When Floyd Cramer picked up his phone in Nashville in the spring of 1984, there was an unmistakable voice on the other end of the line. It was Michael Jackson, inviting the famed pianist to perform at an event honoring matriarch Katherine Jackson. “I’ve been listening to ‘Last Date’ all my life,” said Michael, referring to Cramer’s 1960 signature instrumental. The keyboardist was Katherine’s favorite recording artist, and that’s how he wound up tickling the ivories behind Michael on “For the Good Times,” backing Jermaine on “Moon River” and entertaining the entire Jackson clan in Hollywood that spring.
“I was just overwhelmed, and very surprised,” Cramer commented. He shouldn’t have been. As a key member of Nashville’s “A Team” of studio musicians, Floyd Cramer was one of the most influential piano players in history, regardless of genre.