Mid-week oral history jam

Forty-five years ago today, Stax released Otis Redding’s “(Sittin’ on) the Dock of the Bay,” a recording Redding never heard due to his death in a plan crash less than a month before the hit’s release and just eighteen days after the recording session. The Wall Street Journal has an oral history of the recording of the song.

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Previously
Up in smoke: Duck Dunn, dead at 70

Related
Time to retire #27?

B-List Band of the Week: Dave Mason

The B-List Band of the Week feature returns today after an extensive hiatus. Again, the point here is not to present second-rate writing about second-rate musicians, but rather to briefly highlight artists existing out of the spotlight, perhaps in an attempt to identify why they are so located. Last time, the focus was on The Outlaws, a group that, on paper, had all the makings of one Lynyrd Skynyrd but failed to materialize as such. Today, it’s on Dave Mason, a guitarist and singer frequently on the fringe of rock and roll’s main scene, particularly in the 1970s, and who continues to perform today.

In recanting Mason’s story, it should first be acknowledged that he’s unlikely to have gained the notoriety that he has without his association with the band Traffic. As it were, Mason actually came to work with Jim Capaldi before either became involved with Steve Winwood, when Mason and Capaldi became members of the same band in the mid-1960s. Mason would meet Winwood when the former became road manager for the latter’s Spencer Davis Group, eventually joining him, Capaldi, and Chris Wood as founding members of Traffic. Mason’s first hit would be the band’s second single, “Hole in My Shoe,” a Harrisonian-Indian pop-psychedelic bit that would eventually appear on the band’s self-titled release in 1968, its second album. Between Traffic’s first album, 1967’s Dear Mr. Fantasy, and Traffic, Mason would leave and rejoin the band, adding another Britpop-style song in “You Can All Join In” and his biggest hit, “Feelin’ Alright?”, to the ’68 effort.

Mason was out of Traffic for the second and final time in 1968, making his way to Los Angeles and into one of the greatest and most embryonically formative touring bands ever recorded, Delaney & Bonnie. Keep reading…

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”: