October 21st in Memphis Music History
You probably don’t know him as the producer of John Cougar’s (Mellencamp) fourth album, “Nothin' Matters and What If It Did.” A few of you might know that he was the actor who played Sal in 1988’s “Satisfaction” starring Justine Batemen. The most dedicated fans know he recorded with Paul Simon, Ringo Starr, and Levon Helm. Historians know that he wrote, ate, went swimming with, and just hung out with his fellow artists at The Lorraine Motel at a time when they were not welcome in other establishments because of the color of their skin. The motel was a creative space and a relief for them until that awful day in 1968 when it became synonymous with assassination. Memphis music fans know that this Songwriters Hall of Famer co-wrote “634-5789”, “Knock on Wood”, and other classics. Contributing as a writer, producer, and musician we know he is one of the creators of “the Memphis sound”. Music fans everywhere know he was inducted into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with his second band in 1982.
Generations of fans know him as a member of Saturday Night Live “offshoot” project, from which I learned of him, before I knew anything about Memphis music. I always chuckle when two different singers yell out “Play it…” in two different versions of one a song twelve years apart and they’re urging on the same guy.
Somewhere between moving to Memphis at nine years old and stardom, he worked as the session guitarist in one of the home bases of Memphis music history, was an original member of one of the greatest studio house bands in history, and made some of the best soul music in history.
When Isaac Hayes and David Porter were stuck for an intro to a song they were writing, they went to him - Sam and Dave’s “Soul Man” was born. When told he would be working with Wilson Pickett, he listened to some of Pickett’s ad libbed lines in gospel songs - and came up with the idea of the title and co-wrote “In the Midnight Hour.” When Otis Redding died in a plane crash, his co-writer went back into the studio and finished a song they had been working on - “(Sittin on) The Dock of the Bay”
Born on this day in 1941 in Dora Missouri, Happy Birthday to the Stax Records engineer, producer, A&R man; guitarist on songs by Otis Redding, Sam & Dave, Carla Thomas, Rufus Thomas and Johnnie Taylor, and nearly all Stax hits, original member of The Mar-keys and Booker T and the MG’s, Blues Brothers skit, records, and movie franchise star, still-playing session guitarist and owner of Nashville’s Insomnia Studio, “The Colonel” Steve Cropper - “Play it Steve!”