Steve Cropper



There are not enough words to describe the multi-talents of modest and serious Steve Cropper. He was there quite at the beginning of Satellite/Stax and was the protégé of Jim Stewart. He was one of the first to get the keys of the studio and to be allowed to sit at the control board instead of Jim Stewart. Born in Dora, Missouri, in 1941 he came to Memphis at 10. Grown up in Memphis with school fellow Donald Dunn, he was already playing with the Mar-Keys when Last Night was recorded. He did quite everything at Stax from selling records at the Satellite Record Shop, developping his skills about recording techniques, playing the guitar and sometimes piano on most Stax records and composing the music for innumerable hits such as In The Midnight Hour, Knock On Wood, The Dock Of The Bay, Soul Man and so on.
After his departure from Stax in the early 70s, he created various independant studios and production companies. Today, he manages Insomnia Studios in Nashville, is also well known as a part of the Blues Brothers Band and can be seen in the cult film Blues Brothers and its recent sequel.



Curiously enough, Steve did only one album under his own name and another along with Albert King and Pop Staples. Of course, he had a great part in all Booker T. & The MG's records.


Stax 0048 : Water (vocal by Steve Cropper) / Opus De Soul (A. King, Pop Staples & Steve Cropper)


VOLT 6006 - WITH A LITTLE HELP FROM MY FRIENDS - STEVE CROPPER : Crop- Dustin'/Land Of 1000 Dances/99 ˝/Boo-Ga-Loo Down Broadway/Funky Broadway//With A Little Help From My Friends/Oh Pretty Woman/I'd Rather Drink Muddy Water/The Way I Feel Tonight/In The Midnight Hour/Rattlesnake.  (reissued on CD)

STAX 2020 - JAMMED TOGETHER - ALBERT KING, STEVE CROPPER & POPS STAPLES : What'd I Say/Tupelo/Opus De Soul/Baby What You Want Me To Do//Big Bird/Homer's Theme/Trashy Dog/Don't Turn Your Heater Down/Water/Knock On Wood. (reissued on CD)


Born in Dora, Missouri, in 1941, Steve Cropper had a rural white upbringing. He moved to Memphis in 1951 where, exposed to black R&B music, he soon adopted the music of the Memphis area. After years of associating his guitar style with the core black culture of the Stax sound, many are amazed to find that he is caucasian. Of his work in the sixties, Steve says: "If there was anything about the Stax sound it was really music with licks in it. We liked to call them money licks. "

Making something simple sound identifiable on record was one of Cropper's specialities. And it wasn't only the guitar licks. He wrote the Memphis Horns introduction on Wilson Pickett's "In The Midnight Hour" on guitar using his characteristic parallel chord approach. As he himself says, referring to the fretboard markers on the fingerboard of his Telecaster: "Just follow the dots and you can't get into trouble. " When arranged for horns the part is instantly identifiable. When he was sitting with Eddie Floyd, writing "Knock On Wood," Cropper came up with the idea of simply playing the introduction he had written for "In The Midnight Hour" in reverse. He did, it worked, and another million-seller was born.

Steve Cropper executed simple ideas with consummate good taste, originality, and feel. Jimi Hendrix, Syd Barrett and countless other important players have quoted Cropper as a major influence. He can be heard on any good Otis Redding compilation playing classics - co-written with Redding - like " (Sittin' On) The Dock Of The Bay" or "Fa-fa-fa-fa-fa (Sad Song)." If the term "getting your chops together" was not coined in reference to Steve Cropper then it should have been.

For over four decades now, Steve Cropper has literally defined the art of R&B guitar. Booker T. and the MGs, the Memphis-based band consisting of Cropper, Booker T. Jones on organ, Al Jackson on drums and Donald "Duck" Dunn on bass was the rhythm section for almost every hit to come out of the Memphis Stax/Volt Records era. Sam and Dave, Wilson Pickett, Otis Redding and many others had hits that were driven by the heavy groove of this band. Cropper also had his hand in producing and writing many of these great hits such as "Dock of the Bay" which he penned with Otis Redding. I had the pleasure of working with him in 1975 when I was playing lead guitar with John Prine, and he was producing Prine's "Common Sense" album. He was also an important part of Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi's "Blues Brothers" takeoff, and continues to be a driving force in the music scene today, producing and playing with almost every kind of major act conceivable. Cropper's tone has a metallic ferocity, yet his playing is always sparse and pervaded with a feeling of suspense.

Steve Cropper's studio work may be the highest embodiment of play-for-the-song minimalism. This least virtuosic of guitar heroes is almost universally admired for devising the archetypal riffs and pithy fills that helped define soul music. As house guitarist for Memphis's Stax Records, he backed Otis Redding, Sam & Dave and many other soul greats, contributing immortal grooves and hooks to some of the era's best music. As one quarter of Booker T & The MGs, he helped devise some of the finest R&B instrumentals ever (including "Green Onions," the 1962 smash that slammed his career into overdrive). He also produced many important soul sessions and co-wrote such gems as "Knock on Wood," "In the Midnight Hour" and "(Sittin' on) The Dock of the Bay."

You tend to incorporate single-note lines into double-stop and tritone riffs? It was bestowed upon me. When I started out doing sessions in the early '60s, they couldnt afford another guitar player. So almost every session we did was one guitar, if that. I hear some of the Stax stuff today that doesn't have guitars, and I love it, but I was right there wishing I could play guitar on those cuts rather than producing and doing everything else. Even my own record with the Mar-Keys, "Last Night," didn't have a guitar on it. In those days we only had one keyboard player, so we switched off on piano and organ. I played guitar on those songs onstage, and nobody ever knew the difference-I just doubled the bass line. I developed that style of throwing in a little single-note fill every now and then to weave in and out of the vocal to make it feel more lyrical with the vocal line. But I always jumped right back into the rhythm. I never liked to get away from the rhythm too much. The whole bottom falls out.