Donnie Fritts (November 8, 1942 – August 27, 2019) was an American session musician and songwriter. A recording artist in his own right, he was Kris Kristofferson‘s keyboardist for over forty years. In 2008, he was inducted into the Alabama Music Hall of Fame. He began playing drums in local bands such as The Satellites and Hollis Dixon & the Keynotes at age 15, and later developed into a session keyboard player.
Working closely with Rick Hall, Billy Sherrill, Dan Penn, Arthur Alexander, David Briggs, Jerry Carrigan and Norbert Putnam, Fritts was involved in many of the early songs and recordings created in the Muscle Shoals music industry.
In 1965, Fritts signed with a Nashville publishing company. Songs which he wrote were recorded by Charlie Rich and Jerry Lee Lewis. He later met Kris Kristofferson who was just beginning a career in songwriting. When forming his band, Kristofferson called on Fritts, who continued as his keyboard player for over two decades, performing live, on recordings and in numerous movies.
Through his association with Kristofferson, Fritts appeared in three of Sam Peckinpah‘s movies: Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid, Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia, and Convoy as well as other movies including A Star Is Born and Songwriter.
In 1974, Kristofferson and producer Jerry Wexler co-produced Prone To Lean at Muscle Shoals Sound Studio. Everybody’s Got A Song was released in 1998. The album included guest appearances by Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, Dan Penn, Spooner Oldham, Waylon Jennings, Delbert McClinton, Tony Joe White, Leroy Parnell & John Prine. It would be another ten years before Fritts released his third album One Foot in the Groove in 2008 produced by Dan Penn with Ron Laury, recorded at Dandy Studio in Nashville.
Fritts died from complications of heart surgery on August 27, 2019.
- Prone To Lean (1974)
- Everybody’s Got A Song (1997)
- One Foot in the Groove (2008)
- Oh My Goodness (2015)
- June (A Tribute To Arthur Alexander) (2018)
Chart songs as a songwriter
|Song Title||Recording Artist||US Chart||Year|
|“Easy To Love”||Joe Simon||12||1977|
|“You’re Gonna Love Yourself in The Morning”||Bonnie Koloc||12||1974|
|“You’re Gonna Love Yourself in The Morning”||Charlie Rich||22||1980|
|“Choo Choo Train”||Boxtops||26||1968|
|“We Had It All”||Waylon Jennings||28||1973|
|“We Had It All”||Dolly Parton||28||1986|
|“You’re Gonna Love Yourself in The Morning”||Roy Clark||35||1975|
|“Breakfast in Bed”||Dusty Springfield b side of Son Of A Preacher Man||10||1968|
|“Breakfast in Bed”||UB40 featuring Chrissie Hynde||8||1988|
Kris Kristofferson’s song The Pilgrim – Chapter 33 (1971) opens with a dedication to Funky Donnie Fritts, Billy Swan, Jerry Jeff Walker, and Johnny Cash.
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- “Archived copy”. Archived from the original on 2015-07-12. Retrieved 2015-07-10.
- “V/A – Country Funk Volume II 1967 – 1974”. Light In The Attic Records.
- “Donnie Fritts To Release New Album This Fall”. Americansongwriter.com. June 25, 2015.
- “Archived copy”. Archived from the original on 2008-09-14. Retrieved 2009-05-13.
- “Donnie Fritts”. IMDb.com.
- Corey, Russ (August 28, 2019). “Singer/songwriter Donnie Fritts dies at age 76”. TimesDaily. Retrieved August 28, 2019.
- “Songs We Love: Donnie Fritts, ‘Errol Flynn‘“. Npr.org.
- Betts, Stephen L. (July 9, 2018). “Donnie Fritts to Pay Tribute to Arthur Alexander on New Album”. Rolling Stone.