2008. This
band has the legendary Jerry Jemmott on bass (playing his ass off), check
out his discography (after all, he is also one of the GREAT muscle shoals
session men)! The great Steve Potts (from Booker T and the MGs) is on drums,
this section cooks! The band is rounded out with even more incredible
talent, Bruce Katz on keys, Jay Collins on sax and Floyd Miles on percussion
and vocals. Not to mention Gregg who is singing his ass off!

Not that this band needs props or an advertisement. But I would encourage
you and your readers to come hear this band, and hear someone like Jerry
Jemmott play the bass while they still can! (hes not going ANYWHERE soon but
now IS the time!!) We're about to do a west coast run:

Come support the Barry Becketts of old and new, yours in protection of the

Scott Sharrard


Barry's legacy continues with his sons Matthew, a fine engineer and Mark an
incredible , up and coming session drummer . Like their father, they are
both kind and upstanding gentleman . I know their father was proud !

Bruce Bouton.


Hello Bob..

I just wanted to take a minute and say thank you for the letter you wrote on
your site about my father..Barry Beckett. A musician buddy of mine sent it
to me and I have read it numerous times…welling up or crying everytime I
do so. It does me proud to know that you and so many other people thought
so much of him and his talents. He truly was one of a kind.

I will be putting together a memorial for him at the Musicians Hall of Fame
very soon….Please come if you can. It would be nice to see you.

Mark Beckett


Subject: Barry B.


This is Steve Buckingham in Nashville. Our friend, Bob Kirsch, sent me the
many statements about Barry Beckett that you posted. I am going to forward
all of these to his sons, Mark and Matthew. Diane, his wife, doesn't do
email but I will make sure she gets a copy of all the wonderful things
everyone has said about Barry.

Barry had been scheduled to play Wurlitzer and B-3 with me three years ago
on a Joan Osborne album I was producing. It was that week that Barry had the
first of a series of strokes that he never really recovered from.

Two weeks ago Diane asked Eddie Bayers, Michael Rhodes and me to come see
Barry for what we all knew would be the last time. Needless to say, it was
very emotional.

I am helping Diane, Mark and Matthew put together a memorial service for
Barry. It will be at the Musicians Hall of Fame in Nashville and I will let
you know the date so you can post it.

By the way, I have heard from so many people about Barry's death. Paul Simon
called from his tour in New Zealand to offer his condolences. I asked him to
call Diane, Barry's wife of over 43 years, which he did.

Thanks Bob for keeping some of us "in touch."

The following is something I wrote on the night I was told Barry had died.

Eddie Bayers just called me and Barry died about 30 minutes ago. Barry
Beckett was one of the greatest studio keyboard players in history and a
hell of a guy. If you listened to Rhythm & Blues, Bob Dylan's "Gotta Serve
Somebody," Paul Simon's "Kodachrome"…and thousands of other
records…you've heard Barry Beckett.

I first met Barry in 1976 in Muscle Shoals, Alabama when I was still playing
sessions and hadn't yet started producing. Barry and the other members of
the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section…Roger Hawkins, David Hood and Jimmy
Johnson…were already legends, having played on records for everyone from
Wilson Pickett to the Rolling Stones.

Barry moved to Nashville a few years after I did. The first country artist I
produced in Nashville was Tammy Wynette and the first musician I called to
play on the session was Barry. I have a great picture of Tammy, Barry and
all the other musicians together in the studio. We all look so young…and,
sadly, three of those in the photo are no longer with us.

Barry and I worked together a number of times over the following years and
even co-produced some artists together. As so many of the other musicians
have recalled, the image of Barry holding a cigarette in one hand, elbow on
one knee, toothpick in his mouth…staring at the keyboard, waiting to lay
just the right 5 or 6 notes in the perfect spot…is indelibly stamped in
our memories.

A week ago today, I went to see Barry for the last time with Eddie Bayers
and Michael Rhodes. Eddie and Michael played drums and bass on hundreds of
Barry's productions as well as for me. We all consider ourselves lucky to
have had him as a mentor…and, especially, a friend.

I will close with this one story. Barry and a group of us studio musicians
and producers loved trains. Every year we would charter a steam engine and
several cars and go on all day excursions out of Chattanooga. The cars were
the old, luxurious types built in the 1930s. The last car on the train had a
platform out back and we all wanted to spend time sitting out there,
watching the tracks disappear behind us. This is where Barry would park
himself for the entire day, except when it was time to eat. One afternoon I
was sitting on the back platform with Barry who, typically, had his elbow on
one knee and was holding a cigarette…staring at the tracks. Finally he
said: "Buck…listen to that rhythm" (He was referring to the clickety-clack
of the steel wheels on the rails). Barry continued, "That's a deep pocket
(groove)…let's remember that the next time we're in the studio."

Believe me…there are a lot of things I remember about Barry Beckett.

Steve Buckingham
Nashville…June, 2009


Subject: Re: More Barry Beckett

Barry and Roger Hawkins produced Orleans' debut LP in 1973.

We were beyond thrilled to be working with them in Muscle Shoals, as young
music bucks rapt with what was already a considerable legacy from that
srudio and team.

Barry taught us much, as well as joining us on a couple of tracks. We
learned a lot and laughed a lot.

The whole LP took 2 weeks – from basic trax to finished mixes on 11 cuts –
and remains our hardest-core fan's favorite album.

We took in more in that 2 weeks about recxording than we'd learned in
20-something years on the planet!

And yeah, we had to stop recording whenever it rained (the tin roof '-)

They sent us back to Woodstock with a thick drawl and a lot more wisdom
about musix and the biz.

Next time we met up with Barry was in Nashville mid-80s. He was
always the gracious, gentle giant, the quiet genius who touched so many with
his understated music and personality.

Only the good die young, indeed.

Larry Hoppen.