SHEFFIELD, Ala. – The keys have gone silent at Muscle Shoals Sound Studios in Sheffield. Singer/ songwriter Donnie Fritts tapped the ivory on the studio piano many times during his more than 50-year career. He recorded his last album here just last year.
“Most of his songs were heartfelt, and they would tug at your heart-strings,” described friend Kelvin Holly. “There’s a few of them I have a hard time listening to because I just start balling and squalling.”
Fritts grew up in Florence, playing drums in the Coffee High School band. He went on to be a founding member in one of the first rock groups in the Shoals.
“I had just gotten my bass; I hadn’t even played it a year. And he says you are the most different bass player I’ve ever seen. I think he meant I’m not worth a crap,” jokingly said David Hood about his first encounter with Donnie Fritts.
The two went on to be close friends and music legends.
“Donnie at the drop of a hat could call anyone. He could call Willie Nelson and say Willie I have a good song for you and Willie would record it. That’s not easy,” said Hood.
Fritts spent 40-years playing keyboards with Kris Kristofferson. He also showed up on the big screen appearing in nine Hollywood movies.
“You didn’t want to neglect him because he had a pretty strong ego, but he liked to be mentioned. But, he deserved to be mentioned,” Hood explained.
Muscle Shoals Sound has lost yet another legend, but the band in Heaven just got one heck of a piano player. Donnie Fritts was 76-years-old and had been battling medical problems for the last several months. Funeral arrangements have not been announced.