138. Booker T. & The M.G.’s

Booker T. & The M.G.’s (Memphis Greats) are a rock quartet from Memphis, Tennessee. They are best known as the Stax Records house band. Together with The Memphis Horns, the M.G.’s provided a spare, soulful background for Otis Redding, Sam & Dave, Carla Thomas, and other singers in the Stax Records “stable of artists”. In addition to their duties as house band, the quartet released music under their own name, several of which are among the finest rock instrumentals. Compared to the smooth “Sound of America” emanating from Detroit’s Motown Records, the Stax sound is sharp and stinging, funky and soulful.

Booker-T-and-the-MGs

Wikipedia Biography of Booker T. & The M.G.’s

Booker T. Jones (b. 1944), organ, piano
Steve Cropper (b. 1941), guitar
Donald “Duck” Dunn (1941-2012), bass
Al Jackson, Jr. (1935-1975), drums

Lewis Steinberg (b. 1933), bass (1962-1965)

All band members contributed to songwriting and music production.

Official Website for The Memphis Horns

Wayne Jackson (b. 1941), trumpet
Andrew Love (1941-2012), saxophone

Pop Instrumentals

Sometime in the early to mid-seventies, the pop instrumental started to fade away, and soon powerful radio stations stopped promoting songs without singing. Instrumentals had a long history as part of the popular music scene. In 1938, Artie Shaw’s version of “Begin The Beguine” was a #1 Billboard hit for six weeks. The instrumental maintained a consistent presence on popular radio during the sixties and seventies, comprising a small but significant percentage of total songs played. In the mid-seventies, disco instrumentals “TSOP” by M.F.S.B. (1974) and “A Fifth Of Beethoven” by Walter Murphy (1976) both hit #1 on the Billboard charts. The genre’s last gasp came around 1985, when “Axel F” by Harold Faltermeyer, became an international hit, through its association with the movie Beverly Hills Cop.

For a few years in my early childhood, my mother taught an adult exercise class at the local high school, a precursor to today’s aerobic classes. She collected quite a few pop instrumental records by artists like Herb Alpert to use as exercise music. By the time we acquired singles of “Soul Limbo” and “Hang ‘Em High” by Booker T. & The M.G.’s, she no longer taught the class, but still enjoyed these popular, but not jazzy songs. Compared to others my age, I think I take a far greater interest in these songs of the past. I still enjoy them very much.

Here’s a fine performance of the band’s biggest hit, “Green Onions”, followed by related artists The Mar-Keys playing their biggest hit, “Last Night”:

Time Is Tight

I’ve included two videos of the 1969 hit “Time Is Tight”. The first is from late December, 1970. My mom and sister, my best friend and I sat in the rafters at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, as far back as possible, to see Wilbert Harrison, Booker T. & The M.G.’s, and then Creedence Clearwater Revival headlining. It is no coincidence that Creedence sounds like Booker T. & The M.G.’s; the two bands admired one another, and spent time jamming while in Oakland. I recently became aware portions of this concert were videotaped. Memories like this are so sweet; I wish I could reminisce with Mom, and thank her for that night, and everything else.

The second video is one of my favorite YouTube discoveries since starting the music blog, a fine homemade video from Belgium in 2009. “Time Is Tight” is the rare song I could hear every day and never grow tired of. I could wake up every morning, take my marching orders from Booker T. Jones and Steve Cropper, venture out into the world and embrace the day. Duck Dunn passed away in 2012, and Al Jackson, Jr., the “Human Timekeeper”, was murdered in his home in 1975. All four men are masters of rhythm, and legends of popular music.

Booker T. & The M.G.’s Song Notes:

1. My version of “Green Onions (Live)” is hard to find. It can be found on the 2-CD set Concert For The Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame.

2. I have two versions of “Soul Limbo” and “Time Is Tight”. The best mix of “Soul Limbo” can be found on the album Soul Limbo. The monaural version of “Time Is Tight” is best and worth finding, but is not currently available on iTunes.

Booker T. & The M.G.’s Songs

Time Is Tight, Booker T. & The M.G.’s ★★★★
Green Onions, Booker T. & The M.G.’s ★★★★
Soul Limbo, Booker T. & The M.G.’s ★★★★

Groovin’, Booker T. & The M.G.’s ★★★
Green Onions (Live), Booker T. & The M.G.’s ★★★

Soul Dressing, Booker T. & The M.G.’s ★★
Slim Jenkin’s Place, Booker T. & The M.G.’s ★★
Over Easy, Booker T. & The M.G.’s ★★
Melting Pot, Booker T. & The M.G.’s ★★

I Got A Woman, Booker T. & The M.G.’s
Comin’ Home Baby, Booker T. & The M.G.’s
Hang ‘Em High, Booker T. & The M.G.’s
Behave Yourself, Booker T. & The M.G.’s
Hip Hug-Her, Booker T. & The M.G.’s

Related Songs:

The following songs feature most or all members of Booker T. & The M.G.’s, also known as the Stax Records rhythm section:

(I Love) Lucy, Albert King ★★
Oh, Pretty Woman, Albert King ★★
Laundromat Blues, Albert King ★★
Crosscut Saw, Albert King ★★
Kansas City, Albert King ★★★
The Hunter, Albert King
As The Years Go Passing By, Albert King ★★★
Born Under A Bad Sign, Albert King ★★

As The Years Go Passing By (Live), Boz Scaggs ★★★★

Gee Whiz, Look At His Eyes, Carla Thomas
B-A-B-Y, Carla Thomas
I’ll Bring It On Home To You, Carla Thomas

Please Uncle Sam (Send Back My Man), The Charmels ★★
As Long As I’ve Got You, The Charmels

Knock On Wood, Eddie Floyd ★★★★
Big Bird, Eddie Floyd
Love Is A Doggone Good Thing, Eddie Floyd
I’ve Never Found A Girl (To Love Me Like You Do), Eddie Floyd ★★

I Got To Love Somebody’s Baby, Johnnie Taylor
Ain’t That Loving You (For More Reasons Than One), Johnnie Taylor ★★
Who’s Makin’ Love, Johnnie Taylor ★★★

What’ll I Do For Satisfaction, Johnny Daye

You Can’t Run Away From Your Heart, Judy Clay

I’m A Big Girl, Mable John
Your Good Thing (Is About To End), Mable John ★★★

Last Night, The Mar-Keys ★★
Sack O’ Woe, The Mar-Keys ★★

(Sittin’ On) The Dock Of The Bay, Otis Redding ★★★
(Sittin’ On) The Dock Of The Bay (Take 2), Otis Redding ★★★
Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa (Sad Song), Otis Redding
Hard To Handle, Otis Redding ★★
I Can’t Turn You Loose, Otis Redding
I’ve Been Loving You Too Long, Otis Redding ★★★
I’ve Been Loving You Too Long (Live), Otis Redding ★★
I’ve Got Dreams To Remember, Otis Redding
I’ve Got Dreams To Remember (Alt), Otis Redding
Love Man, Otis Redding
My Lover’s Prayer, Otis Redding ★★
Pain In My Heart, Otis Redding ★★
Respect, Otis Redding ★★★
Respect (Alt), Otis Redding
Shake, Otis Redding ★★★
That’s How Strong My Love Is, Otis Redding ★★
These Arms Of Mine, Otis Redding
Tramp, Otis Redding & Carla Thomas ★★
Try A Little Tenderness, Otis Redding ★★★
Try A Little Tenderness (Take 1), Otis Redding ★★

I’m Going Home, Prince Conley ★★

You Don’t Know Like I Know, Sam & Dave
Hold On, I’m Comin’, Sam & Dave ★★★
Soul Man, Sam & Dave ★★★★
Soothe Me, Sam & Dave ★★
I Thank You, Sam & Dave ★★
Wrap It Up, Sam & Dave ★★
You Got Me Hummin’, Sam & Dave
When Something Is Wrong Is My Baby, Sam & Dave ★★
Soothe Me (Live), Sam & Dave ★★

You Don’t Miss Your Water, William Bell ★★★
Any Other Way, William Bell
Everybody Loves A Winner, William Bell

In The Midnight Hour, Wilson Pickett ★★★★
Don’t Fight It, Wilson Pickett
Ninety-Nine And A Half (Won’t Do), Wilson Pickett ★★
634-5789, Wilson Pickett

More Related Songs:

Comin’ Home Baby, Mel Tormé ★★

Groovin’, The Rascals ★★★★
Groovin’, Willie Mitchell ★★

I Got A Woman, Ray Charles ★★★★
I Got A Woman, Elvis Presley
I Got A Woman, Jimmy Smith ★★

2 thoughts on “138. Booker T. & The M.G.’s

  1. Scheele Mitch October 9, 2014 / 12:20 AM

    Awesome!

  2. R. Supan October 9, 2014 / 4:56 AM

    The Bar-Kays also did a lot of background work with the Stax artists including Otis Redding and Isaac Hayes (“Shaft”). I saw Booker T. perform with the Bar-Kays and other acts in Santa Barbara in August 2013. Great show observed from the third row.

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