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August 25th, 2008:

Cropper on Stax

Some recent thoughts put forth by Blues Brothers member, the ultimate rhythm guitarist, Steve Cropper…

The rhythm guitarist did a bit of everything in his time at the legendary record label from comparatively menial jobs, to acting as producer, engineer, A&R man, and songwriting partner to the likes of Otis Redding, Eddie Floyd, and dozens more on all-time classics such as (Sittin on) The Dock of the Bay, Knock On Wood, and In The Midnight Hour.

He was also a founding member of Stax Records’ house band Booker T and the MGs and helped form the Blues Brothers Band with John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd in 1977.

“I got my first record cut when I was 16,” he recalls. “I’d been writing since I was 14 or 15 and it just so happened a friend of mine’s dad worked for the record producer Sam Phillips. I got him to listen to one of my songs and that’s how I cut my first record. I got a cheque in the mail and went through the roof. I knew then what I wanted to do with the rest of my life.”

“It was a lot of fun,” Steve recalls. “And none of it was planned.

“I was the only guitarist so I ended up playing on every record by default and I was the only guy who wanted to listen to new material coming in off the street so I became the designated A&R man.

“But I really would do a bit of everything from literally sweeping floors, changing lightbulbs and working in the record shop to working with the artists in the studio.

“The songwriting came about because I wasn’t really accepted as a lyric writer, but I was accepted as an instrumental writer, so I came up with the idea of going up to Jim’s No.1 artist at the time and co-writing a song with her. The song was a hit and surprisingly enough I got to co-write pretty much everything after that.”

During this period, Steve’s incredible list of songwriting credits included (Sittin On) The Dock of the Bay with Otis Redding, Knock on Wood with Eddie Floyd and In The Midnight Hour with Wilson Pickett.

“Whenever I hear (Sittin On) The Dock of the Bay I think of Otis. It’s pretty phenomenal to have co-written a song like that, which will last forever…”

Man, I loved playing those Stax records when I was growing up (over the more widely accepted and cleaner Motown records – no comparison at all on the soul factor). Otis Redding’s music still shines bright 41 years after his death. I remember learning to play guitar and wishing I could be like Steve Cropper… Good on you Steve! May the Muse stay with you…

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