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Booker T. & The MG' S

As the house band at Stax Records in Memphis, Tennessee, Booker T. & the MG's may have been the single greatest factor in the lasting value of that label's soul music, not to mention Southern soul as a whole. Their tight, impeccable grooves could be heard on classic hits by Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett, Carla Thomas, Albert King, and Sam & Dave, and for that reason alone, they would deserve their subsequent induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. But in addition to their formidable skills as a house band, on their own they were one of the top instrumental outfits of the rock era, cutting classics like "Green Onions," "Time Is Tight," and "Hang 'em High."

The anchors of the Booker T. sound were Steve Cropper, whose slicing, economic riffs influenced many other guitar players, and Booker T. Jones himself, who provided much of the groove with his floating organ lines. In 1960, Jones started working as a session man for Stax, where he met Cropper. Cropper had been in the Mar-Keys, famous for the 1961 instrumental hit "Last Night," which laid out the prototype for much of the MG's (and indeed Memphis soul's) sound with its organ-sax-guitar combo. With the addition of drummer Al Jackson and bassist Lewis Steinberg, they became Booker T. & the MG's. Within a couple years, Steinberg was replaced permanently by Donald "Duck" Dunn, who, like Cropper, had also played with the Mar-Keys.

The band's first and biggest hit, "Green Onions" (a number three single in 1962), came about by accident. Jamming in the studio while fruitlessly waiting for Billy Lee Riley to show up for a session, they came up with a classic minor-key, bluesy soul instrumental, distinguished by its nervous organ bounce and ferocious bursts of guitar. For the next five years, they'd have trouble recapturing its commercial success, though the standard of their records remained fairly high, and Stax's dependence upon them as the house band ensured a decent living.

In the late '60s, the MG's really hit their stride with "Hip Hug-Her," "Groovin'," "Soul-Limbo," "Hang 'em High," and "Time Is Tight," all of which were Top 40 charters between 1967 and 1969. Since the presence of black and white musicians made them a biracial band, the MG's set a somewhat under-appreciated example of both how integrated, self-contained bands could succeed, and how both black and white musicians could play funky soul music. As is the case with most instrumental rock bands, their singles contained their best material, and the band's music is now best appreciated via anthologies. But their albums were far from inconsequential, and occasionally veered into ambitious territory (they did an entire instrumental version of the Beatles' Abbey Road, which they titled McLemore Avenue in honor of the location of Stax's studios).

Though they'd become established stars by the end of the decade, the group began finding it difficult to work together, not so much because of personnel problems, but because of logistical difficulties. Cropper was often playing sessions in Los Angeles, and Jones was often absent from Memphis while he finished his music studies at Indiana University. The band decided to break up in 1971, but were working on a reunion album in 1975 when Al Jackson was tragically shot and killed in his Memphis home by a burglar. The remaining members were active as recording artists and session musicians in the following years, with Cropper and Dunn joining the Blues Brothers for a stint in the late '70s.

The MG's got back into the spotlight in early 1992, when they were the house band for an extravagant Bob Dylan tribute at Madison Square Garden. More significantly, in 1993 they served as the backup band for a Neil Young tour, one which brought both them (and Young) high critical marks. The following year, they released a comeback album, arranged in much the style of their vintage '60s sides, which proved that their instrumental skills were still intact. Like most such efforts, though, it ultimately failed to re-create the spark and spontaneity it so obviously wanted to achieve. Jones continued with his own musical output through the following decades, often lending his instrumental skills to other artists and occasionally issuing his own albums, such as the 2009 solo effort Potato Hole. Bassist Dunn, intermittently active with festival and tour appearances after the turn of the millennium, had been touring with Cropper and Eddie Floyd in Japan during May 2012 when he died in his sleep in a Tokyo hotel. ~ Richie Unterberger, Rovi
full bio

Selected Discography

Comments

So good. Rippin it for decades. Always funky. Always groovy. Always smooth.
The smoooothest sound ever.
dtnnc
I sooo grew up listening to their Xmas album which is a Classic!!
Two of my favorites are among the least known of Booker T's recordings: Sweet Potato and Slim Jenkins' Place
they were thr backing band for Neil Young's Harvest Moon tour...... AWSOME CONCERT!!!
"The Horse"late 60's Also became a dance
Dome-City Gangstazzz*9 7 8 * ~ 6 m 1 4 y ~
The baddest house band ever! I played Green Onions 20 x in a row and mom had a fit back in the day!
My fave song.......a n d still popular after all these years ..who knew....
peacelovesof t b a l l 4 6
Green onions makes me think of one thing and one thing only... The Sandlot!
Great song.
LUV EM 4 the next 400,000,000, 0 0 0 , 0 0 0 , 0 0 0 years,give or take a month....... . . : - D :-D :-* :-D :-D
Booker T. & the MGs----Heroe s of mine from WAAAAAAAAAAA A A A A Y Y Y Y back!!!
They totally blew me away w/ Neil Young - LA sports arena
WOW a BOMB!
Great
Green onions, tasty alone or in almost any dish.
They totally Rock !
Love it.
mnardi8
BT&MG's will survive all of us. It defines its time, everyone who I've played this for loves it, across all age groups. This stuff is ageless!!! I LOVE IT!
Reminds me of H.school teen club in the 60's.
i would love to hear green onion
misschris57
Booker T & the MG's-you can't get much better than that. RIP, Duck Dunn.
Essential to the progress of the 60s. When blues crossed tbe line
kvons1
Booker T & the MG's----grea t old stuff.
just right amount of 'salt and pepper(same as Motown)' if I may wax philosophica l . Man,those guys impress me with their solid FUNK. They may pass,but their music shall live on.
pjfox6
Love Booker T. and the M.G.s grew up listening to the Memphis sound through my parents ... one particular song I can't find is Johny I Love. You
RIP Duck Dunn, bass
who did vocals on this cut please?
Sad to hear that Duck passed away this weekend.
If you get a chance, tehre are some bootlegs of these guys live at winterland that are mind BLOWING!
rsbaxter1207
Time is Tight. One of the best songs of all time.
need4chrome
M.G. Memphis Group....
twobigbuckey e s
my fovorite song. bep
bcbaltutis
Trivia Question: what does the MG stand for?
Green Onions...Han g 'em High...with that organ sound......u m the best.
Ever since Brazil'66 Herb Alpert has a favorite of mine! Punimbook
luigi1150
Praise The Lord 8-)
I listened to this group growing up in the 70's and they have incorporated gospel, blue, rock, etc. and their sound is infectious to the soul which has permenated to what is called Contemporary Gospel....Be Blessed,

Ciao,
Luigi 8-)
laurastanley 3
I play Booker T and the MGs for my kids (6 and 8) - they LOVE green Onions and their version of Jingle Bells. If you love your kids too, you'll play them groovy soul, R & B, Blues, Mo-Town, funk, Elvis, Latin Jazz etc --NOT Justin Beaver!
Leave a comment…
Green Onions is one of my top ten favorites. Steve Cropper is superb with the flow on his fingers.
far out groove man!!
mortski9
Booker T&MGs were the biggest influence on CCR's 'swamp rock' sound. and HIP HUG-HER is perhaps their best album, 1967.
Gotta Love those sweet guitar riffs gettin layed down by the one and only Steve Cropper whom we all know and love so well from the Blues Brothers later in his illustrious career!
This is a way cool song. booker `t & the m.gs scratch my back. . . peace out.
makes me want to dance.....Gr o o v y
Their picture should be in the dictionary next to the entry for "groove".
brucehowardm o r r i s
Can't get enough of their music.
Love Booker T and all the MGs.

I should point out that in copywriting, the abbreviation for Tennessee should be Tenn., not 'TN' Postal abbreviation s are just not cool in text.
Like Cool Man !!!!!!!!
Uh, Stax records. One of the first bands to perform with blacks and whites together and not in your face, just smooth and relaxed making sweet music that hits you deep in your soul. They blended their styles and launched some of the greatest R&B bands ever. Sam and Dave, Ottis, Cold Grits, I mean come on....On the level with the Funk Bro's smoothness. They were writing music at the same time as the F.B.....Both influential and inspiring. Neither gets enough credit. Their styles? The Funk Brother
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