Songwriter among songwriters 

Keith Sykes plays South on Main.

click to enlarge KEITH SYKES: Has collaborated with Buffett, Prine and other great singer/songwriters.
  • KEITH SYKES: Has collaborated with Buffett, Prine and other great singer/songwriters.

The phrase "songwriter's songwriter" is usually just code for a songwriter who has remained obscure in spite of producing quality work. That definition falls well short of describing Memphis singer/songwriter Keith Sykes. A songwriter whose songs other highly regarded writer/musicians have been eager to record and with whom other songwriters have wanted to associate and collaborate: That would come much closer to describing Sykes. This is not to say that Sykes' 40-plus years of work can't stand on its own; it certainly can, and the list of admirers, associates, collaborators and those who have recorded his songs is lengthy and impressive. Just to name a few: Kris Kristofferson, Alex Chilton, Rodney Crowell, Guy Clark, Rosanne Cash, Jerry Jeff Walker, Jimmy Buffett, Steve Goodman and John Prine. Folks, that is as weighty as you can get when it comes to songwriters.

Several of these associations and collaborations are longtime. Jimmy Buffet recorded Sykes' "The Coast of Marseilles" and "The Last Line" on the monster hit record album "Son of a Son of a Sailor" released in 1978. Sykes and Buffett went on to co-write the title track for Buffett's "Volcano" album, released the following year. "Keith Sykes writes songs that not only make you think, they make you sing along as well" Buffett has said.

The great songsmith John Prine has collaborated with Sykes several times, including on "Love, Love, Love," "You Got Gold" and "Long Monday." I was able to talk to Sykes on the phone recently somewhere between Tennessee and Texas on his way to Larry Joe Taylor's Texas Music Festival. He told me that a new collaboration called "No Ordinary Blue" is slated to be on Prine's next record. Prine has said he and Sykes have "written some really good songs together, and it's all I can do to keep up with him." This is a relationship that goes well beyond songwriting and the music business. They are longtime friends and spend time together offstage and outside the studio. Prine and Sykes have gone trout fishing on the White River here in Arkansas.

It's not just established songwriting legends who have benefited from Sykes' time and attention. He can be credited for discovering and signing Todd Snider to Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville Records in 1993. There is also a group of Memphis-based songwriters that he's made great efforts to promote, including Pine Bluff native son Mark Edgar Stuart. Stuart got to recently repay the favor, introducing Sykes when he was honored with a Brass Note on Beale Street.

Local radio personality (on "Under the Influence" on KABF-FM, 88.3), poet and harmonica player R.J. Looney has booked Sykes as the grand finale to his month of curating sessions at South on Main at 10 p.m. Friday, April 29.

Looney chose Sykes, he said, because "Keith's music has been a part of the soundtrack of my life for 35 years. He is one of my favorite songwriters and I will always identify his voice as Memphis when I hear it. [He's] just a really great guy that has always stayed true to the craft and career of being a songwriter. You have to admire that." This show will no doubt turn into a party. Given Sykes' association with fun, tropic-themed music, I would not be one bit surprised if South on Main's accomplished bartender, David Burnette, came up with a special cocktail to mark the occasion, perhaps even something with flames.

This performance will come exactly one week after the release of Sykes' new EP, "Songs From A Little Beach Town." There's already been a great deal of buzz about the release. The satellite radio station Radio Margaritaville started playing songs from the EP in February, and Sykes told me he has been overwhelmed with how many folks have sent him pictures of their dashboards when his name came up on their display. He laughed as he said, "It makes me feel good, but I sure hope they kept at least one eye on the road." The new EP will be available at the show.


From the ArkTimes store



Showing 1-1 of 1

Add a comment

Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-1 of 1

Add a comment

More by Joe Meazle

  • Charles Portis' "Norwood" at 50: A Review

    The 50th Anniversary celebration of Portis' "Norwood" is precisely the type of unique, multifaceted, Southern-focused programming that many of us have hoped to see from the partnership between Oxford American and South on Main.
    • Aug 4, 2016
  • A new era for Riverfest

    In its 38th year, Little Rock's annual summer music festival reinvents itself.
    • Jun 2, 2016
  • More »

Readers also liked…

Most Shared

  • Executionpalooza

    Appearances count. I was struck by a single sentence over the weekend in a full page of coverage in The New York Times devoted to the killing spree in Arkansas, beginning with a front-page account of the recent flurry of legal filings on pending executions and continuing inside with an interview with Damien Echols, the former death row inmate.
  • Art bull

    "God, I hate art," my late friend The Doctor used to say.
  • Not justice

    The strongest, most enduring calls for the death penalty come from those who feel deeply the moral righteousness of "eye-for-an-eye" justice, or retribution. From the depths of pain and the heights of moral offense comes the cry, "The suffering you cause is the suffering you shall receive!" From the true moral insight that punishment should fit the crime, cool logic concludes, "Killers should be killed." Yet I say: retribution yes; death penalty no.
  • Judge Griffen writes about morality, Christian values and executions

    Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen, who blogs at Justice is a verb!, sends along a new post this morning.
  • The Ledell Lee execution thread

    Arkansas Times contributor Jacob Rosenberg is at the Cummins Unit in Grady filing dispatches tonight in advance of the expected execution of Ledell Lee, who was sentenced to death for the Feb. 9, 1993, murder of Debra Reese, 26, who was beaten to death in the bedroom of her home in Jacksonville.

Latest in A&E Feature

Visit Arkansas

Haralson, Smith named to Arkansas Tourism Hall of Fame

Haralson, Smith named to Arkansas Tourism Hall of Fame

Chuck Haralson and Ken Smith were inducted into the Arkansas Tourism Hall of Fame during the 43rd annual Governor’s Conference on Tourism

Event Calendar

« »


2 3 4 5 6 7 8
9 10 11 12 13 14 15
16 17 18 19 20 21 22
23 24 25 26 27 28 29

© 2017 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation