What His Peers Say About Al Kooper

These statements were part of the liner notes for the CD Rare and Well Done, released by Columbia records in 2001.

Tom Petty

Singer / Songwriter / Guitarist / Keyman for the Heartbreakers / Natural Blond

"Al actually played with me before I was in The Heartbreakers. I did some stuff and Al played the organ and piano with me and Mike Campbell. That's where we first kind of met up. Then I got The Heartbreakers together, after our first album, he gave us the first tour we ever went on. We were opening up for Al on his Act Like Nothing's Wrong Tour, which was appropriately named. We had a good time. Al would sometimes come out and sit in with us. It was a real learning experience. Al had a big bus and we were in a little van. We went around, and he gave us that shot, it was good for us. For that, we are eternally grateful. I think down deep he's a softie. He's the funniest guy in the world; he makes me laugh so hard. You know the funniest thing is, Mudcrutch, the band I was in before, actually opened for Al Kooper in Ft Lauderdale in like '73. He saw us play after that in Atlanta, and I said, 'Well, why didn't you sign us up?' He said, 'You weren't that good yet.'"

BB King

King of the Blues / Nightclub Owner / Inexhaustible Road Warrior

"Al is a true friend of the blues. He can always make me laugh, and just when I thought I had figured him out as a keyboard player, he came up onstage one night and played guitar just as well as he played keyboards! I've played with him, been produced by him, I've certainly laughed with him and I don't know if I can say that about any other one person."

Pete Townshend

The Who Founder / Guitarist / Writer / Opera Buff

"He was hard-working, smoky, quick to learn and mistake-proof. I Love his swirling Hammond sound, too. First time we ever used it, we were in New York for the first session on the short opera call Rael in 1967. We hung out a bit together and he told me about his fantasy big-band, which next trip I saw at the Cafe Au Go-Go as Blood, Sweat and Tears. I saw them three times in New York. The band got better and better. Al got kind of left behind, despite some brilliant writing. What a great session man, though. He lives on music like food. Al was always shining, black eyes, charming. A really great presence for me in those early New York years for The Who."

Billy F. Gibbons

Guitarist / Singer / Writer / Automotive Afficionado / ZZ Top's Longest Beard

Liner notes to Rare and Well Done: "Here's an interesting collection of well-known and formerly unreleased works of intense dedication from an intensely dedicated American artist, Al Kooper. These recordings represent the fascinating range of creative performances from the soulful of a fine musician. Satisfying and spirited."

Gene Simmons

KISS bassist / Singer / Writer / Actor / Personal Manager / Multi-Platform Artist

"I've always thought of Al as one of the unsung heroes rock'n roll. A guy that's always lived in the shadows and has never really gotten his due. A guy who never really played by the rules, who always followed the voices of the music in his head and his heart and really made a big difference in the way music was created and recorded in the latter part of the twentieth Century."

Anton Fig

Drummer for David letterman and the rest of the free world

"Al Kooper is one of a kind – from his distinctive organ playing, to his vocal styling, to his producing – it's like you can hear him a mile away and not because he's playing loud. From his sardonic wit in person, to his words on paper to his compositions in music – he is one of a kind, but thank God there's only one of him."

Bill Szymczyk

Unpronounceable Producer / Engineer – Eagles, BB King, J Geils, Edgar Winter, The Who, James Gang, Al Kooper

"He's the oldest friend I have that I'm still hanging with. I've known him since 1964. That was the year I got out of the Navy and got in the music business. I basically started as a floor sweeper while he was your basic fledgling songwriter peddling his tunes on Tin Pan Alley. When we were supposed to be in college, we were walking up and down Seventh Avenue in New York, learning the deal. He's like my best old college buddy in the sense that we could fall out of touch a couple of years at a clip and then when we see each other, we click immediately. To borrow a line from Peter Wolf, Al and I went to the College of Musical Knowledge and graduated to the University of Perversity.

Billy Payne

Writer / Singer / Keyboardist / Eccentric / Founding Member of Little Feat

"I know the story that when he played with Dylan he had probably never played a B3 organ before it was out there just hitting the right notes. His instincts are very, very good. I mean this guy is a well of soul. He just has this innate ability to draw things out of thin air. But it was amazing, his instincts as a player going on a Dylan record like that and doing the same thing. He's not the best keyboard player I've ever heard, but you know what? He plays all the right notes. I find that an amazing hat trick."

Ray Manzarek

Doors Keyboardist, Left-Handed Bassist and Mythologist

"We had heard about Al Kooper's new band Blood, Sweat & Tears playing in New York City at the Cafe au Go Go, so we decided to go see them. All of the Doors went including Jim Morrison. Jim Morrison saw Kooper's Blood, Sweat & Tears. It was probably the best use of horns we've ever seen up to that point in rock'n roll or since then. He captured the essence of the four horns with guitar, bass, drums and keyboard absolutely superbly. And it was a great, hot, driving night downstairs in the Village; one of the best times I've ever had. "House in the Country" was certainly one of my favorites, and I play at the end of my piano solo on "LA Woman" my homage and tip of the hat to Al Kooper. I play a musical quote from "House in the Country". I talked to Al about it, at least 10 years ago, and he first said, 'You know, you stole that line from me in your solo in "LA Woman"'. I said 'No, "that's for you I didn't steal it from you. That's me saying to you, "Al really cool band, beautifully done." That is my verbatim quote of one of your great lines.' And he said, 'Really? That's an homage to me?' I said, 'You got it brother,' and he was tickled pink."

Ed King

Ex-Guitarist – Lynyrd Skynyrd / Strawberry Alarm Clock / Co-Writer - "Sweet Home alabama"

"When Skynyrd strolled into the L.A. Record Plant in 1974 to work on the second album, the engineer asked Al if he wanted to use Dolby Noise Reduction. 'Nope', Al said. We make rock'n roll records here. Pretty cool, I thought. I think Lynyrd Skynyrd owes its success to Al Kooper. Being a Yankee from the North he provided a birds-eye view of how the Southern band should be presented to the world."

Joe Walsh

Singer / Writer / Guitarist / Keyboardist/ Presidential Candidate / James Gang / Barnstorm/ Eagles / TV star

"I first met Al when The Blues Project played at Kent State University in Ohio. I lived in a dorm on campus and tried to get a band together. I would describe Al as the best musician I have ever seen. He was very kind to me, and answered many, many questions I barraged him with. He was very patient, he went out of his way to help a very curious kid. From hanging out with him during the equipment load-in, sound-check, and that evening, the concert, I pretty much decided I wanted to be like him. My academic status promptly nose-dived, but it was truly the beginning of Joe Walsh as a full-time and dedicated musician. I don't think I ever thanked him so I will. Thank you, Al. I owe you a lot.

Amy Tan

Author - Joy Luck Club / Chanteuse - The Rock Bottom Remainders

"He has such impeccable taste in music. After all, it was he who advised me that I could help literacy causes by wearing a dominatrix outfit with thigh-high leather boots and singing "These Boots Were Made for Walking," capped with my whipping the butts of the boys in the band to ensure a snappy ending. I bet I am also one of the few living persons on earth who has caught Al singing "Catch a Falling Star and Put It in Your Pocket" with Steven King and Dave Barry on a midnight bus headed for Nashville."

Richard Thompson

English Singer / Songwriter / Guitarist Extraordinaire / Founding Member of Fairport Convention

"I got to know Al when he was my A&R man at Polygram. A great guy, lots of fun, good jokes, great stories – not the kind of person to survive at a record company! I've always appreciated his musicality, support, sense of realism, and unusual approach to an insane business."

Andy Partridge

XTC Writer / Singer / Guitarist / Sultan of Swindon

"Al Kooper is in this strange sort of shadow-land, where he appears on all those records, yet for some reason he's not there at the Rock'n Roll Hall of Fame, but he's the sort of name they ought to be inducting–one of those people who is like Atlas or Hercules or something. He seems to hold up the entire American rock world. Al Kooper is just one of those people. There are all those records."

Brian Wilson

Singer / Writer / Bassist / Pop Music Visionary / Architect of Unsurpassed Background

"Al played those great organ parts for Dylan. He was a guest at my home in the '60s, and he's welcome back anytime he wants to come back."

John Lee Hooker

Bluesman for Life / Former Proprietor - Boom Boom Room

"Al Kooper's a great musician. He loves the blues and shows. We've had many good times together over the years. Played a lot of gigs."

Joe Ely

Singer / Songwriter / Unofficial Mayor of Austin, TX / Appliance Owner

"I just love working with Al because he had a great sense of humor. Al only lived in Austin for maybe a year, and when he left he had to get rid of all of this stuff. I bought a refrigerator from him, but when I put it in my studio, I couldn't open the door, so I had to turn the refrigerator upside down. So I've had this upside down refrigerator in my studio for like 20 years, and every time I would see Al, he would ask me about it no matter how long it had been since we’ve seen each other. Because of the way I placed it, the refrigerator sings all night. It hums, it almost sounds like the choir singing. That refrigerator has shown up on many recordings thanks to Al Kooper. You can hear it on "Letter to Laredo" and "Twisting in the Wind." I've never given Al credit, but I should give hinm refrigerator credit on those albums."

Jimmy Vivino

Guitarist Late Night with Conan O'Brien / Al Kooper Bandmate for Over 15 Years

"I learned how to play organ and learned how to play guitar from Super Session. The funny thing is, kids were playing cowboys and Indians I was playing Bloomfield and Kooper. Now when we play together I play Bloomfield and he still plays Kooper."

"I would never be, like some reviewers, a purist that would say 'How dare he do a Ray Charles song.' But for kids like me, that made it okay for us to try, too, because he originally had the nerve to do that."

Steve Winwood

Singer / Writer / Keyboardist / Guitarist / Spencer Davis Group / Traffic / Blind Faith

"Al Kooper took me under his wing somewhat in San Francisco on my first visit to U.S. In 1967. Amongst his many musical achievements are his organ playing and his sound on his early recordings, which have become a staple in the repertoire of every organist. This, combined with various other facets, including his guitar playing, record production, and songwriting, add up to a man of vast talent and great character; a true musician."

Clive Davis

Ex-President - Columbia Records / Founder–Arista Records, J records

"The audition where I saw Al Kooper's Blood Sweat & Tears in Greenwich Village is a memory I will never forget. I was truly mesmerized. I'm transfixed by the innovative power of what it was, and it helped change the rest of my career. Al's always been the definition of a cutting-edge musician, and his work with The Blues Project and Blood Sweat & Tears and his Live Adventures with Michael Bloomfield rank way up there in The Pantheon of the best of contemporary music."

George Winston

Solo Pianist / Spiritual Father of New Age Music

"I have always been very inspired by Al Kooper as composer, organist, pianist, singer, arranger, sidemen, and producer. He did many great things - for example, his great rearrangements of other composers' songs, such as Ray Charles's up-tempo '50s R&B hit" I Got A Woman" which Al re-arranged as a ballad."


Mavis Staples

Voice of the Eternal Staples Singers / Personal Friend of God

"I remember Pops telling us, now you get over here, because this guy's coming with the song for us to sing. It was strange because he wanted to come to the house–he didn't want to send it in; he wanted to bring it to us personally, and that made all the difference. He came to our home; he spent the night. In fact, he and Pops we're just laughing most of the time because he was comical and everything he was saying was funny, and my mother fixed dinner. The song he brought, we fell in love with that ("Brand New Day") and we rehearsed it a little bit. I remember him telling Pops that nobody played guitar the way he did, the sound was so unique. We were excited because we were going to be singing for a movie (The Landlord). He's not on any high pedestal or anything; he's just everyday people. That's what made it so good-he didn't come in all stiff, just stuck out, and whatnot, he was just down with it."