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Frederick Swain Schaefer

1948 - 2019 Obituary Condolences Gallery
Frederick Swain Schaefer Obituary
Swain Schaefer – 1948-2019

Swain Schaefer, a Nashville keyboard and bass player with roots in Memphis music, died at his home in Nashville on February 16. He played the organ for the Boxtops after most of their recordings were made, and won two NARAS Platinum albums for his songwriting and production credits on the song, " Happy Holidays" for the Alabama Christmas Album.

Swain's musical career began in the 1960's Memphis rock 'n' roll bands, including the Scepters and other Memphis bands that formed in garages, living rooms, and bedrooms. His collaborations include playing the organ for Delbert McClinton and Ronnie Millsap. Other musical associations include Don Nix, Sid Selvedge, Joyce Cobb, Reba Russell, Steve Cropper, Duck Dunn and Terry Johnson of the Mar-Keys. Swain also collaborated with Dan Penn, Spooner Oldham, Jimmy Griffin, and John Paul David. Swain performed with Tony Joe White, Levon Helm, and the Pointer Sisters, and with Ed Bruce on Austin City Limits. He was a member of the bands Wind Mill and Brother Love Swain loved his old Hammond B3 Organ for its reliability and durability to travel well, and had a vast record of musical recordings, performance dates and songwriting collaborations with Memphis and Nashville musicians. While underage, he played a date with Ronnie Millsap at the old Thunderbird Lounge in Memphis. More recently, he performed at Trezevant Manor and other senior facilities in Memphis and Nashville.

Jimmy Crosthwait, a bandmate and surviving member of Mudboy and the Neutrons remembered, "At the Memphis Pink Palace Museum. I was part of the education department at the natural history museum producing marionette shows. Swain and I worked together recording the music and narration of several productions that I performed through many of those years. He did so without monetary compensation and very little recognition. We spent a hilarious week recording jingles for a bulk food store called 'Hippopotamus' that sold giant gallon cans of vegetables. I don't remember a single slogan or jingle, but I do remember that we literally laughed all the way to the bank."

Frederick Swain Schaefer was born in Memphis on August 2, 1948 to Virginia and Milton Schaefer, Sr., owners of Central Woodwork in Memphis. His first piano lessons came from Memphis pianist and music store owner Berl Olswanger. As a child and teenager, Swain enjoyed adventures into the woods around the Raleigh home where he grew up, including a misadventure at the old Chapman Castle in what became the Lake Windermere Subdivision. He loved baseball, biking around the lake and exploring the woods behind his house with lifelong friends Ted Blackwell and Steve Horton. He also loved cars and participated in a few races at the Lakeland Drag Strip in East Shelby County.

Swain graduated from Bartlett High School in 1966, and briefly attended classes at the Memphis Academy of Art (Memphis College of Art). Young Freddy became an expert dog trainer when he was about 12. In his first competition, his dog won, but they were disqualified because his dog outweighed him . . . it is said. He was known for his love and soft heart for animals, and recently presented Facebook videos of himself accompanying his dog on the piano while the dog sang.

Survivors include a daughter Amy Spencer Anthony, ex-wife Kathleen Spencer, and Maryellyn Duncan, former business manager, all of Memphis. He also leaves two brothers, Milton, Jr, (Julie), niece Molly, and nephew Pledger of Winchester, TN, and Davis Peticolis of Littleton, CO. A service was held at the Church of Hope in Nashville, where he was the organist and musical director. In the last few years of his life, Swain became involved at New Hope Church, an Episcopal Church through his friend Rev. Mike Coupe, who officiated. Who knew his sense of reverence would leave him uncomfortable with applause after hymns?

Swain Schaeffer's life will be celebrated in a musical tribute at Huey's Midtown, 1927 Madison Ave, Memphis, TN 38104 on March 3, 3-7 p.m. The event will be hosted by Jimmy Crosthwait and Jimmy Newman, another longtime musical collaborator.
Published in The Daily Memphian on Feb. 26, 2019
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