Following on the trails of funny named legendary musicians like Huddie Ledbetter, Critter Fuqua and Lefty Frizzell, today we bring you Dewey “Spooner” Oldham, Jr. Spooner is perhaps a slightly lesser-known musician compared to those three, as he is best known as a session musician and songwriter rather than a frontman.
Born in Center Star, Alabama, a place so important it has no Wikipedia page, Spooner went on to be a big player in the development of the so-called Muscle Shoals sound, also called “Deep Soul”, which became hugely popular in the 60’s. Among many other hits, Spooner Oldham played organ on “When a Man Loves a Woman” and later performed with a selection of the great artists of the time, from Wilson Pickett to Aretha Franklin.
We love origin stories for unusual names here at Funny Names HQ and Spooner’s is as good as they get in all its cruel simplicity. He got the name as a child when trying to reach a frying pan on a tall counter. He instead managed only to flick a spoon into the air, blinding him in his right eye. By the time he hit the music business in the 60’s the name had stuck and Dewey had turned into Spooner for good.
Towards the late 60’s he moved to Memphis and started working at Chips Moman‘s studios (yes – Chips Moman — there’s no end to funny names in music) and formed a legendary songwriting partnership with Dan Penn, penning (apologies) such songs as “A Woman Left Lonely“, recorded by Janis Joplin, and “It Tears Me Up” for the fantastically named Percy Sledge.
For the past few decades Spooner has regularly played on Neil Young’s touring band and recordings. He’s also organed for legendary musicians like Bob Dylan and Jackson Browne, as well as funny-named colleagues such as Willy DeVille, Delaney Bramlett, and Dickey Betts. As we’ve noted many times before, funny names attract one another’s company.
In 2009 he was deservedly inducted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in the wonderful “sideman” category, and perhaps more impressively is also a member of the Alabama Music Hall of Fame.