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”: