Lyman Elnathan Woodard III was born March 3, 1942 in Owosso, Michigan. He was a child prodigy of the piano during his earliest years in elementary school while learning the basic principles of European traditional music. Soon afterwards the boogie woogie piano skills of artists such as Meade Lux Lewis and Pete Johnson proved to be a great source of inspiration to him as he adapted to that style which served him significantly, especially after being exposed to the music of Little Richard and his Specialty recordings of the mid 1950’s.Young Lyman’s piano dexterity served him well when his parents took him to audition for famed pianist Oscar Peterson during an engagement at Baker’s Keyboard Lounge in Detroit, Michigan shortly after his graduation from high school. Peterson was sufficiently impressed with his dexterity and helped to facilitate his enrollment at the Oscar Peterson Advanced School of Contemporary Music for two years.
During this period saxophonist Benny Poole also noticed his dexterity. He felt he was a natural in adapting to the Hammond organ and suggested it to Lyman’s mother. It wasn’t long before the young organist relocated to Detroit after his initial apprenticeship of playing nightclubs in the Flint and Jackson, Michigan areas. Beginning in 1965 he became a bandleader and his groups, over the years, included guitarists Dennis Coffey, Ron English, and Robert Lowe; drummers Melvin Davis and Leonard King Jr.; violinist Regina Carter; and saxophonist Kenny Garrett.
In December 1988 he discontinued being a full-time bandleader and joined saxophonist Rick Steiger’s ensemble The Sun Messengers for several years. On occasion he would lead various ensembles that were picked from a pool of his favorite musicians. His last performance with the Lyman Woodard Organization featured a group of musicians chosen by Leonard King Jr. on November 22, 2009 at Cliff Bell’s in downtown Detroit. Four months later, on February 24, 2009, he died in the hospital of his birth in Owosso.