New York DJ
at Oct 21, 2014 9:52:43 AM
Steve Cropper is 73 years old today.
Steve "The Colonel" Cropper is a guitarist, songwriter and record producer and best known as the guitarist of the Stax Records house band, Booker T. & the M.G.’s.
He has backed artists such as Otis Redding, Sam & Dave, Carla Thomas, Rufus Thomas and Johnnie Taylor, also acting as producer on many of their records. He later gained fame as a member of the Blues Brothers band.
When he was nine years old, Cropper moved with his family to Memphis. At the age of ten, he strummed his brother-in-law's Gibson guitar for the first time. Cropper received his first guitar by mail order at 14 and started playing with local musicians.
His guitar heroes at the time included Lowman Pauling of the "5" Royales, as well as Chet Atkins, Chuck Berry, Tal Farlow, Jimmy Reed, and the guitarist of the Bill Doggett band, Billy Butler.
Cropper and guitarist Charlie Freeman formed the Royal Spades, who eventually became the Mar-Keys. The name referred to the marquee outside Stax studios, known as Satellite Records at the time. Eventually the Mar-Keys began playing on sessions and had a hit single of their own with "Last Night" in 1961.
When American Records founder Chips Moman left Stax, Cropper became the company's A&R man. He became a founding member of the Stax house band Booker T. & the M.G.'s, along with Hammond organ player Booker T. Jones, bassist Donald "Duck" Dunn and drummer Al Jackson Jr.
As a house guitarist, he played on many recordings such as "(Sittin' on) the Dock of the Bay," co-written with and performed by Otis Redding, and Sam & Dave's "Soul Man," on which he was mentioned by name. When Cropper played on the song's remake by the Blues Brothers, lead singer John Belushi again mentioned Cropper.
At this time Cropper's fame was not limited to the United States. The Beatles favored Cropper's playing, and his production on Otis Redding records. John Lennon and Paul McCartney made tentative plans to record in Memphis, and to work with the guitarist. However Brian Epstein cancelled the sessions, citing security problems.
Regarding this period, Rob Bowman, in his book Soulsville U.S.A.: The Story Of Stax Records, quoted Booker T. Jones as saying: “We were writing sounds too, especially Steve. He's very sound-conscious, and he gets a lot of sounds out of a Telecaster without changing any settings — just by using his fingers, his picks and his amps”
Along with influential work with Booker T & The MG's, Cropper co-wrote "Knock On Wood" with Eddie Floyd, "In the Midnight Hour" with Wilson Pickett and "(Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay" with Otis Redding. In 1969, Cropper released his first solo album, With a Little Help From My Friends.
In 1978, Cropper and Dunn became members of Levon Helm's RCO All-Stars, and then went on to figure prominently in the Blues Brothers Band with the drummer Willie Hall. This led to two albums and two movie soundtracks. Cropper also re-recorded "(Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay" (1979) for Sammy Hagar. Cropper lived in Los Angeles for the next thirteen years before moving to Nashville and reuniting with the Blues Brothers Band in 1988.
In 1992, Booker T. & the M.G.'s were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and Cropper appeared with a new line-up of the group for the Bob Dylan 30th Anniversary concert, on October 1992 at Madison Square Garden, performing songs by and backing Dylan, Eric Clapton, George Harrison, Tom Petty, Johnny Cash, Chrissie Hynde, Sinéad O'Connor, Stevie Wonder and Neil Young. The concert was recorded and later released as The 30th Anniversary Concert Celebration (1993).
Neil Young later recruited this line up of Booker T. and the M.G's, to tour with him and record as his studio band.
In 1996, Cropper was named "the greatest living guitar player" by Britain's Mojo magazine. When asked what he thought of Cropper, the guitarist Keith Richards said, "Perfect, man."
In February 1998, Cropper released Play It, Steve! which included some of soul music's most enduring songs. The album title came from the "shout" of the title phrase by Moore on Sam & Dave's "Soul Man," and later by John Belushi (with the Blues Brothers).
Here Cropper speaks of heyday of Booker T. and the MGs.