Al Kooper

Hard to know how to sum up the 56-year career of a legend such as Al Kooper. Just don’t leave out coining that timeless organ riff on Bob Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone”; producing best-selling albums by Lynyrd Skynyrd; and adding keyboards, guitar, arrangements, singing, French horn and wisdom to recordings by the Rolling Stones, George Harrison, the Tubes, Tom Petty, the Blues Project, Child Is the Father to the Man, B.B. King, Donny Hathaway, Gary Lewis, Gene Pitney and… Al Kooper.
(Photo credit: Susan Monosson)


Al Kooper (born Alan Peter Kuperschmidt February 5, 1944, Brooklyn, New York) is an American songwriter, producer and musician, probably best known for organizing the group Blood, Sweat & Tears, though he didn't stay with the group long enough to share its popularity. His first musical success was as a 14-year-old guitarist in the Royal Teens, best known for their novelty blues riff, "Short Shorts". In 1960, he joined the song-writing team of Bob Brass and Irwin Levine, who wrote the hit, "This Diamond Ring", for Gary Lewis and the Playboys. When he was 21, he moved to Greenwich Village. He performed with Bob Dylan in concert in 1965 and in the studio in 1965 and 1966, including playing Hammond organ with Dylan at the (in)famous Newport Folk Festival of 1965. He worked extensively with Mike Bloomfield for a number of years after the two met as studio musicians on Dylan's legendary Highway 61 Revisited album. In 1965, he co-formed The Blues Project and played their most famous gig at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967. He formed Blood, Sweat & Tears in the same year, leaving after the group's first album, Child is Father to the Man, in 1968. Kooper played on hundreds of records, including The Rolling Stones, B.B. King, The Who and Cream. On occasion, he has even overdubbed on his own efforts, as on The Live Adventures Of Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper album, as Roosevelt Gook. He discovered the band Lynyrd Skynyrd, and produced their first three albums, including the single Sweet Home Alabama. Kooper also wrote the score for the TV series, Crime Story, and has also written music for several made-for-television movies. Kooper also produced a now rare album by a group called Appaloosa. Al Kooper has published a memoir, Backstage Passes: Rock 'n' Roll Life In The Sixties (1977), now available in revised form as Backstage Passes & Backstabbing Bastards: Memoirs of a Rock 'N' Roll Survivor 2007 Kooper currently teaches songwriting and production at Berklee College of Music in Boston and plays weekend concerts with his band Jimmy Vivino and The ReKooperators. Read more on User-contributed text is available under the Creative Commons By-SA License; additional terms may apply.


Al Kooper (Bob Dylan, the Rolling Stones, etc.) Talks Finding New Music

By Al Kooper | November 8, 2014

Al Kooper (Bob Dylan, the Rolling Stones, etc.) Talks Finding New Music

How the septuagenarian rock legend finds new music — and one of his discoveries.