‘We thought, what do we do?’: Inside the mysterious naming of Booker T. and the MGs

At first, their name was thought to be in tribute to producer Chips Moman’s MG. Then, it was said to stand for Memphis Group. Bassist Donald “Duck” Dunn would later laughingly tell people it was an abbreviation for “musical geniuses.”

The threat of legal action from the makers of the sports car likely created the mystery that built up around the naming of Booker T. and the MGs. “That’s what we kind of heard later,” MGs guitarist Steve Cropper tells us, in an exclusive SER Sitdown. “The lawyers said they are not going to sign off on it. We thought, what do we do?”

It’s not like Booker T. and the MGs were the first one to have a name with an automotive theme. “The original concept was so simple: There were all these bands with car names, like the El Dorados,” Cropper adds. “We had our own band at Stax, the Triumphs. It went on and on. We thought, innocently: The MGs. They shot us down. But we didn’t want to change the letters.”

And so, once the questions arose, so did the alternative theories. Memphis Group ended up sticking, though Cropper still laughs over the late Dunn’s quip. “Duck, through the years, backed that up by saying it stood for ‘musical geniuses,'” Cropper says, chuckling. “I don’t lay claim to that. I’ll give that to Dunn.”

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  • Mike in Georgia

    Great band, Booker T. and the MG’s….and what they did behind the scenes as session men were HOF stuff as well. Steve Cropper was the man as well.