Skip to main content

View Diary: Cheers and Jeers: Rum and Coke FRIDAY! (151 comments)

Comment Preferences

  •  Friday: Oatmeal Stout Odds & Ends (35+ / 0-)

    CHEERS to Bill and Michael in PWM, commonmass plus our Wyoming-based friend Irish Patti and ...... well, each of you at Cheers and Jeers. Have a fabulous weekend, everyone.

    HAIL and FAREWELL to the British clarinetist/bandleader Terry Lightfoot who has died at the age of 77. In 1957, his 'trad jazz' (Dixieland) band included a 17 year-old Ginger Baker - yes, the future star drummer of Cream.

    FRIDAY's CHILD #1 is is the late Alfie the Cat - a Welsh kitteh beloved by his neighbors, as he would seek pets from nearly everyone who passed him by.

    TV NOTES - in the near future, the TV show "Hot in Cleveland" will feature a reunion of five female members of the Mary Tyler Moore Show - Mary Tyler Moore, Cloris Leachman, Betty White, Georgia Engel and Valerie Harper (who was recently diagnosed with terminal cancer) - for the first time since the MTM Show went off-the-air in 1977.

    BRAIN TEASER - try this Quiz of the Week's News from the BBC.

    THIS COMING SUNDAY I will feature Odds & Ends - a weekly wrap-up diary of all of my postings this week, circa noon Eastern (9 AM Pacific). I hope you'll vote in the "Who Lost the Week?!?" poll (a mirror image of the one Bill posted tonight). Dang, there are loads of misfits lined-up for your consideration (such as Michelle Shocked, Richard Nixon, the History Channel, CNN, Lululemon and the KKK) .... and the week's not over yet.

    FRIDAY's CHILD #2 is Kallie the Cat - a Michigan kitteh rescued after four days in a tree (with snow on her) after a tree-service firm read of her plight on Facebook.

    .......and finally (repeated for the West Coasters) for a song of the week ............................... if all they had done was act as the house band at the Memphis soul music Stax/Volt record label, Booker T. and the MG’s would have merited a significant place in history. After all: if your label has singers such as Rufus and Carla Thomas, Eddie Floyd, Otis Redding, Albert King, Isaac Hayes, Wilson Pickett, Don Covay and the Staples Singers recording for it .... well, the MG's thus appear on many soul music classics. But they also had their time in the limelight, with several instrumental hit singles in the 1960's, plus a level of respect from the rock music world-at-large. Not for nothing did John Lennon refer to them as "Book a Table and the Maitre D's".

    The original quartet was made up of organist Booker T. Jones as well as Al Jackson, Jr. on drums, Lewie Steinberg on bass ... and the only non-Memphis native, guitarist Steve Cropper whose family moved there from Missouri when he was age nine. Booker T. had been hanging out at the Stax studios in his youth, and was hired as a session man, where he met-up with Cropper, who had already been performing in a band called the Mar-Keys - and after leaving them, he became the Stax label's de facto A& R man and engineer.

    In 1962, they were paired up with drummer Jackson and bassist Steinberg, to back-up a rockabilly singer who left after finishing the session. Stax founder Jim Stewart left a tape in while the four musicians started jamming on a blues in F that became the band's signature tune, Green Onions - which reached #3 in the pop charts, and was eventually named by Rolling Stone as #183 in its 500 Greatest Songs of All Time list.

    In 1965, Steve Cropper felt that the sound of the band wasn't quite right .... at which time he asked an old Mar-Keys bandmate to replace bassist Lewie Steinberg .... and so Donald Duck Dunn joined and helped establish the "classic line-up" of the band (in 1st photo, below left: clockwise from lower left are Jones, Jackson, Cropper and Dunn ... second photo L-to-R are Jackson, Jones, Dunn and Cropper).

    Some notes about the band: (a) about the name "Booker T. and the MG's" - for years the band denied that the "MG's" portion came from the British sports car (fearful of a lawsuit) ... instead, they maintained that the acronym was short for "Memphis Group". (b) Duck Dunn noted that when the band was driving through Memphis, they might be stopped by the police, asking Dunn "if he was OK" ..... riding with two black men, apparently. (c) Many guitarists, who are criticized about playing "too many notes", are often recommended to listen to Steve Cropper (known for his economical yet edgy playing, (d) Cropper also co-wrote several of Stax's hit records: Knock on Wood by Eddie Floyd, Dock of the Bay by Otis Redding and In the Midnight Hour by Wilson Pickett, and (e) after the shooting of Martin Luther King in 1968, the band-members said the vibes at Stax were no longer as warm.

    But the band backed-up Otis Redding at the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival, and would have performed on their own at Woodstock in 1969 ... except that Al Jackson was fearful of boarding the necessary helicopter to do so. They had other hits such as 1967's "Hip Hug-Her" (#37 in the pop charts), "Groovin" (#21) and three in the Top Twenty during 1968: "Soul-Limbo" (#17), "Hang Em High" (#9), and their highest-charting hit in six years, Time is Tight (at #6).

    In 1971, they released their most critically-acclaimed album Melting Pot - although its most popular tune "Kinda Easy Like" only reached #45 in the pop charts. The band, though, had started to disintegrate (slowly) since 1968. Not due to any dislike or major policy differences: just that the members had other works they wanted to pursue. Jones had gone to study at Indiana University's noted music program, Steve Cropper became a producer in Los Angeles and Al Jackson became Al Green's regular drummer. They still did session work in Memphis, but little as a band after 1971.

    They planned to reunite in 1975 ... which was derailed when Al Jackson, Jr. was murdered in his home (which is still considered mysterious to this day). Steve Cropper and Duck Dunn went on to appear in the "Blues Brothers" film (and tour with the band) which helped remind people of the MG's legacy.

    The surviving members (last photo: Dunn, Jones and Cropper) reunited from time-to-time: In 1992, they were the main back-up band for the 1992 Bob Dylan 30th Anniversary concert, and in 1998 for the Atlantic Records 40th Anniversary concert. In 1994, they released a comeback album - their first in seventeen years - that included cover versions of "Gotta Serve Somebody", "Just My Imagination" and U-2's "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For". In 2002, the band backed Neil Young on his "Are You Passionate?" album (as well as on tour) and in 2004 served as a house band for Eric Clapton’s Crossroads Guitar Festival in Dallas.

    The death last year of Duck Dunn at age 70 (and for whom a tribute concert took place earlier this month) may well have been the final chapter of the MG's story. But wotta book it was: appearing on more than 600 Stax/Volt recordings (including many hit singles), were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1992 and were named by Rolling Stone as #93 on its 100 Greatest Artists of All Time list.

    One of their works was a tribute to the Beatles: John Lennon always wanted to write an instrumental for the band, and so the band responded in 1970 with an instrumental version of "Abbey Road", which Booker T and Duck Dunn had adored. So much so, they named the album McLemore Avenue (as Stax was located at 926 East McLemore Avenue at the corner of College Street) and the cover photo showed the four crossing the street (albeit not in a zebra-stripe lane).  

    Here is their version of You Never Give Me Your Money .....

    .... and an earlier version of Green Onions (with Duck Dunn on bass, as he was not on the original recording) on a 1967 European TV show.

    "We should pay attention to that man behind the curtain."

    by Ed Tracey on Fri Mar 22, 2013 at 04:32:34 PM PDT

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site