Highlight in the History of Stax Records

The Stage is Set, the Players take Their Place

Let us begin our story of Booker T. and the MG's in 1960. This was the year when Booker T. Jones, a soulful organist, came to do studio work at Stax Records (which also doubled as a purveyor of vinyl) on E. McLemore Avenue in Memphis, TN. A year later, he became acquainted with dominant Rhythm and Blues guitarist, Steve Cropper, who had just just quit the Mar-Keys, invited by Stax owner Jim Stewart to do the A & R work there. When Al Jackson brought his percussion talents, and Lewis Steinberg provided the bottom, (until 1963 when another ex-Mar-Keys player and boyhood friend of Cropper's, Donald "Duck" Dunn replaced him.) Thus, the Stax (and Volt) house band was born, but without a name.

Musical Doodling Creates a Masterpiece

In early 1962, a time that Cropper still helped his old band the Mar-Keys, the aforementioned musicians were in the studio awaiting a basically forgotten vocalist, Billy Lee Riley ("Flying Saucers Rock and Roll") to show up for his session. Musicians, not unlike athletes need practice, and while fooling around jamming, the guys worked around a lively bubbly melody that Booker T. Jones put forth on his organ. It was made even more interesting by the unique punctuation with bending chops provided perfectly by Steve Cropper. They worked on it and captured it on tape. Cropper, using his clout with Stax got it released as "Green Onions" by Booker T. and the MG's (MG = Memphis Group1): thus the name was matriculated. They became an integrated band that gained more 'soul' -- not lost it.

Do Not Quit Your Day Job

"Green Onions" made it to number three on the charts in 1962, but the closest hits they had was Top Forty climbers: "Hip Hug-Her," followed by "Groovin," "Hang Em High," Time is Tight," and "Soul Limbo." Booker T. has the statistics for that second big hit:

One of the reasons I knew that "Hip Hug-Her" had been a million seller before I got a gold record for it: is because I personally signed over a million copies. I counted them you know.
They would eventually record ten albums, that were not as successful as the singles with their own group, but more impressively they are on more than six hundred of their studio's recordings for other artists, and that paid the rent if theirs did not. One fascinating and major endeavor was the instrumental album of the Beatles' music called, McLemore Avenue. Stax had a business arrangement with Atlantic Records, and therefore, Booker T. and the MG's worked on Wilson Pickett and Albert King projects. And, significantly they had a continuous artistic relationship with Otis Redding, working on all his recordings. One highlight was their performing with Otis at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967, even alongside the Mar-Key's. Steve Cropper wrote Otis's hit, "Sitting On the Dock of the Bay," as well as helped with Wilson Pickett's "In the Midnight Hour," Sam and Dave's "Soul Man," Eddie Floyd's "Knock on Wood," and Albert King's "Born Under a Bad Sign." Perhaps not known by some, but Isaac Hayes lent his keyboard skills to some pieces.



Stax was sold in 1968, and not only because of this, but also because Booker T. Jones was working on his degree in Music at Indiana University, and Steve was at his own Memphis studio, then in LA, the group decided to dis-band in 1971. Four years later their plans to do a reunion record was halted by an intruder's murder of Al Jackson. They were in the spotlight again at the end of that decade when they appeared on The Blues Brothers. They again worked as separate entities until they performed a Bob Dylan tribute at Madison Square Garden in 1992, and again the next year working for an acclaimed backing for Neil Young. In 1994 they released their first (and latest) album in two decades, That's the Way it Should Be. One could say it would have been nice to have been a hit. However, in a few years they performed for a PBS special on Stax records.



All Stax

"Green Onions"; "Behave Yourself" (1962)
"Jellybread"; "Aw' Mercy" (1963?)
"Home Grown"; "Burnt Biscuits"; "Big Train" (1963?)
"Chinese Checkers"; "Plum Nellie" (1964)
"Mo' Onions"; "Fannie Mae"; "Tic Tac Toe" (1964)
"Soul Dressing"; "MG Party"br> "Can't Be Still"; "Terrible Thing"
"Boot-Leg"; "Outrage" (1965)
"Be My Lady"; "Red Beans And Rice"
"My Sweet Potato"; 'Booker-Loo" (1966)
"Jingle Bells"; "Winter Wonderland"
"Hip Hug-Her"; "Summertime" (edited) (1967)
"Groovin'"; "Slim Jenkin's Place"
"Winter Snow"; "Silver Bells"
"Soul Limbo"; "Heads Or Tails" (1968)
"Hang 'Em High"; "Over Easy"
"Time Is Tight"; "Johnny, I Love You" (1969)
"Mrs Robinson"; "Soul Clap 69" (1969)
"Slum Baby"; "Meditation"
"Something"; "Sunday Sermon"
"Melting Pot"; "Kinda Easy Like" (1971)
"Jamaica This Morning" (The MG's); "Fuqawi" (w. Booker T. Jones)
"Sugarcane"; "Blackside" (The MG's) (1973)
"Neckbone"; "Breezy"

Albums (Stax) {dates correlate with singles above}

Green Onions
Green Onions; Rinky-Dink; I Got A Woman; Mo' Onions ; Twist And Shout; Behave Yourself; Stranger On The Shore; Lonely Avenue; One Who Really Loves You; You Can't Sit Down; A Woman, A Lover, A Friend; Comin' Home Baby.
Soul Dressing
Soul Dressing; Tic-Tac-Toe; Big Train; Jellybread; Aw' Mercy; Outrage; Night Owl Walk; Chinese Checkers; Home Grown; Mercy Mercy; Plum Nellie; Can't Be Still.
And Now!
My Sweet Potato; Jericho; No Matter What Shape ; One Mint Julep; In The Midnight Hour; Summertime (long version); Working In The Coal Mine; Don't Mess Up A Good Thing; Think; Taboo; Soul Jam; Sentimental Journey.
In the Christmas Spirit
Jingle Bells; Santa Claus Is Coming to Town; Winter Wonderland; White Christmas; The Christmas Song; Silver Bells; Merry Christmas Baby ; Blue Christmas Sweet Little Jesus Boy; Silent Night; We Three Kings; We Wish You A Merry Christmas.
Hip Hug-Her
Hip Hug-Her ; Soul Sanction; Get Ready; More; Double Or Nothing; Carnaby St.; Slim Jenkin's Joint; Pigmy; Groovin'; Booker's Notion ; Sunny.
Back to Back
(part) : Introduction; Green Onions; Red Beans And Rice; Tic-Tac-Toe ; Hip Hug-Her; Gimme Some Lovin'; Booker-Loo; Outrage.
The Stax/Volt Revue Vol. One Live In London
(part): Green Onions.
R & B Show at the Olympia, Paris - (part
Hip Hug-Her; Working In The Coal Mine.
Doin' Our Thing
I Can Dig It; Expressway (To Your Heart); Doin' Our Thing; You Don't Love Me; Never My Love; The Exodus Song; The Beat Goes On; Ode To Billy Joe; Blue On Green; You Keep Me Hanging On; Let's Go Get Stoned.
Soul Limbo -
Be Young Be Foolish Be Happy /La La Means I Love You /Hang Em High /Willow Weep For Me /Over Easy /Soul Limbo //Eleanor Rigby /Heads or Tails /(Sweet Sweet Baby) Since You've Been Gone/Born Under A Bad Sign /Foxy Lady.
Johnny I Love You /Cleveland Now) /Children Don't Get Weary (Judy Clay) /Tank's Lament /Blues In The Gutter ) //We've Got Johnny Wells /Down At Ralph's Joint /Deadwood Dick /Run Tank Run /Time Is Tight.
Soul Explosion
(part) : Em High/Soul Limbo/Soul Clap '69/Booker's Theme.
The Booker T. Set
The Horse /Love Child /Sing A Simple Song /Lady Madonna /Mrs. Robinson/ /This Guy's In Love With You /Light My Fire /Michelle /You're All I Need /I've Never Found A Girl /It's Your Thing.
McLemore Avenue
Medley: Golden Slumbers-Carry That Weight-The End-Here Comes The Sun-Come Together/Something //Medley: Sun King-Mean Mr. Mustard-Polythene Pam-She Came In Through The Bathroom Window-I Want You (She's So Heavy).
Greatest Hits -
Hang 'Em High /Eleanor Rigby /Soul Limbo /Over Easy/Mrs. Robinson /Something //Time Is Tight /Johnny I Love You /Heads Or Tails /Meditation /Hip Hug-Her.
Melting Pot
Melting Pot /Back Home /Chicken Pox /Fuquawi //Kinda Easy Like /Hi Ride/L.A. Jazz Song /Stormy Monday.
The MG'S
Sugar Cane/Neck Bone /Spare Change /Leaving The Past //Left Overs (Bucaramanga) /Black Side /One Of A Kind /Frustration.
Union Extended
Overton Park Sunrise; Steve's Stroll; Duck Walk; Cotton Carnival; Midnight On McLemore; Union Extended; Avalon; Around Orange Mound; National Jackson; Beale Street Revival; Saucy Pt. 2; Booker's Theme.

CD's have been released of many of these above on Ace.

1Aneurin relates---The MGs: the story I read was that they were named after the British sports car, following the fashion set by another Memphis group called the Triumphs. The British car company threatened to sue for the misuse of the MG brand-name, at which point Stax turned around and said, "oh no, it's Memphis Group."

Billboard Compilation dates compliments of earthen.