Instruments: Keyboards, Producer, Studio Owner
Date of Birth: February 4, 1943
Place of Birth: Birmingham, Alabama

1987 Music Creator's Award

1995 Induction Alabama Music Hall of Fame

(both as member of MSRS)

Walk of Fame Star

A native of Birmingham, Barry Beckett's earliest professional performances were as pianist for a dancing school.

His journey to Muscle Shoals included a stop in Pensacola, Fl. where he was hired to play a session in Muscle Shoals. The session, on James and Bobby Purify was at Fame Recording Studio. He was soon asked to move to Muscle Shoals to fill the keyboard slot vacated by Spooner Oldham.

Beckett moved on to Muscle Shoals Sound when it was formed. His first production with Roger Hawkins created the Mel and Tim classic "Starting All Over Again". Working with the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, he arranged and co-produced acts such as Paul Simon and Bob Seger.

Later co-producing with Jerry Wexler, Beckett produced the Bob Dylan's "Slow Train Coming". His production credits include Joan Baez, Dire Straits, Joe Cocker, John Prine, McGuinn-Hillman, The Staple Singers, Phoebe Snow, Etta James, T. Graham Brown, Lorrie Morgan, Eddie Raven, Delbert McClinton, Frankie Miller, Jerry Jeff Walker, Alabama, Hank Williams, Jr., Neal McCoy, Confederate Railroad, Phish, Tammy Graham, Sonia Dada and many more.

In 1985 he moved to Nashville where he worked for a time with the A&R department of Warner Brothers Records. He currently operates an independent production company and is a partner in BTM Records.

Source: Alabama Music Hall of Fame


Barry Edward Beckett (February 4, 1943, Birmingham, Alabama – June 10, 2009, Hendersonville, Tennessee) was a keyboardist who worked as a session musician with several notable artists on their studio albums. He was also a record producer, most notably of albums by Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Dire Straits, Joe Cocker, Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes, John Prine, McGuinn-Hillman, The Staple Singers, Phoebe Snow, Etta James, Candi Staton, T. Graham Brown, Lorrie Morgan, Eddy Raven, Delbert McClinton, Frankie Miller, Jerry Jeff Walker, Alabama, Hank Williams, Jr., Neal McCoy, Confederate Railroad, Phish, Tammy Graham, Sonia Dada, Ilse DeLange, Boz Scaggs and others.

As part of the Fame rhythm section, some of their songs involved are "I Never Loved a Man" (Aretha Franklin), "Land of 1000 Dances" (Wilson Pickett), "Kodachrome" (Paul Simon) and "When a Man Loves a Woman" (Percy Sledge).

Along with the rest of "the Swampers", Beckett took to the road in 1973 in the expanded lineup of Traffic, the results of which can be heard on Traffic's live album On The Road.

He was involved in the "Muscle Shoals Sound", being a member of the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, and in 1969, one of the founders of the Muscle Shoals Sound Studio. The Sound studio produced such hits as "Torn Between Two Lovers" (Mary MacGregor) and "Smoke from a Distant Fire" Sanford-Townsend Band). Beckett moved to Nashville in 1982 to become A & R country music director for Warner Bros. Records and co-produced Williams, Jr.'s records with Jim Ed Norman. Beckett produced records independently after leaving Warner Bros. Records.

Beckett died of natural causes at his home in Hendersonville.



As a keyboardist with the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, Barry Beckett can be heard on hits on Stax Records (the Staple Singers' "I'll Take You There," number one R&B for four weeks, number one pop in spring 1972, and on Paul Simon's "Kodachrome," number two pop for two weeks in spring 1973). As a producer, Beckett's credits include Mary MacGregor (the gold single "Torn Between Two Lovers," number one pop for two weeks in late 1975), Alabama's "If I Had You," Kenny Chesney's "When I Close My Eyes," and Bob Dylan (the LPs Dylan, Slow Train Coming, Saved), and Neal McCoy's "No Doubt About It."

The years spent recording hits with the renowned group of studio musicians with producer Rick Hall at Alabama-based Fame Recording Studio helped Beckett to hone an organic approach to pop music. An approach that colored his producing in later years was having each record (whether it's for a solo recording artist, a group, or a band) sound as if it was done by a band, not just a bunch of uninvolved, clock-watching hack musicians.

In 1985, Beckett left Muscle Shoals, AL, for an A&R position with the Nashville, TN, branch of Warner Bros. He began by co-producing Hank Williams Jr.'s "Mind Your Own Business" and "Born to Boogie" and won a CMA award for Williams' number seven country hit "There's a Tear in My Beer."

Other Beckett-associated releases are Mel and Tim's "Starting All Over Again" (number four R&B in summer 1972); Neal McCoy's "No Doubt About It"; Glenn Frey's "Sexy Girl"; the Forester Sisters' "You Again"; Bob Segar's "We've Got Tonite" (number 13 pop in fall 1978) and "Fire Lake" (number six pop in early 1980) and the LPs Night Moves (number eight pop in early 1977) and Stranger In Town (number four pop in summer 1978); Terry Graham's "Cool Water"; and Delbert McClinton's "Giving It Up for Your Love" (number eight pop in late 1980). He also produced tracks on two LPs from the Muscle Shoals Horns: Born to Get Down (Bang, 1976) and Doin' It to the Bone and Tower of Power horn man Greg Adams' 1976 Attic LP Runaway Dreams. ~ Ed Hogan, Rovi


Friends of Barry Beckett recall the keyboard player and founding member of the famed Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section as a hard-working musician with a compassionate heart.

Beckett died Wednesday at his home in Hendersonville, Tenn., at the age of 66, his longtime friend and co-worker, Dick Cooper, said. He had several health ailments.

"He was the best boss I ever had and one of the greatest friends I ever had," Cooper said. "He and Jerry Wexler taught me everything I know about the music industry."

Known worldwide as "The Swampers," Beckett, guitarist Jimmy Johnson, bassist David Hood and drummer Roger Hawkins performed with a variety of artists, including Bob Seger, The Staple Singers and Paul Simon.

On April 1, 1969, Johnson and Hawkins invited Beckett and Hood to join them in a venture that would become Muscle Shoals Sound Studios at 3614 Jackson Highway in Sheffield.

"Barry was one of the greatest keyboard players I ever worked with," Johnson said. "Definitely, in our field, he was in the top five in the world. He's going to be missed."

Before opening their own studio, the rhythm section worked at producer Rick Hall's FAME Recording Studio in Muscle Shoals.

"He was one of my dearest friends in life," Hall said of Beckett. "He was one of the motivators of Muscle Shoals music."

Johnson said Beckett was originally from Birmingham and spent some time at the University of Alabama, where he became acquainted with the Del-Rays, a band that included Johnson and Hawkins.

Beckett was working in Pensacola, Fla., with blues producer "Papa Don" Schroeder, who brought Beckett to Muscle Shoals where he met Hall and the rhythm section.

"He joined us in 1967 when we were still at FAME," Johnson said. "Within two weeks, he moved his whole family here without a promise of anything. When Barry came into the section, it topped off what we needed at the time."

Beckett was coming in to fill the void left behind by departing keyboard player Spooner Oldham.

Hawkins said he and Johnson spoke to Beckett extensively about joining the rhythm section permanently after Oldham's departure.

"He was a wonderful contributor to our rhythm section," Hawkins said. "We all played well together and had ideas together. He was definitely one of us. He will be missed because now one of us is gone."

Cooper, who was Beckett's assistant at Beckett's production company for 5 1/2 years, said Beckett sometimes came across as a hard-driving musician but was "a sweetheart" underneath.

"We fondly called him The Bear," Hall said. "He was just a great big teddy bear."

Hood said he was deeply saddened to learn of his friend's death.

"He was one of the most talented musicians, the most talented producers I've ever worked with," Hood said. "He was a perfectionist. I'm a much better musician for having worked with Barry."

He said the rhythm section members originally gave Beckett a hard time about following in the footsteps of legendary Shoals keyboardist Spooner Oldham.

"He got us back later on by pushing the heck out of us," Hood said. "He pushed me and made me do things I never knew I could do."

Beckett left the Shoals for Nashville in 1985 and took a job as a talent scout for Warner Brothers Records.

One of his first projects was co-producing Hank Williams Jr.'s "Mind Your Own Business" and "Born to Boogie." Beckett won a Country Music Association award for Williams' "There's a Tear in My Beer," according to a biography on

Cooper said one of Beckett's highlights while working at the second location of Muscle Shoals Sound Studios at 1000 Alabama Ave. in Sheffield was co-producing Bob Dylan's first platinum album, "Slow Train Coming," with the late Jerry Wexler.

Beckett and Wexler also produced Dylan's "Saved" album and he and Wexler co-produced "Communique," the second album by the British rock band Dire Straits.

Beckett's production credits cover a wide range of musical genres including Mary McGregor's "Torn Between Two Lovers," Kenny Chesney's "When I close My Eyes," Alabama's "If I Had You," Delbert McClinton's "Giving It Up For Your Love" and Neal McCoy's "No Doubt About It."

Beckett had been diagnosed with prostate cancer and later with thyroid cancer, Johnson said. He also suffered several strokes, including one in February that he never really recovered from.

His funeral arrangements were unavailable Thursday.

Source: By Russ Corey Staff Writer


Barry Edward Beckett (born February 4, 1943 in Birmingham - died June 10, 2009 in Hendersonville, Tennessee) was a noted session pianist and record producer, associated with the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section and a founder of the Muscle Shoals Sound Studio.

Beckett, son of insurance salesman and WBRC-AM personality Horace Beckett. He grew up in Birmingham, and taught himself to play piano (though not to read music). He became proficient enough to play on records at Boutwell Studios and to accompany dance recitals. He attended the University of Alabama where he met Jimmy Johnson and Roger Hawkins, then with the Del-Rays.

Beckett was working in Pensacola, Florida when he was recruited to help record tracks in Muscle Shoals with the rhythm & blues duo James and Bobby Purify in 1967. He was asked to stay on at FAME Studios to take the place of Spooner Oldham. While there he played on tracks recorded by Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett and Percy Sledge.

Later Beckett was one of the founders of the Muscle Shoals Sound Studio in 1969. He collaborated with Jerry Wexler to produce Bob Dylan's Slow Train Coming and also arranged and produced music for Bob Seger, Paul Simon, Willie Nelson and others. He and his bandmates, sometimes called the "Swampers" were recruited to join the British group Traffic on their 1972 tour, which was recorded live for the 1973 album On The Road.

In 1985 Beckett moved to Nashville to work as A&R country music director for Warner Brothers Records, producing albums for Hank Williams, Jr, Confederate Railroad and Kenny Chesney. After leaving Warner he continued to produce music and became a partner in BTM Records. He was inducted into the Alabama Music Hall of Fame in 1995.

Beckett had been diagnosed with prostrate and thyroid cancer. He also suffered a series of strokes, complications from which led to his death at his home outside of Nashville in 2009. He was survived by his wife Diane and two sons, Matthew and Mark.





Subscribe to Newsletter

Rick Carter Radio - All Alabama Music

Accepting submissions and adding them daily. Artists can send their songs in MP3's to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. One song per email. Graphics and song and artist info should be included of course.

This space
for rent!

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.