America’s foremost R&B contingent of the ’60s was Booker T. and The MG’s, led by Hammond B3 whiz Booker T. Jones.
Stax Records, the phenomenal studio behind this week’s featured band, Booker T. and The MG’s—and countless other soul-defining artists—was based on McLemore Avenue in Memphis. Stax sadly had the “S” taken out of its soul with two tragedies: First, Otis Redding, a buddy of the MG’s, died in a plane crash on December 10, 1967. Then, just months later, on April 4, 1968, Dr. King was shot in Memphis. In 1970, Booker T. left for California, and a vital era in American music came to a close.
I’d begin your introduction to Booker T. & The MG’s with “Green Onions,” “Hip Hug-Her” (Booker’s first contribution with the B3 organ; previous Hammond organ contributions had been with the less powerful Hammond M3 spinet model), and “Soul Dressing.” As always, record albums are preferable to CDs. I own the complete MG’s 180-gram record collection produced by Sundazed Music of Coxsackie, New York. I also own the complete collection of original Stax LPs, as well as all the Stax and Atlantic 45s of the MG’s, including the ultrarare Volt pressing of “Green Onions.” The album Soul Dressing includes the 1963 release “Chinese Checkers,” Booker’s first effort with an electric piano instead of an organ. Booker is also featured on trombone on “Chinese Checkers” with drummer Al Jackson calling out the words “your move” midway through the record. After “Green Onions,” it’s my favorite MG’s single.
You will find Booker pictured with me at About Dick Young and all the singles I feature at my R&B Juke Box. By far, the finest book ever written on Stax including Booker T. & The MG’s is Rob Bowman’s Soulsville, U.S.A. Absolutely essential. I spoke to Mr. Bowman on one of my many Stax research projects through the years. There is not another non-Stax insider alive with the Stax knowledge Rob Bowman has accumulated.
Originally posted on September 2, 2010.