Up in smoke: Duck Dunn, dead at 70

On Sunday, Donald “Duck” Dunn, longtime bass player for legendary Stax Records house band Booker T. & the MG’s died in Tokyo at the age of seventy. As first reported by best friend, bandmate, and guitarist Steve Cropper, Dunn “died in his sleep . . . after finishing two shows at the Blue Note Night Club.”

Dunn grew up with Cropper in Memphis, and the two formed a band in the late 1950s before going to work for Stax, where they eventually became half of the house band, Booker T. & the MG’s, alongside Booker T. Jones (organ) and Al Jackson (drums). AllMusic lays out the essentials:

As the house band at Stax Records in Memphis, TN, Booker T. & the MG’s may have been the single greatest factor in the lasting value of that label’s soul music, not to mention Southern soul as a whole. Their tight, impeccable grooves could be heard on classic hits by Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett, Carla Thomas, Albert King, and Sam & Dave, and for that reason alone, they would deserve their subsequent induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. But in addition to their formidable skills as a house band, on their own they were one of the top instrumental outfits of the rock era, cutting classics like “Green Onions,” “Time Is Tight,” and “Hang ’em High.”

As a member of the MG’s and as a session musician, Dunn played with (hyperlinks to video evidence) Redding (also including the 1967 Monterrey Pop Festival performance), Sam & Dave, Wilson Pickett, Eric Clapton (with Phil Collins), Neil Young, and, famously, the Blues Brothers, among many others.. He, Cropper, and Jones also were part of the band backing Clapton, Young, Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Tom Petty, Roger McGuinn, G.E. Smith, and other stars on the Bob Dylan 30th Anniversary Celebration.

Also as a member of the MG’s, Dunn was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1992 and received a lifetime achievement award in 2007.

At this point, I don’t find anything on the web beyond the basic AP-style report, but I’ll supplement this post with any engaging remembrances that appear later. My only additions are: 1) Blues Brothers is my favorite movie; 2) this is some great music; 3) dial up Otis and Duck from 1967’s Monterrey Pop Festival; and 4) there would seem to be something to be said for dying (basically) doing what you love.

Close with a clean-shaven, pipeless Dunn and his fellow MG’s performing their biggest hit, “Green Onions”:

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3 thoughts on “Up in smoke: Duck Dunn, dead at 70

  1. Some other remembrances are starting to trickle in:

    Expressions of sympathy and grief have been spreading across the Internet. “I can’t imagine not being able to hear Duck laugh and curse,” wrote Booker T. Jones on his Web site, “but I’m thankful I got to spend time and make music with him.” On Twitter, Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea wrote, “What a deep pocket that dude had, so glad I got to see him play, beautiful bass player we’ll be listening to forever.” And former Rolling Stones bassist Bill Wyman, who had been in daily e-mail contact with Dunn up until the day before he died, paid tribute to his friend by posting a video on his Web site showing Dunn performing “Try a Little Tenderness” with Otis Redding on the 1967 Stax European tour.

    Source article here.

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