Al Kooper

Al Kooper (born Alan Peter Kuperschmidt, February 5, 1944) is an American songwriter, record producer and musician, known for organizing Blood, Sweat & Tears, although he did not stay with the group long enough to share its popularity.[1] Throughout much of the 1960s and 1970s, he was a prolific studio musician, playing organ on the Bob Dylan song "Like a Rolling Stone", French horn and piano on the Rolling Stones song "You Can't Always Get What You Want", and 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 Session album that saw Kooper work separately with guitarists Mike Bloomfield and Stephen Stills. In the 1970s he was a successful manager and producer, notably recording Lynyrd Skynyrd's first three albums. He has also had a successful solo career, written music for film soundtracks, and has lectured in musical composition. He is currently retired.

Al Kooper
Al Kooper during an interview in 2009
Al Kooper during an interview in 2009
Background information
Birth nameAlan Peter Kuperschmidt
Also known asRoosevelt Gook
Born (1944-02-05) February 5, 1944 (age 77)
Brooklyn, New York, US
GenresBlues, R&B, pop rock
Occupation(s)Musician, songwriter, producer
InstrumentsVocals, guitar, bass, keyboards, percussion, mandolin
Years active1958–2021 (retired)
LabelsABC Records
Associated actsMike Bloomfield, The Blues Project, Blood, Sweat & Tears, Bob Dylan, The Royal Teens

Early lifeEdit

Al Kooper was born in Brooklyn[2], New York City, to Sam and Natalie Kuperschmidt, and grew up in his Jewish family[3] in Hollis Hills, Queens, New York.


Professional debutEdit

Kooper's first professional work was as a 14-year-old guitarist in The Royal Teens, best known for their 1958 ABC Records novelty 12-bar blues riff, "Short Shorts" (although Kooper did not play on the recording[4]). In 1960, he teamed up with songwriters Bob Brass and Irwin Levine to write and record demos for Sea-Lark Music Publishing. The trio's biggest hits were "This Diamond Ring", recorded by Gary Lewis and the Playboys, and "I Must Be Seeing Things", recorded by Gene Pitney (both 1965). When he was 21, Kooper moved to Manhattan's Greenwich Village, then teaming with artists, writers, and musicians.

With DylanEdit

He first performed with Bob Dylan playing the Hammond organ riffs on "Like a Rolling Stone", where he had been invited to watch the recording by producer Tom Wilson. It was in those recording sessions that Kooper met and befriended Mike Bloomfield, whose guitar playing he admired. He worked extensively with Bloomfield for several years. He also played with Dylan in concert in 1965, including playing Hammond organ with Dylan at the Newport Folk Festival, and in the recording studio in 1965 and 1966. Kooper played organ once again with Dylan during his 1981 world tour.

Blues ProjectEdit

Kooper joined the Blues Project as their keyboardist in 1965; he left the band shortly before their gig at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967, although he did play a solo set at the famous festival, as evidenced by bootlegs of the event. He formed Blood, Sweat & Tears in 1967, leaving due to creative differences in 1968, after the release of the group's first album, Child Is Father to the Man.[5] He recorded Super Session with Bloomfield and Stephen Stills in 1968,[6] and in 1969 he collaborated with 15-year-old guitarist Shuggie Otis on the album Kooper Session. In 1975 he produced the debut album by the Tubes.

Other workEdit

As musicianEdit

Kooper has played on hundreds of records, including ones by the Rolling Stones, B. B. King, the Who, the Jimi Hendrix Experience, Alice Cooper, and Cream. On occasion, he has even overdubbed his own efforts, as on The Live Adventures of Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper and other albums, under the pseudonym "Roosevelt Gook".[7]

As record producerEdit

In 1969, Kooper produced, arranged and conducted the album Appaloosa, a "folk-baroque," style of music that combined rock with classical. Among other artists who were all arranging folk-oriented material with classical-influenced orchestration were Judy Collins, Donovan, Tim Hardin and Tom Rush. Kooper was joined by Boston musicians John Parker Compton, singer and acoustic guitarist, Robin Batteau on violin, Eugene Rosov on cello, and David Reiser on electric bass. Contributing to the album was saxophonist Fred Lipsius and Blood, Sweat and Tears drummer Bobby Columby.[8] After moving to Atlanta in 1972, he discovered the band Lynyrd Skynyrd, and produced and performed on their first three albums, including the singles "Sweet Home Alabama" and "Free Bird". In 1972 he rejoined the Blues Project at a charity concert promoted by Bruce Blakeman at Valley Stream Central High School.

TV scoresEdit

He wrote the score for the TV series Crime Story and for the film The Landlord and wrote music for several made-for-television movies. He was the musical force behind many of the pop tunes, including "You're the Lovin' End", for The Banana Splits, a children's television program.


During the late 1980s Kooper had his own dedicated keyboard studio room in the historic Sound Emporium recording studio in Nashville, next to studio B.

Rock Bottom RemaindersEdit

Kooper's status as a published author enabled him to join (and act as musical director of) the Rock Bottom Remainders, a band made up of writers, including Dave Barry, Stephen King, Amy Tan, and Matt Groening.

New Music For Old PeopleEdit

Kooper most recently wrote a column named "New Music For Old People" for online publication The Morton Report from April 2014 to April 2015. This later led to a radio show by the same name for Martha's Vineyard community radio station WVVY beginning in October 2018. The first 11 episodes can be found online.

Honors, awards, and legacyEdit

Kooper celebrating his 68th birthday at the Regatta Bar in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Feb. 4, 2012

In May 2001, Kooper was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Music from Berklee College of Music.[9] Kooper is retired from teaching songwriting and recording production at Berklee College of Music, in Boston, and plays weekend concerts with his bands the ReKooperators and the Funky Faculty. In 2008, he participated in the production of the album Psalngs,[10] the debut release of Canadian musician John Lefebvre.

Kooper was inducted into the Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum, in Nashville, in 2008.[11]

In 2005, Martin Scorsese produced a documentary titled No Direction Home: Bob Dylan for the PBS American Masters Series in which Kooper's contributions are recognized.


Kooper published a memoir, Backstage Passes: Rock 'n' Roll Life in the Sixties (1977), which was revised and published as Backstage Passes and Backstabbing Bastards: Memoirs of a Rock 'n' Roll Survivor (1998). The revised edition includes indictments of "manipulators" in the music industry, including his one-time business manager, Stan Polley. An updated edition, including supplementary material, was published by Backbeat Books in 2008.[12]



Studio albumsEdit

Live albumsEdit

  • Soul of a Man (February 1995)


Compilation albumsEdit


Other appearancesEdit

Year Artist Album name Role(s)
1965 Bob Dylan Highway 61 Revisited Piano, organ
1966 Blonde on Blonde Organ, guitar
Tom Rush Take a Little Walk with Me Electric guitar, celesta, liner notes
The Blues Project Live at The Cafe Au Go Go Organ, vocals
Projections Keyboards, vocals
1967 The Blues Project Live at Town Hall Keyboards
The Who The Who Sell Out Organ
1968 Blood, Sweat and Tears Child is Father to the Man Organ, piano, vocals, ondioline
The Jimi Hendrix Experience Electric Ladyland Piano
Don Ellis Autumn Producer
1969 The New Don Ellis Band Goes Underground
The Rolling Stones Let It Bleed piano, French horn and organ
B.B. King Live & Well Piano
1970 Bob Dylan Self Portrait Guitar, horn, keyboards
New Morning Organ, piano, electric guitar, French horn
1971 The Who Who's Next Hammond organ
Bo Diddley Another Dimension Keyboards, guitar
Rita Coolidge Nice Feelin' Organ
1972 The Lady's Not for Sale Lead guitar
1973 Betty Wright Hard To Stop Arranger, composer, keyboards, main personnel
Frankie & Johnny[a] The Sweetheart Sampler Producer
Atlanta Rhythm Section Back Up Against the Wall Synthesiser, ARP
Lynyrd Skynyrd Pronounced Leh-Nerd Skin-Nerd Producer, engineer, bass, Mellotron, back-up harmony, mandolin, bass drum, organ
1974 Second Helping Producer, backing vocals, piano
Roger McGuinn Peace on You Guitar, piano, clavinet, arrangements, conductor
1975 Lynyrd Skynyrd Nuthin' Fancy Producer
The Tubes The Tubes
1979 Leo Sayer Here Organ, synthesizer, keyboards, performer
4 on the Floor 4 on the Floor Producer
1981 George Harrison Somewhere in England Keyboards, synthesisers
Ringo Starr Stop and Smell the Roses Piano, electric guitar
1985 Bob Dylan Empire Burlesque Rhythm guitar
1986 Knocked Out Loaded Keyboards
1989 Roy Orbison Mystery Girl Organ
1990 Bob Dylan Under the Red Sky Hammond organ, keyboards
1991 Dave Sharp Hard Traveling Guest artist
Green On Red Scapegoats Producer
1996 Neil Diamond Tennessee Moon Hammond organ
1998 Phoebe Snow I Can't Complain Guest artist, Hammond organ
2000 Dan Penn Blue Nite Lounge Keyboards
2000 Peter Parcek Evolution Keyboards[13]
2010 Peter Parcek The Mathematics of Love Keyboards[13]


  • Mike Bloomfield, Me and Big Joe, Re/Search Publications, 1999, ISBN 1-889307-05-X, ISBN 978-1-889307-05-3.
  • Jan Mark Wolkin and Bill Keenom, Michael Bloomfield -- If You Love These Blues: An Oral History, Backbeat Books, 2000, ISBN 978-0-87930-617-5 (with CD of uniussed music).
  • Ken Brooks, The Adventures of Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper with Paul Butterfield and David Clayton Thomas, Agenda, 1999, ISBN 1-899882-90-1, ISBN 978-1-899882-90-8.
  • Al Kooper, Backstage Passes: Rock 'n' Roll Life in the Sixties, Stein & Day, 1977, ISBN 0-8128-2171-8, ISBN 978-0-8128-2171-0.
  • Al Kooper, Backstage Passes and Backstabbing Bastards: Memoirs of a Rock 'n' Roll Survivor (updated ed.), Billboard Books, 1998, ISBN 0-8230-8257-1, ISBN 978-0823082575.
  • Al Kooper, Backstage Passes and Backstabbing Bastards (new ed.), Hal Leonard, 2008, ISBN 0-87930-922-9, ISBN 978-0-87930-922-0.
  • Ed Ward, Michael Bloomfield: The Rise and Fall of an American Guitar Hero, Cherry Lane Books,1983, ISBN 0-89524-157-9, ISBN 978-0895241573.


  1. ^ Al Kooper, Frank Ruby and John Paul Fetta


  1. ^ James, Gary, "Gary James' Interview With Al Kooper" at
  2. ^ Strong, Martin C. (2000). The Great Rock Discography (5th ed.). Edinburgh: Mojo Books. pp. 543–544. ISBN 1-84195-017-3.
  3. ^ Wilentz, Sean (April 8, 2013). "Like a Rolling Stone: Rock legend Al Kooper opens up to Princeton's Sean Wilentz about making music with Bob Dylan, and more". Nextbook Inc. Retrieved May 10, 2015.
  4. ^ Friedman, Tyler, "Al Kooper: An Appreciation," Perfect Sound Forever, April 2007)
  5. ^ Tobler, John (1992). NME Rock 'N' Roll Years (1st ed.). London: Reed International Books Ltd. p. 232. CN 5585.
  6. ^ Tobler, John (1992). NME Rock 'N' Roll Years (1st ed.). London: Reed International Books Ltd. p. 259. CN 5585.
  7. ^ "Tom Rush's "Take a Little Walk with Me" Liner Notes". Archived from the original on November 28, 2010. Retrieved November 17, 2010.
  8. ^ "Liner Notes for Appaloosa's "Appaloosa"". Retrieved April 6, 2021.
  9. ^ "Elvin Jones, Al Kooper Receive Honorary Doctorates - Mixonline". Retrieved October 24, 2017.
  10. ^ "The Music of John Lefebvre". Archived from the original on March 7, 2010. Retrieved April 6, 2021.
  11. ^ Daniel Kreps (October 29, 2008). "Kid Rock, Keith Richards Help Induct Crickets, Muscle Shoals into Musicians Hall of Fame | Music News". Rolling Stone. Retrieved April 19, 2014.
  12. ^ "Hal Leonard Performing Arts Publishing Group - Thanks For Visiting".
  13. ^ a b "Peter Parcek | Biography & History". AllMusic. Retrieved April 5, 2021.

External linksEdit