‘What are we going to do for an intro?’: Steve Cropper connects the dots on hits with Wilson Pickett, Eddie Floyd

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For guitarist Steve Cropper, an intuitive sense of things served him well. Twice, when it came to legendary riffs on what would become legendary Stax songs, he simply did what came naturally.

“When young writers say: ‘How do you come up with those songs?,’ sometimes you have a story — and sometimes you can’t come up with a story,” Cropper admits. “I say: ‘Well, all I did was follow the dots.'”

The dots? Yes, those white orbs on the frets of a guitar. The secret was hidden in plain sight.

For the intro of Wilson’s Pickett’s “In the Midnight Hour,” Cropper says he played down the neck of his instrument, following the dots — as demonstrated on this recently uploaded clip with Ronnie Wood.

“A few months later, Eddie Floyd and I were writing a song called ‘Knock on Wood,'” Cropper adds. “He said: ‘What are we going to do for an intro?’ And I couldn’t come up with an intro. Then I said: ‘You know what? I followed the dots before. What if I did it backwards?’ So I did!”

Pickett’s “Midnight Hour” would hit No. 1 on the R&B charts in 1965, and No. 21 on the pop lists. Floyd’s “Knock of Wood,” meanwhile, went to No. 28 on Billboard’s Hot 100 and spent a week at the top spot on the R&B list in 1966.

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