Donald “Duck” Dunn

by admin  31st May 2012 Comments [239]

By James Porter

“We had a band powerful enuff to turn goat piss into gasoline.”

That was one of Duck Dunn’s speaking roles in the movie The Blues Brothers. He was talking about the latter-day band that he played in with Steve Cropper, the Bar-Kays’ Willie Hall, Memphis Slim’s guitarist Matt “Guitar” Murphy, and, among others, singing actors John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd. But he could have been talking about the band that made him famous—Booker T & the MGs—and made twice as much sense.

Donald “Duck” Dunn, the lynchpin of numerous sessions during the first decade of Stax Records, died May 13, 2012 in his sleep in a hotel in Tokyo, aged 70.

Dunn wasn’t with Booker T & the MGs from the beginning—that’s Lewie Steinberg’s bass you hear on 1962’s “Green Onions”—but, with all due respect to Steinberg, Dunn was in the classic lineup from 1964-71 (and all reunions thereafter). During this period, not only did you hear Dunn providing serious bottom for “Hip-Hug-Her,” “Time Is Tight,” “Hang ‘Em High” and “Melting Pot,” but when the Stax hit machine really started to take off, you could hear him in full force on hits by Otis Redding, Carla Thomas, Eddie Floyd, Sam & Dave, Albert King, and various other luminaries at Soulsville USA (as the marquee outside Stax read). After 1969, the MGs started doing less and less sessions at the label as a younger crew called the Bar-Kays slowly took over. Dunn’s bass skills were legendary enough that he had no trouble picking up outside work, with Muddy Waters, Bob Dylan, Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis and others. While he didn’t quite have the high profile that his bandmates Booker T Jones and Steve Cropper did (both of whom also had reputations as producers, as well as issuing the occasional solo record), Dunn was still clearly in the mix.

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