My Interviews - Steve Cropper


Steve Cropper with William Bell and Eddie Floyd - Photo by Chip Stone ©2007

Steve Cropper

©2007 By Bronson Herrmuth

If playing the heck out of a guitar for over 50 years isn't enough for you, add recording artist, hit songwriter, award winning producer, arranger, engineer, actor, label head, and you start to get the picture of the many talents of Steve Cropper. A founding member of The Mar-keys, and Booker T. and the MG's, and as a band member of the Blues Brothers, his guitar playing is legendary world wide. Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1992, the Rhythm and Blues Pioneer Award in 1995, the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2005, and the brand new Musicians Hall of Fame in Nashville, in 2006. Steve "The Colonel" Cropper has already left his distinctive mark on the history of American music and he is far from done, having just won a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2007 Grammy's as a member of Booker T. and The MG's.

As a songwriter, some of the songs he has written or cowritten include:
(Sitting On) The Dock Of The Bay - with Otis Redding - has been played over six million times, making it the sixth most played song of all time (and the ASCAP catalog's second most played)
Mr Pitiful - with Otis Redding
Soul Man - Sam & Dave - The Blues Brothers
In The Midnight Hour - with Wilson Pickett
Don't Fight It - with Wilson Pickett
Green Onions - Booker T. and The MG's
Mo' Green Onions - Booker T. and The MG's
Time Is Tight - Booker T. and The MG's
Melting Pot - Booker T. and The MG's
Crusin' - Booker T. and The MG's
Knock On Wood - with Eddie Floyd
634-5789 - with Eddie Floyd
Seesaw - with Don Covay
Sookie Sookie - with Don Covay

TG Shepard with Steve Cropper - Photo by Chip Stone ©2007

Just some of the artists he has produced, all recordings he also played guitar on:
Wilson Pickett - Poco - Jeff Beck - Jose Feliciano - Yvonne Elliman - John Prine - Tower Of Power - John Cougar - Rufus Thomas - Mavis Staples

As a solo recording artist, he has released 4 albums:
Stax Records, 1969, With A Little Help From My Friends
MCA Records, 1980, Playin' My Thang
MCA Records, 1982, Night After Night
Play It Steve! Records, 1998, Play It Steve!

As a band member of The Mar-Keys, Booker T. and The MG's, or The Blues Brothers:
Satellite Records, 1961, Last Night, The Mar-Keys
Stax Records, 1962, Green Onions, Booker T. and The MG's
Asylum Records, 1977, Universal Language, Booker T. and The MG's
Atlantic Records, 1978, Briefcase Full of Blues, The Blues Brothers
Atlantic Records, 1980, Made In America, The Blues Brothers
WEA International, 1989, Live From Montreaux, The Blues Brothers
Red, White and Blues, 1992, The Blues Brothers
House Of Blues Records, 1997, Live From Chicago's HOB, The Blues Brothers
Fantasy Records, 1998, 3 CD box set, Booker T. and The MG's

As a session guitar player, some of the artists who's records he has performed on include:
Sam & Dave - Otis Redding - Eddie Floyd - Jerry Lee Lewis - Aretha Franklin - Elton John - Rod Stewart - Etta James - John Lennon - Ringo Starr - Paul Simon - Peter Frampton - Buddy Guy - Johnny Lang - Steppenwolf - Art Garfunkel - Albert King - Pop Staples - Neil Sedaka - Leon Russell - Chris Hillman - Richie Furay - Wendy Waldman - Bob Dylan - Richie Havens - Roy Buchanan - Levon Helm - Duane Eddy - Buddy Miles - Boz Scaggs - Aaron Neville - Wynonna Judd - Jimmy Buffett - Rufus Thomas and Wayne Newton.

Tanya Tucker with Steve Cropper - Photo by Chip Stone ©2007

As an actor, he has appeared in both hit movies made by The Blues Brothers. The first in 1980 titled The Blues Brothers with John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd, and the second in 1998 with Dan Aykroyd, John Goodman, and Jim Belushi, titled Blues Brothers 2000.

In 1996, MOJO Magazine compiled a list of the top 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time and Steve Cropper was ranked #2, behind Jimi Hendrix. A muliti-instrumentalist, he also plays bass guitar, piano, and organ.

A successful studio owner on Music Row in Nashville, Steve Cropper continues to make lots of music. He heads his own label, Play It Steve! Records, and his guitar playing is still in great demand here in the US and abroad. He also designed a guitar for Peavey, called the Steve Cropper Classic.

Steve recently celebrated 50 years of soul with a star studded concert at the world famous Ryman Auditorium. At this event he was joined on stage by some of his friends, including:
Delbert McClinton - James Burton - John Kay - Lee Roy Parnell - Randy Owen - B.J. Thomas - Michael McDonald - Felix Cavaliere - John Anderson - T. Graham Brown - Mark Farner - Danny Shirlely - Beth Nielsen Chapman - Rob Paparozza - Ray Vega - Robben Ford and Peter Gallagher.

The house band at this very special show consisted of David Michael Santos, Jim Horn, Mark Beckett, Bob Britt, Mark Jordan, Roy Agee, Steve Herrman, Sam Levine along with several great back-up singers. All there to help celebrate 50 years of Soul with the soul man himself, Steve Cropper.

William Bell with Steve Cropper - Photo by Chip Stone ©2007

Steve Cropper interview with Bronson Herrmuth
Recorded on November 27, 2007 in Nashville, TN
Selected excerpts from this 45 minute interview

Steve talks about his first guitar and learning to play, The Royal Spades, and The Mar-keys.

You can listen (1 MB) mp3

Bronson: So your first guitar was mail order?
Steve Cropper: Well it was truck order (laughing). It was ordered out of a Sears & Robuck Catalog, and they had a Sears down on Crosstown, but it was one of those, fill out the form and all that. I think it was like $17 or something in the catalog, and I filled out the form and about a week later they delivered it.

Bronson: You were 14.
Steve Cropper: And my mother has always taken credit for me being in the music business. They were going to deliver it on a Saturday, and they didn't say exactly what time but they were going to deliver it before noon on a Saturday, and she said that after breakfast I was standing on the front porch waiting for that truck to come around the corner and I stood there for a long time. Finally, I don't know what time it was but mid morning, about 10 o'clock, 10:30 in the morning, and here comes this Sears truck. Oh man the excitement, the blood started rushin' and all that, and a guy gets out, gets a box of the truck and brings it up the driveway. He says, "Here's your package. That'll be a 25 cent delivery fee." And I must have just turned, you know, just pale as whatever, the blood just came out of my body, I said, "Mom, they want a 25 cent delivery fee!" So my mom always says, if she hadn't loaned me a quarter, I would have never been in the music business (laughing).

Bronson: (laughing) Oh that's a good story man. So now you taught yourself then once you got it or did you have teachers?
Steve Cropper: There was a little of that but you know, I didn't know what to do and when I was real young and spent some time at my uncle's house, he played the piano and he played a little bit of fiddle - you said you played fiddle ...

Bronson: I do.
Steve Cropper: .. and that's really what he was but he had a Gibson rhythm guitar and it just kind of set there in the bedroom over in the corner and he allowed me to get it out and look at it. One thing was the smell of it, I mean just the case and that whole deal, and I guess a part of it was the brass strings that were on it. It was an old Gibson flat top and I forget the number on it, but it was a sunburst flat top. It was more like, when I describe the feeling I got, it was about the vibration of the strings. Sort of like playing with a rubber band or a jews harp you know, just the vibration and the tone got me. I didn't know how to finger it or do anything and he really wasn't a guitar player so he didn't show me anything, but as far as being self taught. After I got the guitar and finally figured out how to string it and read the book and how to tune it and all that sort of stuff, all of my grandparents and my aunts that were old enough, they all had pianos in their house. Nobody in my family was really a musician but they tinkered around with the piano a little bit so I had a little bit of knowledge of what a note sounded like and so forth, and then I hooked up with some buddies at school who also played guitar and we just kind of traded off. You know, you teach me a lick, I'll teach you one, that sort of thing. I did scrape up enough money one time, I set bowling pins and I mowed yards and I shined shoes and all that sort of stuff, and I saved up some money to get a few guitar lessons. There was a guy down in Memphis, TN, his name was Len Vernon, and he was a Jazz guitar player and a teacher. He taught 5 or 6 days a week and he was trying to teach me to read music on a guitar and I think it was about the second lesson, or the third lesson, and he turned the page on the book and he played and he said "Play that." So I looked at it and I played exactly what he played and he said "I thought you'd been foolin' me. That's not what is written on the paper." (laughing) I played what he played.

Bronson: He caught you.
Steve Cropper: He caught me and he said "It looks like you don't want to know how to read music. Why don't you do this, why don't you go home and next Saturday on your lesson, you bring me 2 or 3 songs, 2 or 3 records, that you wanna learn how to play and I'll teach you how to play 'em." and that's what we did. One of them was a Ventures song and I think another one was, well "Honky Tonk", I learned from the Bill Doggit record, I think every guitar player in Memphis, TN learned that first. So I learned that from some other players and I forget one of other songs that he taught me, but that kind of got me on my way and another guy that was in our band, Charlie Freeman, was taking lessons from Len and had been for quite some time and Charlie became a very, very, good guitar player, as far as reading and knowing all the band charts and that sort of thing. He played with a lot of Jazz bands, there was a guy from Arkansas named Macy Scifford, and he used to play with him, he was in our band and he played rock and roll too. So I used to go over to his house after a lesson, and I'd be sitting on his front porch waiting for him to get home from his lesson (laughing) because his mom would pick him up from school, take him to the guitar lesson, then come home. Well then he'd teach me, it was sort of a spin off because he'd teach me what he learned that day and then he had somebody to play against and I'd play with him and we sort of spun off each other and we started a band, and that's how we got started.

You can listen (3.3 MB) mp3

Bronson: Was that The Royal Spades?
Steve Cropper: That was The Royal Spades, you know that name. You must have been reading up (laughing).

Bronson: Then that basically transformed into the Mar-keys, right?
Steve Cropper: Charlie Freeman, and Terry Johnson played drums, and Donald "Duck" Dunn on bass. Duck and I, we've been together since the 6th grade.

Bronson: That's a long time.
Steve Cropper: Talk to each other 2 or 3 times a week and still on stage.

Bronson: That's incredible, that's a great relationship.
Steve Cropper: It is. You can't have anything better then that. I was an only child, he had, oh boy, a couple sisters and about 5 brothers and all that so I used to go to his house all the time because there was always a bunch of people around and Duck, I would call my brother. I mean it's just the way we grew up and we've been together ever since.

Bronson: Then after that it was the Mar-keys.
Steve Cropper: Then we changed it to the Mar-keys. It's a tough life out there, it's probably a good thing that we did, but the powers that be said that they thought that The Royal Spades was not a name that would go over nationally and we need to come up with a snappier name, and a better name. At this time we had already been in the old Capital Theater, movie theater, and it still had the marquis out front. Anybody's ever seen pictures of Stax Records, they put Stax on the marquis sign of the movie theater, and I said, "What about calling us the Marquis, but let's spell it," kind of as a joke, I said "Let's spell it, m a r - k e y s, for keyboards", because "Last Night" was a keyboard record, "and not spell it the French way". Everybody kind of agreed on it and we gave it to Atlantic and they said, "Oh, this is great!"

Bronson: So when you were playing with the Mar-keys, how much did you guys get paid to do a gig? How much did you get paid a night?
Steve Cropper: (laughing) We played at a place called Neal's Hideaway, which was pretty close to Millington and they were always packed because it was close to the naval base out there, so we had a good 25, 30, minute ride out there every night to go play. We played there for 9 months for beer and cheese burgers and a little bit of money, and I think the most that I ever put in my pocket at the end of close up on a Saturday night, after we had played there I think Tuesday through Saturday was about 9 dollars. We must have drank a lot of beer (laughing).

Bronson: (laughing) Ate a lot of cheese burgers.
Steve Cropper: (laughing) Ate a lot of cheese burgers. It was kind of sad but the guy was happy and we had a good education being out there. It was a dance club, you know they had the dance floor and every song people were out on the dance floor and we really packed the in because we played all of the hot tunes at the time and all the R&B stuff that people like to dance to. So we had a lot of success over there.

Visit Steve Cropper on line at his web site

Steve talks about the founding of Booker T. & The M.G.'s:

You can listen (9.1 MB) mp3

Bronson: So how did Booker T. and The M.G.'s come together?
Steve Cropper: Well, basically it started with a search for a new rhythm section. During the Mar-keys tour, we got to go do Dick Clark and Atlantic (Records) kind of helped sponsor some of the tour and we went all over. I think we opened up in St. Louis, went all the way up into Detroit, Chicago, came down through Philadelphia, did Dick Clark, and then we went out on the coast and we did Myrtle Beach and Virginia Beach, and we came back through Atlanta, and then we wound up for a 3 week stint in Bossier City, LA. On the second week, I had just about had it with these crazy guys out of high school. I mean, I don't know, they were always pulling pranks, just bein' guys you know but I was a little more business then that. So on a break, "Packy" Axton, Charles Axton, our tenor player, and he was also the son of Estelle who owned Stax Records with Jim Stewart, her brother, she had given me a job in the record shop and I wanted to be close to that studio. I really missed it, that whole summer took me away from being in the studio and that's where I really enjoyed myself and had a love for it. Packy and I were in the bathroom and I looked at him and I said, "You've been wanting to be leader of this band since we got out of high school. It's yours." He said, "What are you talkin' about?" I said, "I'm catchin' the first bus out of here tomorrow." He said, "Man, you can't do that!" (laughing) I said, "Watch me!"

Bronson: So you quit when you were standing in the bathroom (laughing)?
Steve Cropper: I did. I went and bought a bus ticket, I caught a bus and I headed back to Memphis and I asked his mom if she'd give me my job back and she said, "Yeah." I enrolled in Memphis State again and went back to school. So in answer to your question about Booker T. and The M.G.'s, we were looking for a rhythm section, and we had been after Al Jackson for a long time. Louie Steinberg played bass and Al Jackson, and we'd had 2 or 3 different piano players, and then we had the horn section. Most of those guys along with our guys in the band, The Mar-keys, played on the record "Last Night" so we were in dire need of a good piano player on a regular basis, that we could salary and get 'em there. So Floyd Newman, our baritone player, he said, "I don't know if you know Booker T. Jones or not, but he is an excellent organ and piano player". What I didn't know at the time his main instrument was trombone, always has been, but he had played on a session down there playing baritone, and I found this out years later. Floyd was actually trying to protect his gig, because he was so talented he was afraid he was going to get his baritone gig (laughing). He told me that many, many, years later.

So I went over to Bookers house, found out where he lived and went over there, knocked on the door and his mom came to the door and I asked to see him. He was back in the den, back there playing guitar, believe it or not, and I told him what we needed, what we wanted, and I think Booker was just 16 at the time and getting ready to graduate from high school. So I told him what we needed and he said, "Yeah, I'll come down and talk to you." Me and Jim Stewart got together on what a weekly draw would be and all that, so Booker T. went to work for us and not too long after that, we were booked for a session on a Sunday afternoon on an off day. A guy, you may know the name, Billy Lee Riley, and we were supposed to do like a demo session. Billy was thinking about joining Stax or Jim had talked to him about maybe doing a record for us, and of course he had already had some success, but anyway, he didn't show up for the session and we were just jammin' around on some blues stuff and what we didn't know was that Jim was already ready to do the session and he liked what he was hearing and he just reached over and pushed the record button. So we we were just jammin' on this blues stuff. We got through and we were laughing and all that and Jim gets on the talk back and says, "Hey guys. Come in and listen to this." We go, "What? You recorded that? and he said, "Yeah, come listen to it." So we're listening to it back and we're goin', "You know that ain't bad." and Jim said, "Well look guys. If we decide to put this out on a record, you got anything we can put on the B side?" We looked dumbfounded, we didn't really know he was serious, and I looked at Booker and I said, " You remember that riff you played me a couple of weeks ago?" It was actually I think a riff for a vocal song and it was a pretty good riff. He said, "Yeah, I think so." So we went down to the studio and started playing this riff and goofing around with it and came up with a little format you know, 2 verses and a solo, whatever, and I was doing this thing for a solo in the middle, I call them little "chink" licks, little quick "stab" licks, and Jim suggested, "Why don't you put that on the intro, and then just do a regular solo on the middle?" and we went, "Okay." That was the take, and one or two takes later we had "Green Onions", which has been a monster for a long time.

Bronson: Man, jumping way, way, ahead. The 2007 Grammys Lifetime Achievement Award. I watched that on youtube, then I watched one, the original, back in the day when you guys were so young, and I mean it was almost right on man, you know? It was incredible. That had to be quite an honor up there.
Steve Cropper: Oh it was, it's amazing. You know we all reach a point where we look at our career and go, "Well it' s over, it's been a fun ride." but when people pay tribute to you and so forth and we can do it as a group of people, it's just great.

Bronson: Where did the MG's come from?
Steve Cropper: (laughing) Well I think we stuck to our guns. All these people are coming out of the closet now and just saying, "Well yeah, I lied for 400 years and now I've decided to say yeah, I cheated." You know we had a lot of people try to pull from us what the real situation was and I think it's enough time now it can't do any damage to anybody. We grew up in an era, in that time, there were so many groups that were named after cars. There were the Cadillacs, The El Dorados, The Triumphs, this that and the other, and so Chips Moman, who was the engineer, and a writer and a guitar player down at Stax, had an MG, and we thought, "Hey, let's call it the MG's." When Atlantic sent a letter to MG, I guess it was over in Europe, they said they didn't want to be involved with the music business or an R&B situation so Atlantic called us back and said, "Hey guys, we can't get a license agreement with MG," or whoever, I don't know what the company was, whatever it was, not important, "You're gonna have to change the name of the group." So that's what happened. It originally started out as a car, so we decided because Booker was the main guy on the keyboard and all, call it Booker T. and The M.G.'s, so we said, "What's that going to be?" so somebody said it stood for Memphis Group. Now Duck Dunn has a different idea. He says it stands for Musical Geniuses (laughing).

Bronson: (laughing) Both work though right?
Steve Cropper: And that's good coming from Duck. Coming from Duck you get the humor of it. He's not being serious he's just being funny. But anyway, Booker T. and The Memphis Group is what it stands for and there were 3 of us so it was the M.G.'s.

Steve talks about helping design the Cropper Classic guitar and songwriting:

Bronson: You designed a guitar for Peavy?
Steve Cropper: I helped design one, yeah.

Bronson: How did that work, did they call you?
Steve Cropper: Jim Nicola actually designed it. They had been sending me guitars and they had a great relationship with Carl Perkins when he was around, and they would send me stuff up, and I sort of said, "Naw, that's not really my type of guitar, not my style." I'm a "tele" (Telecaster) man, been known for being a tele guy all my life you know. So a friend of mine, he was a promotions guy for them, a salesman, he came up from Memphis, called me and I said, "Well I'm in the studio today." Told him where I was and he came by and brought this guitar and Larry Byrum, a great guitar player from Muscle Shoals was on that session. Anyway we took a break and I plugged this thing up and I played it and I went, "Wow, this really feels great!" So I got Byrum, he was in the control room and I said, "Come out here and tell me if I'm crazy or is this a really good feelin' guitar?" So he picked it up, he played it, and he says, "I want it." I said, "You can't have that one." (laughing) I've been playing that one for a long time, I played it for about 14 years, but in the interim of that, that was an original prototype of a guitar that they already had out. I think it was called the Generation Series or something and they ran it for a while, and so Hartley, Peavy, asked if I would help design a guitar and I said, "Sure." so I went with Jim Nicola, I took some of my other guitars down, we made some measurements and worked on some amps, sounds that I like, the pickups that I liked to hear and so forth and we started going to paper with it and came up with the Cropper Classic and I think we had that on the market for about 7 years. It's been off the market now for a couple of years.

Bronson: Have you written any new songs lately?
Steve Cropper: (laughing) Well I kinda write all the time but nothing that's out there. I'd like to but I'm one of those writers that I don't write for myself, and I don't write for my family, I like to have a project and if somebody called me today and said so and so needs a song and they need it by tomorrow afternoon, I'd go immediately home and get up in the den and I'd get the guitar and I'd write a song, and that's sort of the way I've always done it. I've always written, when we were producing back in the 60's, the artist would come in and we would be writing up to that time. Sometimes we'd have a few songs, but it wasn't something we wrote 6 or 8 months ago, it was something we wrote 6 or 8 hours ago, and that's sort of the way we did it. You really can't do that today. If I wrote a song this afternoon, we went in tomorrow and recorded the song, it'd be 6 months or 8 months before it got released, even if the artist had a deal, you know what I'm sayin'? So it's a lot easier to get on the last minute. If an artist is in the session, in the studio doing an album and they've got a week to record and they're short for songs or they didn't like a couple that they recorded, and they called desperate saying, "I need a song, I need a song." That's the kind of things you like to get in on.

Steve talks about how he became a member of the Blues Brothers Band

You can listen to this excerpt (6.1 MB mp3)

Bronson: How did you become a member of the Blues Brothers Band, how did that come about?
Steve Cropper: (laughing) Well, there's a lot of history behind that situation, I'll try to make it quick, it's a good story. We had been friends with Levon Helm for a long time and I don't know if there's very many people out there that remember when the Band did their concert called The Last Waltz ...

Bronson: What a show ...
Steve Cropper: Oh it was fantastic and the artists that were on that and so forth ...

Bronson: Still is today if you watch it ...
Steve Cropper: Well yeah, it's still a great performance, but the gist of that was that was gonna be to their last concert and they were splitting up as a band and we all know how famous they were and they were all, you know Roberson and everbody, they were all gonna go separate ways. So I get a phone call from Duck Dunn, we were living out in California, and Duck said, "Do you need me for anything in the next week or so?" and I said, "Well I don't have anything coming up", 'cause you know anytime I had a session or whatever, I'd be using Duck on bass and so forth, and he said, "Well I just got a call last night from Levon Helm and he's recording a new album and he wants me to come up to Woodstock and play on it". I said, "Well man go have a ball and tell Levon I said hello", (laughing) you know ...

Bronson: Yeah ...
Steve Cropper: ... and about two days later I get a phone call and he said, "Levon wants to know what you're doing in the next couple of weeks", (laughing) and I said, "Well, believe it or not I don't have any projects, I'm not mixing anything and I don't have any sessions coming up". In those days out in California, that was in the '70's, I was doing a lot of sessions and a lot of recording, a lot of producing and stuff, but it just so happened that I wasn't doing anything at that time and he said, "Well he wants you to come up and play on this". I was up there with Nashvilles' Fred Carter, he played on that, and Dr. John and Paul Butterfield and the horns that were on that were the horns from "Saturday Night Live" (SNL). We recorded an album and they decided to go on the road with it and we did, we went out and did kind of a summer tour. We went all over the United States and we also did a tour in Japan which was a lot of fun, and then about a year or so later he decided to do another album and another tour, which we did and it was basically the same guys.

John Belushi saw us perform at the Paladium in New York on a New Years Eve show and it was a lot of fun and he hung and came to the after party and all that sort of stuff, and he really liked that band. So they had been doing this thing called the Blues Brothers that started out as the Buzzy Bees I think was the first time, and then they got the idea of doin' the hats and glasses and being blues guys, and they used to go out and entertain the audience as a warm up. Go out and do a song or two before they actually started the taping of SNL. The story that I got was there was this one week when one of the scripts wasn't working. They kept doing the rewrites and by show time they just didn't have it together. Lorne Michaels (Executive producer, SNL) said, "Get the hats and glasses on and go out there and do that and fill that spot", because they had this blank spot in the show and so they did. Well the fan mail and the response to that was just overwhelming, so they kept it on the show and that was done with the SNL band that existed then which was with the horn players that are still with the Blues Brothers today.

Steve Martin, who was a writer for SNL and used to do the show quite a bit, had this record out called King Tut which was way up the charts. It was a goofy thing (laughing) but it was very popular and so he got this offer to do, I think it was nine dates at the Universal Amphitheater out in LA. So he called Belushi and he said, "Look, I'm contracted to do these nine dates and I want you and Danny to open the show for me", and John said, "Well we don't do stand up comedy, what do you want us to do?" He said, "I don't care what you do, I just want you to open for me", and so John says, "Well can we play music?" he said, "Sure if you wanna play music, okay." So he goes to Tom Mallone, then the leader of the band on SNL and he said, "Tom, here's what's going on, here's what we need to do, we've gotta put a band together", and the question was, and this is what Tom Malone told me, the question was, "Do we take the whole SNL band or do you have some other ideas of musicians?", and he said, "You gotta get Cropper and Dunn", or Dunn and Cropper, from the second movie (laughing) if you remember us being DJ's ...

Bronson: Yeah
Steve Cropper: ...He said "They're like old road dogs. We've been out on the road with them with Levon Helm for two years and you know those guys, you saw them play at the Paladium". Tom was trying to describe me to John, and he said "The guy with the long hair? He's not a guitar player, he's a roadie", and Tom says, "No man, that's Steve Cropper from Stax and all that", (laughing) and he said, "No man, that guys a roadie. I saw him at the after party." So anyway, John was with Phil Waldon who was Otis Reddings manager, one night in New York in a limo or whatever, and he said, "You know, you were Otis's manager. Tell me about this Steve Cropper guy, what's he look like?". So Phil described me and he said, "God it really is him."

So I got a phone call. I was in the studio mixing Robben Fords album. I was just about done with it and I had about two songs left and I get this call and it's John Belushi on the phone. I thought it was a friend of mine pulling a prank 'cause that's the way he used to get in whenever we had the phones shut off and we were busy mixing, and he said, "This is John Belushi, and I said, "Okay" (laughing) and he said, "I need you up here. Put you on a plane, I need you up here tomorrow, we're gonna start rehearsing. We're gonna do some shows and I'm putting a band together. I've already got Duck Dunn and the rest of the guys and I need you up here." I said, "I can't do it today, there's no way. I'm in the middle of mixing an album and I know I'm not gonna be finished for another week", and he said "Well I gotta have ya, gotta have ya", kept me on the phone, finally I got him off the phone after about 45 minutes or so, and Robben Ford was sitting in the control room and he said, "Who were you talking to?" and I said "John Belushi and he wants me to come to New York and be in a band", and he said, "I'll do it", and I said, "No you won't." (laughing) So I beat Robben Ford out on that one 'cause Robben probably would have done it ya know. He's a much better guitar player then I am, but anyway ....

Bronson: Oh I don't know about that ...
Steve Cropper: So I talked to Robben and I talked with my engineers and I said, "What if we do this. We've got two more songs to mix. What if I go up there, I'll call 'em and see if I can put them off a day, and you guys finish mixing the album. We can fedex overnight the mixes to me and I'll listen to them and if there's any changes and all that", and they said that would be fine. And thank God Robben agreed to do that. Some artists wouldn't but he did.

Visit Steve Cropper on line at his web site

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