Grammy-Nominated Songwriter and Session Player Bobby Emmons Dies at 72
Bobby Emmons, the Nashville songwriter and keyboard player whose work graced countless songs and albums — including classic cuts from Elvis Presley, Neil Diamond, Bobby Womack, Dusty Springfield, and many others — has passed away at the age of 72.
Emmons' passing, the result of an undisclosed illness, is reported by the Memphis Commercial Appeal, where his distinguished career is remembered in an article that traces his integral involvement in a trio of seminal bands: the Bill Black Combo, the Hi Records house band and finally the coterie of American Studios session players that would help producer "Chips" Moman record a mind-boggling succession of hits that included Diamond's "Sweet Caroline," Springfield's "Son of a Preacher Man" and Presley's "Suspicious Minds."
Part of more than 100 chart hits with the American Studios band, Emmons released a solo LP (Blues With a Beat With an Organ) in 1965, but focused most of his efforts behind the scenes. In later years, he continued working steadily as a session keyboardist, working with a wide spectrum of artists that ran the gamut from Garth Brooks to Roy Orbison, and embarked on a Grammy-nominated songwriting career that produced a string of country hits for artists such as Waylon Jennings, George Strait and Tanya Tucker.
The Appeal's report also notes that Emmons had been touring of late with legendary singer-songwriter Dan Penn, subbing in for Penn's frequent partner Spooner Oldham on keys for a run of duo dates that included an appearance on The Late Show With David Letterman last December. You can watch video from that performance, which found the two performing Penn and Oldham's classic "I'm Your Puppet," above.
"He was an amazing musician, but I can’t stress how decent a person he was as well," recalled guitarist Reggie Young, who played alongside Emmons in the Black, Hi and American bands. "That came through in everything he did. He was a dear friend of mine for 56 years. We were very close. ... He had success forever, wherever he went. And we had it together. So it’s hard right now. I’m dealing with it — I’m trying."
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