Keith Sykes
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Keith Sykes


Band Americana Singer/Songwriter


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The best kept secret in music


"Old Rocker Sykes gives laid-back a new spin"

A new record from Keith
Sykes, the dean of Memphis
singer-songwriters, is always a welcome and unexpected gift, like getting a call from an old friend. A
distinguished writer who has
had his songs recorded by Jimmy Buffett, John Prine and Rosanne Cash among many others, he is the
master of the personal epic, those songs seemingly about everyday things that turn out to be about
everything. But even for the
usually understated Sykes, Let It Roll, his first album on Fat Pete Records and the 12th of his 30-plus year career, is unusually languorous, a laid-back country rocker that finds
him settling uncomfortably into middle age. These 12 songs reveal an artist still at odds with the world in his own small ways, but who has learned not to worry so much about it and have some fun instead.
The tone is set from the get-go on the lead track, "Midnight in Tupelo," a simple evocation of a hot, sweaty party in a North Mississippi roadhouse. It is followed by "Let
It Roll," thematically the heftiest song of the collection with its pleas for tolerance and understanding. But even here, Sykes seems to be saying love comes easy, hate is hard
work. "Let's put the boys and girls together/And let their laughter fill this place/Why not take all our woes and worries/Put 'em all on a rocket and shoot 'em in to outer space,"
he sings. Elsewhere, working with a songwriting partner on every track except two covers and the
wrenching break-up song "Pictures," Sykes looks at the funnier side of getting older. He fights just to get out of bed on "Wake Up Sleepy Head." On "Old Rock 'n' Roller," he
gently mocks himself and senior stars like the Rolling Stones, still playing the music game after all these years. And with "Tearing the House Down," co-written with Sykes
old protege Todd Snider, he hilariously evokes the havoc that ensues when his wife
leaves the house for a few days.
Sykes cements the album's nostalgic air with a great swampy cover of Buddy Holly's "Peggy Sue" and rounds out the collection with a sprinkling of lovely love songs, including "That's the Way You Do It" and "What Are We Waiting For?" that you can just picture him playing for his longtime wife Jerene in their Raleigh backyard. - Mark Jordan


Keith Sykes Albums:
Keith Sykes (1970) Vanguard
1-2-3 (1972) Vanguard
The Way That I Feel (1977) RCA’s Midland International
I’m Not Strange I’m Just Like You (1980) Backstreet Records
It Don’t Hurt To Flirt (1982) Backstreet Records
Play X Play (1984) Memphis Records
Fun Rockin’ (1985) Memphis Records
It’s About Time (1992) Oh Boy Records
Advanced Medication For The Blues (1998) Syren Records
Songwriters on Beale Street (1999) Syren Records
Don't Count Us Out (2001) Syren Records
Let It Roll (2006) Fat Pete Records

Keith Sykes Songs Recorded By Other Artists:
The Gentrys

Lonesome Rhodes
“I’m Missing You”
Jerry Jeff Walker:
“Very Short Time”
“I’m Not Strange I’m Just Like You”
“Those Were The Days”
"It Don't Matter"
"About Her Eyes"
"Someday I'll Get Out Of These Bars"

John Prine
“You Got Gold"
“Everybody Wants To Be Like You”
"Love, Love, Love"
"A Long Monday"

Guy Clark
“Shut Up And Talk To Me”
"Be Gone Forever"
"She Loves To Ride Horses"

Mitch Ryder

Rosanne Cash
“Rainin’ In My Soul”
“Only Human”
"Right or Wrong"
"Take Me, Take Me"

The Judds
"“This Country’s Rockin’”

Jimmy Buffett
“Coast Of Marseilles”
"The Last Line"

Patti Loveless
"“You Are Everything”

Jimmy Thackery
"“Flyin’ Low”
"Hundreds Into Ones"
"Million Dollar Bill"

Rodney Crowell
“Just Want To Dance”
“Oh, What A Feeling”
"Let Freedom Ring"
"Stay (Don't Be Cruel)"
"Talking To A Stranger"

George Thorogood and the Destroyers

Lacy J. Dalton
"Baby You Can Rock With Me"



Nearly 30 years ago, a young Keith Sykes walked into a pawn shop on Memphis’ famed Beale Street and paid $20 for his first guitar. Since then, Sykes has made a name for himself as a guitarist/songwriter/producer extraordinaire, contributing to projects from artists as diverse as Jimmy Buffett, John Prine, Guy Clark, Jerry Jeff Walker, Todd Snider, Rosanne Cash and Patty Loveless.
Most recently, Keith released Let It Roll on Fat Pete Records. Noteworthy tracks like Midnight in Tupelo and Pictures hail acclaim from both critics and fans. His tenth record Don’t Count Us Out (newly released on Syren Records), Sykes showcases not only his finely honed talents, but those of some of his dearest and most talented friends as well. This latest work provides the listening audience with a clean break in style from his last great work on Advanced Medication For The Blues. While ‘Advanced Medication’ rocked the house from its opening track, Don’t Count Us Out shows an entirely different side of Sykes with some true finger-picking ‘Americana’ flavor.
A native of Murray, Kentucky, Sykes moved to Memphis when he was just 8 years old. It was then, as a senior in high school, that he bought that first guitar for $20 at a pawn shop on Beale Street. After graduation, his mother gave him a lift to the edge of town, where he began hitchhiking for the next two years, taking odd jobs and ultimately ending up in New York City to showcase at The Bitter End.

From there he toured nationally on the College Coffee House Circuit. In 1968, two of his songs were recorded by other artists: The Gentrys cut “Silky” on the Bell label and the Lonesome Rhodes did “I’m Missing You” for RCA. In 1970, Vanguard released Sykes’ self-titled debut album. Two years later, he went to Japan to play the lead role in the movie “Summer Soldiers.” Vanguard released his second album, 1-2-3, while Sykes was out of the country making the movie.

In 1973, Keith swapped New York for Austin, Texas, then moved on to Key West, Florida, where he met up with Jimmy Buffett. Keith served a brief stint in Buffett’s road band, after Buffett recorded two of Keith’s songs on the platinum Son of a Son of a Sailor LP. Keith later co-wrote what was to become the Parrot-head anthem, “Volcano.”
In 1974, Keith made his way back to Memphis, where he has lived ever since. In 1977, RCA’s Midland International released Sykes’ third album, The Way That I Feel. Sykes was on a roll as a highly acclaimed songwriter and recording artist. His 1980 Backstreet Records release I’m Not Strange I'm Just Like You subsequently led to an appearance on Saturday Night Live and later a guest spot on Austin City Limits.

Over the years Sykes has been featured in Time and Newsweek magazines and garnered record reviews in Rolling Stone. More records followed: It Don’t Hurt To Flirt in 1982; two albums for Memphis Records in 1984 and 1985, and in 1992 Oh Boy Records released It’s About Time, a singer/songwriter album.

Sykes had one or more songs, (either on LPs or singles, as a writer, co-writer or publisher), on one of Billboard’s music or movie charts continuously from 1978 through 1984, then again from 1986 to this year. The artists who have covered his songs sounds like a seating chart at The Grammy Awards, including not only Buffett but also Jerry Jeff Walker, Patty Loveless, Guy Clark, John Prine, The Judds, Rosanne Cash, Lacy Jay Dalton and Rodney Crowell, among others.

In 1986 Sykes began to work with new artists and signed John Kilzer to his production and publishing company. The demos he produced for Kilzer’s songs became Kilzer’s debut Geffen Records album and Sykes’ first home run as a producer.
“Producing came out of left field for me,” Sykes says. “I didn’t set out to do it, but I seem to have a knack for it.” That album opened up the playing field for Sykes as a producer. Keith soon began mentoring Todd Snider, signing him to his publishing company in 1990 and securing Snider a record deal with MCA/Margaritaville in 1993. He has completed projects for Tommy Tutone, GaryBoy, premier songwriter John Prine and veteran hit-maker B.J. Thomas.
Sykes still works as preceptor to many up and coming artists, but in 1995 he began focusing once again on his own recording career. He began hosting a songwriter’s showcase on celebrated Beale Street in Memphis, and each month features some of the country’s premier songwriters. From that showcase has come one great Syren produced Songwriter's On Beale Street CD with another in the making. All the while he has continued to gather and refine precious jewels: his collection of songs.

Sykes, along with partner Kelcy Warren, also built Syren Records' own recording studio called The Woodshed. Built in a fantastic setting, complete with a beautiful spring-fed lake in back, the Woodshed takes credit as the recording studio for the last four records put out on Syren's label.

Today, Sykes is refreshed and ready for the road! Be watching his c