James’ Brand New Blog

Post No. 2001: RIP Duck Dunn

- May 14th, 2012

duck dunn

Donald “Duck” Dunn, in an undated photo, presumably from pretty early in his career courtesy of topnewstoday.org

When JNBlog was trying to play bass back in the day, Duck Dunn was the player I should have been emulating . . . just listened to the start of the Stax/Volt Revue live album recorded in Britain in 1967, Emperor Roscoe brings him on stage as “Mr. Duck Dunn” . . . then those simple, inevitable rock solid notes on Green Onions  . . . Philly Dog,  which follows, has him moving around a bit . . . always like a tank, a graceful, mobile tank, moving forward. Maybe he’s like Wilbur Ware in jazz, where it sounds simple — until you try to do it.

Once, in interviewing Bill Wyman, I praised the bass line, a tremendous groove on the Stones’ 2120 South Michigan Ave. Just trying to sound like Duck Dunn, Wyman said. That’s a rock Rushmore obit right there.

Just playing the 45 of Hip Hug-Her. Composer credit to the whole MG four . . . on the flip side is  Summertime & Duck is v. discreet. Just a few notes for most of it as Booker T. really soars all over the Gershwin place.

Here is the Reuters obit . . .

 

By Steve Gorman

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Bassist Donald “Duck” Dunn, a member of Booker T. & the MGs whose thick bottom grooves anchored many of the classic soul hits from the 1960s, has died on tour in Japan, his friend and bandmate Steve Cropper said on Sunday. Dunn was 70.

Dunn, an integral part of the Memphis soul sound as bassist for the MGs, the house band for Stax and Volt records, died Sunday morning after finishing two shows at the Blue Note Night Club in Tokyo, Cropper said in a posting on his Facebook page.

“Today I lost my best friend, the world has lost the best guy and bass player to ever live,” Cropper said.

Cropper, who also performed with Dunn on television and in the movies as part of the MGs-inspired Blues Brothers tribute band, said Dunn had died in his sleep, but he gave no other details about the circumstances.

The signature instrumental grooves of Booker T. & the MGs, grounded by Dunn’s heavy bass notes, provided the musical bedrock on hundreds of singles for such soul stars as Wilson Pickett, Otis Redding, Eddie Floyd and Sam & Dave.

From Redding’s wistful (Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay to Picket’s raucous In the Midnight Hour,  the band’s lean, tight accompaniment carried the vocals.

The group, inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1992, also cut 10 albums and charted 14 hits of their own, including Hip Hug-Her, Groovin’, Soul-Limbo, Hang ‘em High and (Time Is Tight . . . ). JBNBlog: Time is Tight may be in the basement somewhere. But where?

Back to Reuters.

The first and biggest instrumental hit of the MGs (an abbreviation for “Memphis Group”) was recorded in 1962 before Dunn joined – Green Onions, a 12-bar blues composition that has become a staple for aspiring rockers ever since.

Their most notable collaboration was with Redding, Stax’s greatest star. The group played on virtually all of his records and backed him live for his legendary performance at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967.

. . .

Dunn also played in sessions for many artists outside the realm of soul, including Eric Clapton, Neil Young and Jerry Lee Lewis.

In contrast to the more orchestrated pop-soul sound of Detroit-based Motown Records, the soul stylings produced by the Stax/Volt labels in Memphis were defined by the MGs’ spare, punchy and deeply groove-laden instrumentals.

The group, formed in the early 1960s, originally consisted of its namesake organist, Booker T. Jones, guitarist Cropper, drummer Al Jackson and bassist Lewis Steinberg. But the definitive lineup of the MGs was completed after a couple of years when Steinberg was permanently replaced by Dunn, who had started out with Cropper in a band called the Mar-Keys.

The MGs gradually broke up after Stax was sold in 1968, although the rhythm section of Dunn and Jackson continued to play on many subsequent Stax recordings. Jackson was shot to death in his Memphis home in 1975 as the group was preparing a reunion album.

In the 1990s, the surviving members reunited to back Neil Young on a tour and released That’s the Way It Should Be, their first album in more than 20 years.

Dunn and Cropper also performed in the Blues Brothers Band, a group originally assembled to back John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd for a 1978 comedy sketch on Saturday Night Live. They also appeared together in the 1980 Blues Brothers movie and its 1998 sequel, Blues Brothers 2000.

(Additional reporting by David Bailey; Editing by Chris Michaud and Paul Simao)

© Thomson Reuters 2012 All rights reserved.

Categories: Entertainment

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1 comment

  1. gold price says:

    They played on and produced hundreds of records, including classics like “ Walking the Dog ”, “ Hold On, I’m Comin’ ” (on which the multi-instrumentalist Jones played tuba over Donald “Duck” Dunn’s bass line), “ Soul Man ”, “ Who’s Making Love ”, “ I’ve Been Loving You Too Long (To Stop Now) ”, and “ Try a Little Tenderness ”, among others. Like their Motown contemporaries the Funk Brothers in Detroit , as a backing band to numerous hits, they are thought to have defined soul music —especially southern soul—where “the groove” was most important.

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