I went to FAME, the legendary Muscle Shoals studio last year after meeting Rick Hall and reading his autobiography. The tale of a Southern man making his way in the music world and helping to shape the future right here from Alabama was intriguing and the book read very intimately about his personal life and dealings with music industry greats. After the tour of the studio, I sat along the Tennessee River, the same river that I grew up with on the other side of the state, and watched the sun set. It was a rainy evening and in and of itself; beautiful.
I recently travelled back to Muscle Shoals for a further exploration of the cool Shoals area and attended Dick Cooper’s birthday party at his house on the river. Dick Cooper is a living legend among a few others still hanging around Alabama, imparting their wisdom to us from time to time. I read up on Dick Cooper’s life before meeting him. I had hoped to speak with him and ask him a few questions. More about that later.
Cooper was a band road manager, free-lance writer and photographer, music museum curator, among other things. He was a friend to and worked with Jerry Wexler, Sam Phillips, and Rick Hall. He went on the road as road manager to the opening act for Skynyrd and was there in the days of the plane crash that took the lives of three members, including Ronnie Van Zant. He worked on several amazing albums with Jerry Wexler, the music journalist turned legendary music producer and transplant to Alabama via New York. Albums like two my fave Bob Dylan’s, Carlos Santana, and Etta James, just to name a few.
Dick Cooper was a gracious host and his party attendees were all amazing and interesting folks whom I was happy to be counted among. We listened to music, and country bumpkin I, helped at every chance to keep the bonfire going. It’s something I do. I got to meet Jimmy Johnson, Scott Boyer, Zac Hacker, Rock Killough and others. On one of the walls in Dick’s house hung a Bob Dylan painting, and beside it a Jason Isbell poster was taped up. How cool is that?
I did get to talk to Dick some. I did get to ask him one of the burning questions and I’ll share it with you today.
“Dick, I know that Jerry Wexler was very important to you in your life. I read in an article that a couple of years before his death, he was asked what he wants to be put on his tombstone. Jerry answered, ‘Two words: more bass.’ So Dick, what words would you like put on your tombstone?”
I realize that that might have been a ballsy question to ask a music legend on the first time you ever met him at his house on his seventieth birthday at his birthday party now that the day has passed. Anyway…
He did give me an answer and I have been pondering over it since. He said,
“He served greatness.”
So there you go. To sum it all up, straight from Dick Cooper himself.
~ Jamie Godwin
Three Stories and Some Poems by Jamie Godwin