May 132012

Steve Cropper has announced on his Facebook page that his longtime partner in crime, Donald “Duck” Dunn, died in his sleep this morning, after playing 2 shows in Japan. Man, he did much more on the bass, but no one could lay into that signature 3-note riff at the heart of so many Stax/Volt songs the way he did.


  24 Responses to “Time Sure Is Tight: Bassist Duck Dunn Dead”

  1. That clip is amazing in so many ways. RIP, Duck.

  2. This one hurt. I’m not sure if I can come up with a bassist I liked more.

  3. bostonhistorian

    I posted that clip on my Facebook about a month ago, and kept thinking that it might have the best looking women in the audience of any live performance I’ve ever seen. I think it was recorded on a New Year’s Eve in Paris. I love everything about the performance.

  4. diskojoe

    It’s amazing to think that he & the rest of the MGs probably played on 99% of Stax Records’ total output from 1962-71. I did get the chance to see them play at a Blues Festival here in the Witch City back in 1999

  5. Yeah. This clip looks like it came out of a Matt Helm spy movie. Groovy.

    The Chicken salutes the Duck.

  6. hrrundivbakshi

    So weird! I was doing some yard work yesterday (a rare thing), and I decided to earbud myself (also rare) as I plucked various weeds and other unwanted things out of the ground. Scanning my iPod for pleasant music to garden to, I stopped at disc two of the fantastic “Time is Tight” compilation.

    As I did my gardening thing, most of the MGs’ amazing “McLemore Avenue” album poured into my skull, and I found myself really admiring just how tight and groovy that band was. This time, though, I had a further thought — one that popped out of nowhere: I thought to myself that if Booker T & the MGs ceased to exist — or if any of the remaining members died — I wouldn’t just feel sad; I’d feel like my life got a little less *good*.

    I walked into the house after having that rather depressing thought, and read the news. Everything I thought would happen did happen. I was saddened, and then I felt a little bit of the wind forever leaving my sails.

    Duck was amazing. Don’t believe me? Listen to his reconstruction of the groove in Simon and Garfunkel’s “Mrs. Robinson.” Now THAT is owning a song!

    My favorite Duck Dunn moment on film takes place in a black and white clip from the 1967 Stax tour of Europe. Watch the first few seconds of this clip very carefully. Sam and Dave are launching into “When Something Is Wrong With My Baby,” and Dave Prater does a spin in front of a very young Dunn, coming to a stop right in front of him. Their faces are little more than a foot apart, and Duck just cracks up, like some goofy teenager. I so wish I knew what, if anything, Dave said in that moment. I like to think it was some performer’s inside joke, like “Man, this routine makes my dick hurt!” or “Yo, Duck, I think Sam just farted” or something. Check it out here:

    I actually got to see Duck and the MGs play a club in DC a few years ago, and I was downright shocked at how great they still were. What’s more, in the middle of the show, Dunn strode up to the mic and held forth with the kindest, most heartfelt appreciation of his bandmates you could imagine. When he was done sharing his thoughts, and awkwardly stepped away from the mic, Steve and Booker looked a little amused — and somewhat surprised. Booker then explained that Dunn rarely spoke much on stage, so this was unusual. It was nice.

    Anyhow, yeah, Duck Dunn is dead. It’s a terrible shame. He really was one of the greats. Not as acrobatic or innovative as Jamerson, but every last bit as important. Vital to the history of American popular music. RIP, Duck Dunn. Memory eternal.

  7. Check out the shots of CCR members in the beginning. BT and MGs must have been openers.

  8. Considering just how stiff and unimaginative Fogerty’s backup musicians were in CCR, they should either be insanely jealous of the MGs’ ability or insufferably smug in knowing that despite the gross differences in talent, CCR was still the headliner.

  9. Believe I remember reading once that this CCR/BTMG concert was in early 1970 in Oakland, and was filmed for a TV special.

  10. hrrundivbakshi

    WINNER of greatest on-stage hat award: Al Jackson Jr. with his tam-o-shanter!

  11. alexmagic

    I have a lot of conflicting thoughts about the MGs’ look in the clip in the main post. Booker T has a pretty tremendous look going, and I can see where Cropper – moving into his wolfman phase – is trying to match him with earthtones.

    But then Dunn shows up with a look that I can only describe as “if Charles Manson was in early Van Halen instead of Michael Anthony” and Jackson has his…what, Scottish Sailor outfit on? Pretty crazy. Perhaps that lack of a unified, thematic look at this stage is what kept the MGs relegated to only being the 65th best backing band of all time?

    Look aside, though, yeah, awesome clip!

  12. alexmagic

    Yeah, I’ll echo everybody else, that’s a truly great clip. The atmosphere is great (Mat Helm movie is right on) and for getting a great look at the band going to work.

    I especially like the part past the halfway point where the guy dancing closest to the stage manages to stop dancing/checking out the ladies because he’s so locked into Al Jackson going off there. There’s also a great bit earlier in the clip where Jackson’s swaying with his whole upper body to play while simultaneously trying to stop running his head into that tapestry drape thing hanging right above him.

    Dunn and Cropper also seem to be maximizing their stage presence despite the fact that neither one of them literally appears to have enough room to even move their feet given how small that stage is.

  13. R.I.P. The Blues Brothers movie and soundtrack was my gateway into all this, so I’m grateful that Dunn and Cropper had a sense of humor and worked with Belushi and Ackroyd.

  14. mockcarr

    that is sadly true for me too

  15. Hey, the guidelines for inclusion in the Greatest Backing Band of All-Time tournament were very specific – with a few exceptions! Would that thing have been any fun if I’d allowed the MGs to be involved? Had I included them and the Band it would have come down to 92% of the populace backing the MGs, 3% backing the Band, and the remaining 5% spread among the other 63 entrants.

  16. First of all, I’m envious of Booker T’s brown velvet shirt with big-ass shirt collar. THAT’S my idea of a Great Shirt.

    Second, Cropper’s soloing stance at the 3:00 mark, with his head off to the side and that oomph face is a move I need to work into my playing. That’s a commanding stance, very athletic – and in no way an act of showboating. I hate to say this, but it connotes all that I admire in Kobe Bryant’s game.

    Booker’s “bring it down” gaze at the 3:32 mark tells you all you need to know about why his name is front and center for this backing band.

    Al Jackson and Duck Dunn also make excellent sports faces throughout. I’m rethinking my choice for group I’d most like to choose for my team in a pickup athletic event, particularly basketball or rough touch football. I see what Alexmagic meant about Dunn’s proto-Michael Anthony-cum-Manson Look, but I see him more as an undrafted free agent center who ends up making multiple Pro Bowls.

  17. There was something oddly familiar about the “look” of the MGs clip that Mr. Mod posted even though I don’t think I’d seen it before; the stage set up, the colors, and the camera angle of the whole video.

    No wonder. I’m pretty sure that must be the show that was used in the CCR greatest hits TV commercial that many of you 40 and 50 somethings might remember. They used to play this commercial all the time. Check out the amps and stage in the CCR greatest hits commercial, and tell me if that’s not from the same show. John F. seems to be wearing the same flannel shirt when he’s on screen in the MGs video. Then again, Fogerty’s clothes closet probably looks like it belongs to a lumberjack.

  18. Quick Duck Dunn story. One of my best buds from college, a pretty decent bassist who has played in a few bar/cover type bands, stayed in my spare bedroom after a drunken night out about 8 years ago and the next morning I put on the Stax in Norway video that HVB linked. Now, my friend is no soul guy so he was putting up with my new thing and he finally said, “Is that Duck Dunn?”. I think that’s all he needed to really tune into the rest of the show and grow a little appreciation for the vintage MGs.

  19. cliff sovinsanity

    “We had a band powerful enough to turn goat piss into gasoline. “

  20. shawnkilroy

    i saw him play bass for Neil Young on the Silver & Gold Tour.
    so good.

  21. alexmagic

    Dunn’s got a ’70s fullback build, too. I think you’re right, Mod. Booker at QB, Dunn lining up behind him, Cropper at TE, Jackson as a precision route running receiver who isn’t afraid to go over the middle? The MGs would put up a ton of points and own the center of the field.

  22. alexmagic

    “Guess how many flannel shirts John owns?” “…Seven hundred and fifty?” “One.”

  23. As it is in nature, so shall it be in sobriquet.

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