Barry Beckett

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Barry Beckett

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 graduated from Ramsay High School in 1961. He 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. He also performed with Jerry Woodard's pop band, The Esquires.

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.


  • Everett, Todd (1998). "Barry Beckett". In The Encyclopedia of Country Music. Paul Kingsbury, Editor. New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 31-32.
  • Corey, Russ (June 12, 2009) "Barry Beckett, founding member of Swampers, dies after long illness." Times Daily
  • Weber, Bruce (June 16, 2009) "Barry Beckett, Muscle Shoals Musician, Dies at 66" New York Times
  • Haden, Courtney (June 18, 2009) "Birmingham’s lesser-known harmonious history." Birmingham Weekly

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