‘We were a little luckier’: Booker T. and the MGs stood apart from the standard house band

As part of Booker T. and the MGs, Steve Cropper played on countless hits, though often the record-buying public had no idea of their involvement. The guitar legend explains why that never mattered.

Throughout that same period, Booker T. and the MGs were also fashioning their own hits, separate from Stax Records’ biggest stars — starting with their No. 3 1962 instrumental smash “Green Onions.” They also had a pair of Top 40 hits in 1967, “Hip Hug-Her” and “Groovin.’”

“Probably nothing was as successful as, say, an Otis Redding,” Cropper admits in the clip. “I mean, that was just way big. (Laughs.)”

But it was enough to set them apart from Motown’s standing group of crack session men, dubbed the Funk Brothers — who rarely got their due. Those stand-alone releases from the MGs provided a distinction between the two.

“Where we were a little luckier than the Funk Brothers was — we were artists as well,” Cropper says. “Within that timeframe, we always had a current instrumental that was out there, going up the charts. We were receiving royalty checks on a regular basis, and that sort of thing. Booker T. and the MGs were as much artists as the ones who sang. So we didn’t get that feeling of left out.”

In fact, Cropper and Co. earned separate induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1992. Funk Brothers bassist James Jamerson followed them into the hall in 2000; legendary Motown drummer Benny Benjamin was honored in 2003.

    

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  • BobBates

    Great interview with Steve Cropper. Steve’s humility in spite of his fame and success in the music business is one of his best qualities I believe. He once gave me a lift across the Tennessee River bridge to Florence after he had done a session at Muscle Shoals Sound studios and we had a good conversation about his experience with The Blues Brothers Band. “We were just about to have some serious success,” Cropper said, “and John did that to himself. (a fatal drug overdose). “I was pissed”.