Booker T. and the MGs were, hands down, one of the best bands ever to play music. Their effects on soul, R&B and rock ‘n roll are incalculable. Therefore, it was a tragedy to hear of the passing of MGs bassist Donald “Duck” Dunn over the weekend at the age of 70.
Dunn, along with Booker T. Jones, Steve Cropper, and Al Jackson Jr., formed the house band for the legendary Stax record label in Memphis, Tennessee. Dunn, a replacement for original MG Lewie Steinberg, was a member of the original Stax house band, the Mar-Keys, in the early 1960s. While not present on the MGs trademark “Green Onions,” Dunn’s bouncy bass can be heard on tracks by Otis Redding and Sam & Dave, as well as on the band’s first proper record, Hip Hug-Her.
In an interview with Elmore about Memphis music and Stax Records, MGs guitarist Steve Cropper said that he had a kinship with Dunn, based on the fact that the two learned to play music by ear. “Neither of us took the time to learn how to play music, we never took the time. With [Jones’] help, we kind of figured it out.”
After the MGs break-up in 1971, Dunn kept busy by playing with the likes of Eric Clapton and Muddy Waters. He appeared playing bass on the Tom Petty and Stevie Nicks hit “Stop Draggin My Heart Around.” He later re-united with Cropper for the film The Blues Brothers and toured with a re-constituted version of the MGs with Steve Potts replacing the late Jackson on drums.
A true music man until the end, Dunn was playing a show in Tokyo with Cropper at the time of his passing. For his commitment to music and for his contributions to a groundbreaking band, Dunn’s voice and bass will be missed by music fans.