RIP Duck Dunn 1941 – 2012

By , May 13, 2012 2:44 pm


The Mighty Duck



The Law Firm of Jones, Dunn, Cropper and Jackson Esqs

Listen/Download Booker T and the MGs – Sing a Simple Song

Listen/Download Booker T and the MGs – Chicken Pox


Listen/Download Booker T and the MGs – Melting Pot

Greetings all.

I had other plans to start the week (how many times have I typed those words in the last year?) but when I woke up this morning and turned on my phone, the very first thing I saw, while I was still rubbing the sleep from my eyes was news of the passing of the mighty Duck Dunn.

Donald ‘Duck’ Dunn, the longtime bassist for the legendary Booker T and the MGs died in his sleep while on tour in Japan.

He was 70 years old.

It is at this point that I make a somewhat embarrassing confession (at least as far as soul is considered) that being that the first time Duck Dunn really came onto my radar was as a member of the Blues Brothers.

I was 16 years old when ‘Briefcase Full of Blues’ came out, and like zillions of others my age (and otherwise) I bought the album.

Though I knew who Booker T and the MGs were – ‘Green Onions’ was then, and still is an elemental part of my musical foundation – I had never heard the names of Dunn and guitarist Steve Cropper before the Blues Brothers came onto the scene.

That album was the first place my fragile young mind touched base with the sounds (once removed) of Junior Wells, King Floyd, the Chips and a few others. As odd as it may seem, that first Blues Brothers album (I never bought another) was a serious jumping off point for me (as many other unlikely records would also be in the following decades).

What I didn’t know at the time, was that I was already deeply in love with the sound of Booker T and the MGs, via their role as Otis Redding’s band on the Monterey Pop recording.

I didn’t start buying soul 45s until I was in my mid-20s, but when I did I grabbed each and every Stax 45 that popped up in front of me, whether at record shows or at dusty flea markets (there twarn’t no interwebs back then, kids…), and many of them were either by Booker T and the MGs, or featured some or all of them as the backing band.

The decades that followed saw me – like any other self respecting soul fan – picking up Booker T albums wherever I found them.

While their oeuvre was, like every other instrumental band of the era, seasoned liberally with filler, they had more high points (and quite a few Everests) in their catalog than just about any other similar outfit.

The MGs were as tight as they came, with Dunn and uber-drummer Al Jackson creating as deep a pocket as has ever been heard.

The selection of songs I bring you today is by no means comprehensive, but I think you’ll find it quite groovy nonetheless.

There will be no Green Onions served, since Dunn wasn’t yet a member of the group* when it was recorded.

I have included a very tight Sly and the Family Stone cover, and two brilliant tracks from the last album the band did together.

Their cover of Sly’s ‘Sing a Simple Song’ comes from their 1969 LP ‘The Booker T Set’ and opens with a bit of a drum break from Jackson, soaked thoroughly in reverb, before the band kicks in. It sees the heavy kick of Jackson’s bass drum move into a more explicitly funky place, and while it never really moves into Sly-esque overdrive, it is tasty indeed.

‘Chicken Pox’ the first track from the group’s 1971 LP “Melting Pot’ (the last by the classic line-up) is the sound of the Meters breathing down the MG’s collective neck. The band is moving into a funkier place, and doing so with style, but the spectre of their Crescent City competition always seems to be there. Oh, how I wish this one was on a 45…

The last cut I bring you today is the title cut from ‘Melting Pot’, and by far one of the most interesting things they ever did.

Lasting in excess of eight minutes, ‘Melting Pot’ is important not only because it shows signs of the MGs stretching out into more progressive directions, but also because it became one of David Mancuso’s deeply influential Loft parties in New York City.

I’ll spare you an excess of words here, but if you have any interest in digging a little deeper, you can refer back to the piece I wrote on the record in early 2010.

Suffice to say, if all you ever knew was ‘Green Onions’, ‘Melting Pot’ will be a revelation.

Duck Dunn was – in addition to his better known gigs – a prolific session musician, both during and after the Stax era.

He was a legend, and he will be missed.

See you later in the week.

Keep the faith





*Though Dunn was a longtime part of the Stax/Memphis crew, being a boyhood friend of cats like Cropper and Packy Axton (Dunn was in the Mar-Keys) he didn’t join the MGs until he replaced Lewis Steinberg in 1965

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9 Responses to “RIP Duck Dunn 1941 – 2012”

  1. porky says:

    with chops like he had, he didn’t need to be an actor yet I love it in the BB’s movie when he says, “Yeah, we had a sound that turned goat piss into gasoline.”

    I couldn’t say it better. RIP

  2. Jeff says:

    Never apologize for being 16. We all were, and we all were learning as we went along.

  3. Larry Grogan says:

    Point taken Jeff!

  4. Kris Holmes says:

    very sad news, RIP to one of the greatest.

  5. Stu says:

    I just found out this morning and felt something of the reaction you did. Like you, I was introduced to Dunn and Cropper through the Blues Brothers, and the effect on me was huge. It was tremendous the one year we had a cool jazz band director at Marlboro H.S. and we actually got to play some stuff off Briefcase Full of Blues in the school jazz band. Pretty edge for a bunch of white suburban kids at the time! 🙂

    Take care Larry,

  6. Mondo says:

    You’ve nailed it Larry – the perfect tribute to another legend lost. Only a few hours before hearing the sad news we’d been watching the Stax/Volt Norway tour DVD, and marvelling at Duck’s powerhouse playing..

  7. paul m says:

    RESPECT – otis, al, isaac, andrew and duck – all grooving together on the other side – thoughts go to booker, steve, wayne, eddie and all the other stax greats still playing and carrying the torch – you’ve been the soundtrack to my life and countless others – memphis is slowly but surely turning into a ghost town

    keep the faith
    paul m

  8. longhairwolf says:

    Thanks mister bassman for all the great music.


  9. […] write something about the wonderful Donald Duck Dunn who died last week. Meantime, here’s Funky Larry, 27 Leggies and  J David saying their goodbyes. Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:LikeBe the […]

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