Steve Cropper still can’t get over producing Jeff Beck: ‘How is he doing that?’

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Having worked as producer on the fourth Jeff Beck Group album, Steve Cropper got to see Beck’s work up close and personal. His advice to young players? “Listen to Jeff Beck.”

Cropper, himself a well-respected if always self-effacing guitarist, was there as Jeff Beck created a new standard out of Don Nix’s “Going Down” on 1972’s Jeff Beck Group. He’s never quite gotten over the experience.

“I don’t know a lot about guitar,” Steve Cropper once memorably told Guitar Player, “but I know enough to know what one can do — and I’d watch his hands and think, ‘You can’t get that there. How is he doing that?’ And he wasn’t about to show me. [Laughs.] For example, ‘Going Down’ is phenomenal. Talk about ripping it!”

Jeff Beck Group, the second project to feature the lineup of Beck, Clive Chaman, Max Middleton, Cozy Powell and Bobby Tench, also included the Beck-Cropper collaboration “Sugar Cane” — a song written in the studios in Memphis over what became a series of loose, but still deeply memorable sessions.

Stax engineer Ronnie Capone also worked with Steve Cropper on Jeff Beck Group, commonly referred to as the Orange Album because of the fruit’s prominent placement on the cover.

As for how Cropper got that speaker-blowing sound, he says he put microphones both at the front and the back of Jeff Beck’s amp. “We would lean a piece of plywood against a wall, put the amp about three or four feet from it, and drop a mic down between the plywood and the back of the amplifier,” Steve Cropper said. “Also, I like to mic the speaker paper rather than the cone. Most guys put the mic right on the middle of the cone, or they take a Shure mic and point it to the center of the cone. I don’t. I like to point the mic towards the paper to get the sound coming down the cone.”

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