In 1958, Al Kooper began his professional career as guitarist in the Royal Teens ("Short Shorts"). He metamorphosized into a Tin Pan Alley songwriter with cuts by Gary Lewis, Gene Pitney, Keely Smith, Carmen McRae, Pat Boone, Freddie Cannon, Lulu, Lorraine Ellison, and Donny Hathaway and later was sampled by the Beastie Boys, Jay-Z, Pharcyde, and Alchemist.
In the mid-'60s, Kooper was a member of the Blues Project and then founded Blood, Sweat & Tears, remaining only for their debut album. He then slipped his producer hat on and began with the top-ten album Super Session in 1968, featuring Mike Bloomfield and Stephen Stills. He is well known for his organ playing on Bob Dylan's "Like a Rolling Stone." His playing skills have graced the works of the Rolling Stones; George Harrison; the Who; Jimi Hendrix; Peter, Paul & Mary; Tom Petty; Joe Cocker; B.B. King; Taj Mahal, Alice Cooper, and scores more.
Major moments include playing piano, organ, and French horn for the Rolling Stones on "You Can't Always Get What You Want"; keyboards on George Harrison's No. 1 hit "All Those Years Ago"; and keys on The Who Sell Out and on Electric Ladyland for Jimi Hendrix. As a producer he is best known for discovering Lynyrd Skynyrd and producing their first three albums, including "Sweet Home Alabama," "Free Bird," "Gimme Three Steps," and "Saturday Night Special." His other producing clients included the Tubes, Nils Lofgren, Eddie and the Hot Rods, Ray Charles, B.B. King, the Staple Singers, Lorraine Ellison, Bob Dylan, Joe Ely, Thelonious Monster, and Green on Red. His autobiography, Backstage Passes and Backstabbing Bastards, is considered by many to be a rock 'n' roll must-read. He scored Hal Ashby's first film, The Landlord; John Waters' film, Cry Baby; Michael Mann's TV series, Crime Story; and Peter Riegert's recent directorial debut King of the Corner. His live show accompanied by his band of Berklee professors, the Funky Faculty, has been acclaimed all over the world. In 2006, he received the Milestone Lifetime Achievement Award, in 2007 the AES awarded him the Les Paul Award, and in 2008 he was inducted into the Musicians Hall of Fame. At 65, he shows no signs of retirement, with a new album, White Chocolate; more live concerts; and the brisk sale of his book.