After the instalment starring Booker T, our audio series on the great names who helped write the story of Stax Records now moves to the guitar giant who played alongside him and so many others. Steve Cropper was the ever-inventive lead guitarist on all the classic Booker T and the MGs tracks, an in-demand session player for more than half a century, and the co-writer of some of the greatest soul records ever made.
Still gigging extensively, Cropper was in the UK with some of his fellow surviving greats from the Stax stable for the all-star Prom in London in the late summer of 2017. During that visit, he took time out from rehearsals to talk to this journalist about the heritage of the storied label, and some of the secrets of his longevity.
Cropper, born in Dora, Missouri in 1941, describes his own Southern background and how it intersected with his fellow musicians in the MGs. He describes the unique team spirit that was the key to Stax’s emergence in the 1960s, and how he always preferred the group ethic to being a frontman in his own right.
We’ll find out about some of the music and artists that shaped the guitarist-songwriter, from the worlds of rhythm and blues and rock ‘n’ roll, and how he feels when he plays both the familiar MGs catalogue and other favourites in the Stax songbook. Cropper also has some vivid memories about the famed 1967 tour of the UK and Europe that firmly established Stax on the international stage, and we’ll get a taste of what that tour sounded like, as DJ Emperor Rosko introduces the band on stage.
Steve’s recollections are further illustrated in the mini-documentary with big Stax hits such as his co-writes for Eddie Floyd (‘Knock On Wood’) and Otis Redding (“Dock Of The Bay”) and some lesser-played MGs gems including “Chinese Checkers” and “Mo’ Onions.”
Purchase the 3-CD Soulsville USA compilation here.
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