Modern Guitars Steve Cropper Interview by jlhd32


									Steve Cropper Interview                                                             

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          January 13, 2009                                                                                       Social bookmarks
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          Steve Cropper Interview

          by Brian D. Holland.                                                                                Inside Modern Guitars
                                                                                                              Welcome to Modern Guitars, where
                                                                                                              you'll find thousands of guitar related
          Besides the fact that he’s one of the most                                                          articles covering every style and
          important guitarists in pop music history, Steve                                                    genre. This article is your gateway to
          Cropper’s career milestones extend far beyond                                                       everything from reviews and the latest
                                                                                                              industry news to an extensive archive
          that significant achievement. Throughout the                                                        of feature stories and exclusive
          prime years of Stax Records, when they were                                                         interviews with six-string icons such
          releasing some of the greatest soul and r&b                                                         as Stevie Ray Vaughan, Carlos
                                                                                                              Santana, Jeff Beck, Bucky Pizzarelli,
          music ever recorded, he was a crucial player,                                                       Les Paul, Zakk Wylde, Lily Afshar,
          from the perspective of both musician and                                                           Mike Stern, and a variety of guitar
          behind the scenes.                                                                                  industry leaders including Paul Reed
                                                                                                              Smith, Christian F. Martin, IV, Bob
                                                                                                              Taylor, and Henry Juszkiewicz.
          Essentially, it began in 1962 with the release of
          “Green Onions,” by Booker T. & the MGs, the
          song viewed by many to be one of the greatest
          instrumental pop hits ever recorded. Though the
          funky and rhythmic framework was what the
          buzz was all about, the extraordinary talent of
          each member of the band had much to do with
          the recording's success.

          For fans of early rock 'n' roll, R&B, and funk, it    Steve Cropper

          was the first time ears were exposed to the
          amazing little riffs and funky chops that exuded from Cropper's blonde Telecaster. It was a trait   Modern Guitars has a The UFO Has
          that grew and solidified in vocal music as well, when his talent for filling in the holes and       Landed lithograph signed by Ry
                                                                                                              Cooder to giveaway on February 1,
          playing between the verse lines was realized. The fact that his name is displayed alongside
                                                                                                              2009. Contest entry information.
          many of the greatest r&b hits in history, in both the writer and co-writer capacity, more than
          substantiates his vital presence in the music of the era.                                           Noteworthy
                                                                                                              Online exclusive: 1977 audio (with
          Cropper’s catchy signature riffs and rhythmic chops in Otis Redding’s “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of     text) Steven Rosen interview of Led
          the Bay,” and “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long,” Wilson Pickett’s “In The Midnight Hour,” Eddie       Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page.

          Floyd’s “Knock On Wood,” and Sam & Dave’s “Soul Man,” to name a few, are just as memorable
          as the music's vocals and melodies.

          With a style that prompted recognition by music business heavyweights, such as Albert King,
          Aretha Franklin, Rod Stewart, John Lennon, Ringo Starr, Poco, Levon Helm, and Neil Sedaka,
          his status as a studio musician soared. In fact, Cropper's studio session credits grew to be so

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Steve Cropper Interview                                                              
          prolific that even he has no idea of the actual count. Soon enough, everyone wanted that funky
          Telecaster rhythm and those cool licks in their songs.

          “The Colonel,” as he’s also known, is at home on the other side of the studio glass as well. His
          songwriter, producer, and A&R manager credits go almost as far back as his status as a
          professional musician. While a member of Booker T. & the MGs, the Stax house band in the
          early '60s, he had collaborated with Jim Stewart, David Porter, and Isaac Hayes in composing
          and producing many of the great Stax soul and r&b hits and their respective albums. He went
          on to produce a series of highly acclaimed projects over the next few decades, as his flair for
          managing the musical product continued to expand and develop. Them Changes, by Buddy
          Miles, the Jeff Beck Group album, Two Sides of Moon, by Keith Moon, and Inside Story, by
          Robben Ford, all made in the '70s, are just a few examples of the many projects Steve Cropper
          was associated with as a producer. His production credits continue to mount to this day.

          In 1978, when comics John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd put together The Blues Brothers, the
          eminently successful r&b cover band that began as a mere time filler for the Saturday Night
          Live television show, the essential chops of Steve Cropper and Donald “Duck” Dunn (bassist for
          Booker T. & the MGs) were sought. Cropper's and Dunn's contributions resulted in a sound that
          was both exciting and genuine. Television viewers were fascinated by the quality of the The
          Blues Brothers music. Though an ordinary comedy sketch was anticipated, they were exposed
          instead to captivating performances that were hilarious and exhilarating. The Blues Brothers, of
          which Cropper is still a touring member today, went on to make two movies and a few
          successful record albums.                                                                          MG Magazine Columns
                                                                                                             Guitar Shredding by Matt Mills
          Today, Steve “The Colonel” Cropper sustains a busy career in all aspects of music production
                                                                                                             On Axis by Nick Sterling
          and musicianship, and throughout all of the touring and studio work he still manages to find
                                                                                                             PSYKO Guitar by Ronny North
          time for his own projects.
                                                                                                             Vintage by Saiichi Sugiyama

                                                                                                             Guitarology by Tom Hess
          His 2008 CD release, Nudge It Up A Notch, is a collaboration with Felix Cavaliere, the
                                                                                                             Jazz Scope by Steve Herberman
          legendary lead singer and keyboardist of the Rascals. The album is a soul and r&b tour-de-force,
                                                                                                             Industry Views by Peter Wolf
          drenched with wonderful melodies and funky instrumentals. It’s much like a collection of new
                                                                                                             Women Rock! by Tish Ciravolo
          songs by the Rascals and Booker T. & the MGs, enriched with those Telecaster Cropper riffs,
                                                                                                             Jazz Reviews by Vince Lewis
          amid Hammond B-3 timbre and soulful vocals. It’s pushed along by the rhythm section of
                                                                                                             Reviews by Brian D. Holland
          bassist Sammy “Shake” Anderson and drummer Chester Thompson, and was produced with
                                                                                                             Berklee X by Matt Baamonde
          help from Jon Tiven [Delbert McClinton, Graham Parker, B.B. King, and more].
                                                                                                             Sunset & Vine by Billy Morrison

          During my recent conversation with Steve, I found him extremely gracious and easy going,           Hash by John Foxworthy

          traits that one can readily perceive as strong attributes or sensibilities that have helped        Functional Art by John Page

          strengthen and nurture a career that's characterized by an abundance of collaborative work with    Guitar Art by Pamelina H

          an A-list of world class performers.                                                               CRASH Pad by CRASH

                                                                                                             Live Art by Neal Barbosa

          Brian D. Holland: Steve, let me start by saying that I feel very privileged to be speaking with
                                                                                                             Acoustic Guitar
          one of the greatest guitar players of all time.
          Steve Cropper: It’s my pleasure, but that’s a little overrated.                                    Celebrity Players
                                                                                                             Classical Guitar
          Brian: Well, it’s a matter of opinion, but … [Both laughing]                                       Feature Stories
                                                                                                             Guitar Instruction
          Steve: We have a difference of opinion, Brian, but that’s okay. [Still laughing] But, the more

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Steve Cropper Interview                                                                  
          they talk about it, the harder it is to live up to. It’s a lot of work.                                   Jazz Guitar
          Brian: I suppose it can be. But, you’ve done it all.
                                                                                                                    In the News

          Steve: Pretty much. And I’ll stand behind the records. I don’t have to go out and be part of the          Other News and Information

          battle of the bands anymore, so that’s pretty good.                                                       Press Releases
          Brian: You’ve been involved in so many [records] over the years, recordings that are still quite          Complete Archive
                                                                                                                    About Modern Guitars
          Steve: It’s amazing how the music lives on, but it’s unfortunate that there’s nationally a lack of
          air play, as well as a lack of interest in that kind of music. It definitely has its audience, and that   Search Modern Guitars:

          audience is true to form, and they stay with it. I just got back from a tour of England. I went
          over there and played with the Animals for about two and a half weeks and had an absolute
          blast. But, there were a lot of gray haired people in that audience. It was real interesting.
                                                                                                                    Latest News and
          [Laughing]                                                                                                Articles

          Brian: I read that you also played in Ireland for the first time.                                         Acoustic Guitar News:
                                                                                                                    Chuck "The Duke of Pearl"
          Steve: Yeah! We played Belfast. It was the first time I’d ever been up there. I had done some
          TV in Dublin, but it was the first time to actually do a concert. It was great, and the people were
                                                                                                                    Auction News:
          so warm and so nice. I did some radio shows for the BBC and some local radio stations. It was
                                                                                                                    Gibson Guitar Creates
          super, a real lot of fun.
                                                                                                                    Environmentally Friendly
                                                                                                                    Live Earth Acoustic
          Brian: Tell me about your early influences, Steve, those who coerced you in your R&B
          direction.                                                                                                Celebrity Player News:
                                                                                                                    Eddie Van Halen Interview
          Steve Well, in the time I came up it was pretty obvious, the top of the crop in a way. People like        (1983)
          Bo Diddley and Chuck Berry. But, my main influence who I wanted to emulate, even when I
                                                                                                                    Classical Guitar News:
          was a kid, other than some of the great jazz players, was Chet Atkins. He is one of the all-time
                                                                                                                    Classical Guitarist Cem
          great guitar players to have ever lived. I’ve loved his music, but I found at an early age that I         Duruoz to Debut "Concerto
          probably wasn’t going to be good enough to play like that. Then, I think I got smart enough to            Anatolia"
          say, “Well, the world doesn’t really need another Chet Atkins.” [Laughing] You know? But I                Electric Guitar News:
          was really influenced by Bo Diddley’s rhythm, and by Lowman Pauling of the “5” Royales. He                Walter Carter Talks about
          was the leader of the band. He was also the lead guitar player and wrote a lot of the songs.              The Gibson Electric Guitar
          They created a lot of stuff that later got covered, stuff that other people sort of got lifelong
                                                                                                                    Feature Stories:
          credit for. Those guys really started it. They were a little like Hank Ballard and the Midnighters.
                                                                                                                    Steve Cropper Interview
          But, the licks, when you hear Lowman Pauling, there was a song called "Think," that kind of
                                                                                                                    Guitar Instruction News:
          told me that it’s fun to play in the holes, because you’ll stand out. If you’re just playing back
          there with a singer singing over you nobody’s going to hear you.                                          Review: Hybrid Picking for
                                                                                                                    Guitar by Gustavo Assis-
          Brian: You learned that well. Didn’t you?
                                                                                                                    Interview Archive:
          Steve: I suppose I did. So, it was just an early style and it seemed to work. Chips Moman [Stax
                                                                                                                    Eddie Van Halen Interview
          Producer, American Records founder] gave me a tip when I first started doing sessions. I said,            (1983)
          “Chips, somebody wants me to do a session.” He said, “Hey, just go on in there and listen to
                                                                                                                    Jazz Guitar News:
          what they tell you. Listen to the song and just play what you feel. They’ll tell you if they don’t
                                                                                                                    CD Review: School Of The
          like it.” So, that’s what I did, and I started getting the call to do lots of sessions, until I started   Arts - T Lavitz
          working permanently for Stax.
                                                                                                                    Manufacturer News:
          Brian: When I first heard “Dock Of The Bay” years ago, the Otis Redding vocal stood out over              Winter NAMM Show 2008
                                                                                                                    Day Three Coverage, Page

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Steve Cropper Interview                                                               
          everything else. However, after a while those lead guitar fills were just as prominent. Your fills     Two
          stick out in all of those songs.                                                                       News Archive:
                                                                                                                 Winter NAMM Show 2009
          Steve: Well, you can’t do it all the time, but you try to. I tried to weave in and out of the vocal.
                                                                                                                 Day One Coverage
          I’d pick up where the vocal leaves off and do something that’s more lyrical than musical, that
                                                                                                                 Other News and Information:
          sort of follows the melody and gives the mood of the song. That’s what I’ve always tried to do.
                                                                                                                 Joe Zawinul Passes Away
          Probably one of the most difficult things I ever had to do was when they really got into multi-
          tracking and overdubbing. They’d call a session, and they’d find the key over the phone of the         Press Release Archive:
          singer and just cut tracks. That’s hard for me to do. I’d rather be hearing that singer, so I can      Peavey & Joe Satriani
          bounce off the singer and get a feel of what he’s doing, or what she’s doing. That’s what I’m          Create the Definitive Modern
                                                                                                                 50 - Watt: The JSX® 50
          good at. It’s very difficult for me to cut tracks without a singer. They become instrumentals at       Guitar Amplifier
          that point.
          I think the Stax stuff we did lived so long because it was all performances. Most of the hits you      Review: Rev Jones 'Bass
          know were done in one take. There were really no overdubs. There might have been a little              Line' Instructional DVD

          mixing later, back when we finally got a 4-track, but there weren’t any real overdubs. In fact, if
          there were, then in was a tambourine, or some hand clapping. Maybe some backgrounds, like
          the kids on “Soul Finger.” David Porter [Stax Records producer and songwriter] got about 25 or         Don't miss...
          30 high school kids in the studio. We got them to go “Soul Finger!” [Laughing] It was real
          exciting. But that was an overdub. There was none of this start with a drum track and then             Scratch & Dent Specials

          overdub everything else.                                                                               at Musician's Friend

          Brian: On your new album with Felix Cavaliere,                                                         Musician's Friend
          Nudge It Up A Notch, a sound quality exists on                                                         Clearance Center
          the whole thing, and not in just the R&B stuff.
          Your playing alongside Cavaliere is great, totally                                                     Musician’s Friend: Top
          amazing. But, simultaneously, within the rhythm                                                        Sellers
          section of Shake Anderson [bass] and Chester
          Thompson [drums], you can perceive a crispness                                                         Everything for
          to everything.You don’t always hear bass guitar                                                        Guitarists, at the Best
          that prevalent in music these days.                                                                    Prices in Town!

          Steve: Yeah! It’s either so busy or so buried, or
                                                                                                                 Musician’s Friend: New
          so low that you just can’t get it. It becomes just
          bottom without real playing. But, he’s right there
                                                                 Nudge It Up A Notch
          with Chester. The kick drum and the bass are                                                           Hot Buys - Guitars
          just so tight. That’s what we always strived for in
          the studio in the old days. But, on that I had to overdub. And with all due respect to everybody       Hot Buys - Bass
          I’ve ever played with, I’ve always made the comment that when it’s my turn to play, I wish the
          other guitar player would play behind me as well as I played behind him when it was his turn.          NAMM Bass Deals
          They sometimes seem to say, “Okay, it’s Cropper’s turn, so I’ll just play back here and not do
          anything until he’s through.” I do stuff that complements what a guy’s doing.                          NAMM Guitar Deals

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Steve Cropper Interview                                                               
          I want him to be as good as he’s ever going to be
          at that moment, so I’ll try to set up a rhythm                                                            All Ibanez Products
          that’ll kick him in the butt. So, it was fun for me
          to lay down the rhythm tracks because I knew                                                              All Taylor Products
          where I’d be soloing. Not the fills, but the solo
          parts. I’d lay myself down a good rhythm so I                                                             All Martin Products
          could listen to it. That’s where I get my
          inspiration. In the old days with Booker T., I got                                                        All Jackson Products
          my inspiration from Al Jackson.
                                                                Steve Cropper performing with drummer Al Jackson.   All Epiphone Products
          One time I got a letter from someone who was
          writing about drummers and such. He said that someone told him that Stax was the first studio             All Fender Products
          to use a drum machine. I wrote back saying, “That’s true. His name was Al Jackson.” [Both
          Laughing] I don’t know about the electronic part or not, the first time I saw one of those. But, I        All Gibson Products
          think it was in L.A., years later.
                                                                                                                    All Marshall Products
          Brian: What was the atmosphere like in the studio with Felix Cavaliere and the other guys?

          Steve: It was great. It was a bunch of guys there for the same purpose. And that was really to            All Boss Products
          have fun. That’s what it was really all about. We started that way, never knowing we’d do it
          more than the first time. We’d just show up and have some more fun, and come up with                      All DigiTech Products
          another one. In the meantime, Tiven would email me, and we’d be writing lyrics back and forth.
                                                                                                                    All Line 6 Products
          He’d say, “Can you make it next week?” I’d say, “Yeah, okay.” We started building, and finally,
          Jon Tiven said, “Man, you guys should start thinking seriously about doing a whole album of               Jazz Favorites on
          this stuff, rather than just writing songs to send to somebody just to see if they want to cut it.”       Rhapsody
          But, I never thought it would go any further than out on the Internet, maybe to download. I
          didn’t know it would wind up on a record label, so that’s pretty cool.                                    Country Music on
          Brian: It’s kind of like an album of Rascals and Booker T. & the MGs songs.

          Steve: It is. Felix and I have been playing together for a while. It started with the Ringo Starr         Hard Rock and Metal on
          Band. When Randy Bachman left he wanted me to come and join them. We talked about it, and                 Rhapsody
          then I did. I think we did about 21 shows together. That’s when Billy Preston was in the band.
          We still had Mark Farner, and they brought in Lou Gramm. That was a pretty good
          combination. We did a lot of corporate shows. I called it "Jukebox Onstage," because everybody
          was just doing their hits. That’s what people want to hear, you know.

          Brian: He [Ringo] has done a pretty good job at putting those tours together.

          Steve: Yeah. It was a smart idea.

          Brian: And he has shown so much respect for everybody’s music.

          Steve: Exactly. That was really the initial idea with the Blues Brothers. John and Danny never
          thought it would go any further than just a few shows.

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Steve Cropper Interview                                                                
          Brian: Wasn’t it just a skit for Saturday Night
          Live, originally?

          Steve: Originally, yeah. To tell you how what
          happened, they used to go out and warm up the
          crowd before the show would start. They’d go out
          and do a couple of numbers and everybody
          thought it was really great. But, Lorne Michaels
          would never let them do it on the air. One night
          one of the skits didn’t get finished, so they had     Steve Cropper with the Blues Brothers on Saturday
                                                                Night Live in 1978
          this hole in the show at the last minute. He said,
          “Well, we’ve got to do something. Go out there
          and do that Blues Brothers thing.” Well, it was an overnight success. It may have happened
          accidentally, but it was a good accident.

          Brian: But, with the caliber of musicians in the band, along with the Belushi and Aykroyd stage
          show, you guys must have known how good it was.

          Steve: Well, I think they did. It was John and Danny saying they wanted the best, and to get
          these guys because they’re good at this. They searched us out pretty well, and Duck (Donald
          ‘Duck” Dunn) and I had been in the Saturday Night Live Horns and had done two albums and
          two tours with Levon Helm and the RCO All Star Band.

          When they were putting the band together, John went to Tom Malone and said, “Do we want to
          use all the guys from the show, or do we want to mix it up?” He said “You need to get Dunn and
          Cropper. Man, those guys are old road dogs. Call them.” So, he did. Duck and I decided to do it.
          We did about seven shows at first, opening for Steve Martin at the Amphitheater, which they
          recorded. They called and said, “That stuff is pretty good. I think we’ll try to put an album out.”
          The thing went triple platinum!

          Brian: The movie itself is a cult favorite.

          Steve: Around the world, we have fans who’ve seen the movie over six hundred times.

          Brian: How were lead singers Aykroyd and Belushi as characters to work with? Were they fun?

          Steve: It was a lot of fun. It was crazy. But, the thing is, they didn’t play with the music. They
          had so much respect for it, and they were serious about it. We got a lot of initial review flack
          about it, that John and Danny were mocking rhythm and blues. And that wasn’t true at all. He
          was seriously playing his harmonica and John was seriously singing. He had been in bands for
          years, playing drums and singing. And Belushi had one of the biggest blues collections I’d ever
          seen. It was amazing, thousands of blues records. On one of the albums he says, “I suggest you
          go out and buy as many blues albums as you can.” I’ll never forget that. It was great when he
          said that. He was a promoter of the music. He wasn’t making fun of it at all.

          Brian: They were so good at it.

          Steve: Oh, yeah, the entertainment part of it, the talent, and of course, the flips and the silly
          dancing. But, when you listen to it, the music is really serious.

          Brian: You’re still playing with the latest concoction of the Blues Brothers. Is that right?

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Steve Cropper Interview                                                                
          Steve: We still work all the time, not record wise. But, we’re in our twentieth year and we just
          finished a world tour. We’ve been all over. Right now, on vocals we have Johnny Rush, and
          Eddie Floyd has been with us for about nineteen years, the original “Knock On Wood,” Eddie
          Floyd. So, we start off with a Blues Brothers show, and we do songs from the movies and
          whatever, and then we bring Eddie out and do a Stax vocal review. We finale it with the two
          guys, and we’ll do songs like “Soul Man," and “Everybody Needs Somebody.” It’s a good ninety
          minute show, a lot of fun.

          Brian: Booker T. Jones has been known to say that you can get many different sounds out of a
          Telecaster without even changing the guitar's settings. Besides the idea that tone is in the
          fingers, what else has been essential in your conquest for different tones?

          Steve: Well, I do a technique that a lot of guitar players do. We play with a pick when we need
          to and we play with our fingers when we need to. Technique wise, it creates a totally different
          sound. I don’t change the amp settings; they stay right there. I don’t use foot switches. With
          Booker T. there were a couple of songs, like “Groovin’,” and “Summertime,” that required

          So, I have a little floor tremolo, because I use a Fender Twin that doesn’t have a vibrato in it.
          The old ones did, the old Super Reverbs and Twins. That’s the only foot switch I use, and I don’t
          even use it with the Blues Brothers, just with Booker T. The sounds just come from the
          technique. I don’t even change pickups. On my Fender Telecasters, I play on the middle
          position, so I’m activating both pickups. And then the Peavey, the prototype I play all the time,
          I’ve got it on the neck pickup all the time, because it’s a little thicker.

          Brian: Which do you play more often, the Fender [Telecaster] or the [Peavey] Cropper Classic?

          Steve: I play the Cropper Classic, but it’s a prototype without Cropper Classic written on it. But,
          it is my settings, pickups, and all that sort of stuff. I have two that I play. Both are prototypes.
          One of them I’ve been playing almost fourteen years. They’re both Telecaster shaped, but one
          of them is grooved in the back like a Telecaster Deluxe, so there’s room for your belly.
          [Laughing] It's sort of contoured like a Strat, but it’s still a Telecaster.

          Brian: With Otis Redding, Sam & Dave, and Wilson Pickett, was it an identical mindset for you
          with each performer, or did any one of them require a vast change in playing style?

          Steve: I’d definitely say that the stuff I did with Otis was a distinctive tone and style that I
          didn’t play with anyone else, that I know of. I didn’t really bring that back out again until I
          worked with Tommy Dowd, with the Rod Stewart album, Atlantic Crossing. I brought out my
          old amp and one of my old Teles and we used that old sound, and it worked out pretty good.
          But, yeah, when Otis went away I just kind of retired that sound.

          I was tuned to an open chord; most of Otis was an open E chord. I did a few things tuned in D.
          But, most of them were in E. It was less musically correct because there were no minors in Otis’
          music, mainly because of the open tuning, even though I learned how to make minors with it. I
          could hear a different tone in myself, and I played a different style of licks, I think.

          Brian: Was Otis as passionate in the studio as he was onstage?

          Steve: Well, he was one of the greatest guys you’d ever meet in your life. He was everybody’s
          big brother. He was my brother, and he was so streetwise. I never looked at him and me as

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Steve Cropper Interview                                                               
          being the same age. I never even thought about it, and I never asked him his age. But, we were
          both 26 when he died.

          Brian: You’ve worked with everybody it seems. The word intimidation mustn’t be in your
          vocabulary at all. [Laughing]

          Steve: That’s too funny. When I look back on it,
          I can’t believe how many people I’ve worked
          with. Somebody asked me the other day if I had
          any idea how many sessions I’ve played on, how
          many songs and whatnot. I said I didn’t have a
          clue. Thousands. [Laughing]

          Brian: You’ve worked with other great guitar
          players, too, like Albert King.

          Steve: I had a lot of fun doing that. Albert King,
          and later Jose Feliciano and Jeff Beck. Just on
          and on.
                                                                Steve Cropper poses with Isaac Hayes
          Brian: You produced the Jeff Beck Group

          Steve: Yeah, I did! I’m surprised you know that.

          Brian: You produced one of Robben Ford’s albums as well [The Inside Story - 1979].

          Steve: Yes. He’s a great player.

          Brian: You were 21 years old when Booker T. & the MGs recorded “Green Onions.” Did you
          and the band realize, when it was being recorded, what a success the song was going to be, or
          was it just another instrumental at the time?

          Steve: I knew “Green Onions” was a hit immediately. I knew it when I heard it. I believed in it
          so much that I called Scotty Moore [Elvis Presley guitarist] and said, “I think we cut a hit
          yesterday.” I then asked if he had time to cut me a dub on it. He said, “Yeah. Bring it on over.”
          So we did, and he said, “Man, that’s pretty good; it’s catchy. What do you call it?” I said we
          didn’t name it yet. I went down to see a disc jockey friend of mine, who was on WLOK
          [Memphis radio], named Reuben Washington. I told him that I think we cut a hit over the
          weekend, and that I wanted him to hear it and tell me what he thinks.

          He put it on the turntable while he was playing another record on the air. He put the speakers
          on in the control room. He listened to the intro and about half of the first verse, and then
          backed it up without even saying anything. When the other record was through he turned it on
          and spun it. He played it four times, and said, “Cropper, that’s the funkiest thing I’ve ever
          heard!” The phones lit up with people calling and asking who it was. It was funny. He said, “We
          don’t know. We don’t have a group. We don’t have a name for the song.”

          When I got back to the studio the phones were lit up there, too, with people asking about this
          song they just heard on the radio. They wanted to know where they could buy it. We called the
          guys and had a meeting that afternoon. We wanted to put the record out, but needed a name for
          the group and the song. Lewie Steinberg, who played bass on “Green Onions,” said, “Guys, let’s

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Steve Cropper Interview                                                                  
          call it “Onions. Onions are the stinkinest thing out there, and this is the stinkinest music I’ve
          ever heard.” [Laughing] He said it like ‘stank’ instead of ‘stink’. I said, “I agree, but it’s a little
          negative. Isn’t it? Onions?” I said, “What about “Green Onions”? Everybody likes a little green
          onions with their Sunday dinner and all that. So, it was “Green Onions.” There you go. I think
          Al Jackson Jr. came up with the name for the flip side, “Behave Yourself.”

          Brian: There have been a lot of good instrumentals recorded over the years, like the songs by
          the Ventures. But, I think “Green Onions,” is certainly one of the best.

          Steve: Just an inner feeling, coming from your soul, I knew that was a hit. There were some
          others that I thought were hits that weren’t. I definitely knew that “Dock of the Bay” was a hit.
          Otis and I looked at each other and said, “Man, we finally got it.”

          We were looking for something that would cross over, meaning from the R&B stations to the
          pop stations. If the pop stations would start playing it we’d sell more records, and that’s what
          we were looking for to get his career going. He was real big in Europe. He was fairly big here,
          but he hadn’t reached it yet. We knew that was the song, but it was too bad that he wasn’t
          around for it.

          Brian: But, it was amazing how much those little licks had to do with it.

          Steve: Yes. Isaac [Hayes] came to me in the studio, where I was logging some tapes and
          editing, and said, “Dave [Porter] and I wrote a hit this afternoon. We’re gonna cut it tomorrow
          with Sam and Dave, but I don’t have an intro for it.” That was “Soul Man.” He knew that they
          wrote a hit. So, we sat down, and I got my guitar out and said, “Alright, play me some changes.”
          I started playing these licks against the changes he was doing, and he said, “That’s it! That’s it.
          That’s what we’re gonna use tomorrow.” That’s what we did.

          We had a lot of fun writing intros. A lot of the intros had almost nothing to do with the song
          itself. It was an attention getter. You remember the days when the DJs always talked until the
          singer started singing. They’d be rapping about their show or trying to sell a product or
          something. I intentionally started doing intros that you could almost not talk over. They were
          loud and forceful and all that. We toned down when the vocal came in. The gangbuster intros
          were very deliberate back in those days.

          Brian: Talk about the Peavey Cropper Classic.

          Steve: Let me tell you what happened with that. They had been after me for a while, and the
          reason was that a real good buddy of ours down in Memphis, he and Duck [Donald “Duck”
          Dunn] lived on the same golf course and played golf a lot, was the regional salesman for
          Peavey. Peavey of course being down in Meridian, Mississippi. He tried to get Duck involved in
          playing their bass. He played some of them, but stuck to his Fender. I think they finally got Carl
          Perkins to sign on and made the Carl Perkins guitar. I went to some record store down here and
          picked one up, but it wasn’t my style. It was too close to a Strat kind of thing, and I was a Tele

          One day he called, wondering where I was going to be. I told him I’d be working at Omni Studio.
          He came in with a guitar, and during the break I went over and checked it out. I looked at it and
          said it was nice. I then picked it up, and after noticing that it was a little heavy, I plugged it in
          and went, “Whoa! That sounds pretty good.” I asked one of the session guys to come over and
          play it and tell me if he thinks it’s as good as I think it is.

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Steve Cropper Interview                                                                 
           He played it and said, “This is some guitar. This is great.” He then said, “Can I have one of
           those?” I said, “Well, you can’t have that one.” [Laughing] Anyway, I took it home and stuck it
           in my guitar room and it stayed there for a while. I got asked to go out on the road with Dave
           Edmonds. I knew it would require a lot of playing. Graham Parker was there too. So, I got all
           my amps out. I set them up in a room. I then got out all my guitars and started plugging them
           in and using different combinations. When I got to [the Peavey] I said, “Whoa! I forgot about
           this guitar.” And man, it just sounded good. I started comparing it to my Teles and all, and with
           all due respect to Fender, it just ate all my Telecasters. The pickups were hotter and the sound
           was thicker. So, that’s what I went out with. And I played it for a long time. A guy named Jim
           DeLuca made that guitar, the Signature Series prototype.

           Brian: And you still play the Fenders too?

           Steve: I do sometimes, absolutely. I have several. I’ve got some really good Telecasters that I
           just love. I play them more in the studio, when I need that sound. But, onstage, these guitars
           allow me to kind of duplicate some of the sounds from the records, which is hard to do. It’s
           hard to duplicate the sound onstage that you can get in the studio with the right mic, the right
           setup, and the right engineer.

           Brian: How about the amps used, in the studio and on the road?

           Steve: Well, it varies in the studio. We have an amp that was handmade in Chicago. It’s like a
           tweed Twin. It’s called a Victoria.

           Brian: Victoria makes nice amps.

           Steve: It’s very good. Handpicked tubes and everything. On the road I use a red-knob “The
           Twin.” I think it’s some of the Sunn technology. I have some very special amps that Peavey
           made me. I have a 5150, which is a Eddie Van Halen. But, it’s been specially wired so it’s not the
           same matrix as what goes out into the street. It’s a real good one. It’s a little hard to carry
           around, because it sits on a big bass cabinet with four fifteen inch speakers in it. So, it’s great
           for big outside concerts. We’re able to rent the Fender “The Twin” in most cases. If they can’t
           get it, I’ll opt for one that’s got a little more wattage. I like the hundred watt Twin.

           Every now and then I’ll pull out my old Fender Harvard that I used on “Green Onions,” “Loving
           You Too Long,” and “(Sitting On) The Dock of the Bay.” It has two inputs, a tone and a volume
           control, and that’s it. Lately I’ve been using these Gibson laminated strings, over the past two
           and a half years.

           The reason I use them is that I can play three shows guaranteed without changing strings or
           breaking one. When I used some of the other brand names I was good for two shows. If I
           stretch into a third show, invariably I’ll break one. I don’t know why that is, but I think it’s
           because they’re not laminated. A lot of guys don’t like the lamination because they feel they’re
           too dead for them. I’m an old school guy. In the studio at Stax I didn’t change a string until I
           broke one. So, when I put on the new one, obviously it was brighter than the old string. I used
           to take a Chap Stick and run it up and down the string. It would fill in the winds and deaden the
           string and make it sound like the old string.

           Brian: No one can say that there was anything wrong with Steve Cropper’s guitar sound on
           those old songs. Obviously, it worked.

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Steve Cropper Interview                                                                                 
           Steve: I appreciate that, man.

           Brian: Congratulations on the new album with
           Felix Cavaliere, Nudge It Up A Notch. The
           melodies are fantastic.

           Steve: By the way, I think you wrote an article I
           read, a review of the Nudge It Up record.

           Brian: I did, yeah, for my column in Modern
           Guitars magazine!

           Steve: I’d like to thank you for that. That was a               Steve Cropper poses with Felix Cavaliere
           good one, and you said some nice things about
           “Make the Time Go Faster.” I said, “You know, he gets it.” We’re not trying to go into
           competition with hip hop; it was just a fun thing to do.

           I read a lot of reviews, and they said “It’s all good, except for ...” I said, “You know what, the
           next time they have a barbeque in their back yard, I wish they’d put on our record and then
           watch the heads start moving when that song comes on.” But, thanks, man. It’s doing well,
           supposedly a top download. So, it’s causing a little noise. I saw [producer] John Burke at the
           R&B awards and they’re all very excited about the record. You just don’t get that anymore. If
           you don’t sell a million within the first two weeks it’s off to the next one. But, these guys are
           really into this record. They really like it.


           Related Links
           Play It Steve
           Stax Records/Cropper
           Modern Guitars Review: "Nudge It Up a Notch" by Brian D. Holland

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