In 1962 the hottest new instrumentalists were Booker T and The MGs – Two blacks and two whites, they were the studio band for Stax records, but their own hit, Green Onions, was as original and influential as any other song they had played on.
It became a worldwide hit and earned Booker T Jones his first gold record – at the age of 17!
Born in the Memphis black ghetto in 1944, Jones showed considerable early promise as a musician and was snapped up as a session man by the newly-formed Stax label.
Despite the success of Green Onions, Jones was intent on finishing his education by majoring in music at Indiana University. It wasn’t until 1966 that he decided to return full-time to music.
Bassist Lewie Steinberg was replaced by Donald “Duck” Dunn in 1964, and while the band continued to back Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett and many other soul stars, they kept their own identity with hits like Soul Limbo, Hang ‘Em High and Time Is Tight becoming one of the most respected instrumental units of all time.
The group disbanded in 1972 to reform twice, unsuccessfully, in 1973 and 1977. Steve Cropper became the chief recording engineer for Stax and formed The Mar-Keys with Dunn.
Drummer Al Jackson was tragically murdered at his Memphis home in 1975 by a burglar.
In 1977, Cropper and Dunn famously became part of The Blues Brothers Band producing a number one album, Briefcase Full of Blues, and in 1980 were featured in the classic movie starring Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi. They reprised their roles in Blues Brothers 2000 (1998).
Booker T Jones
Donald ‘Duck’ Dunn