BOOKER T. & THE M.G.S – GREEN ONIONS
Released October, 1962 – 53 years ago
The debut by Booker T & the M.G.s (aka the Stax Records house band) stands as one of r&b and soul’s most important releases. Moreover, it is arguably one of the most influential instrumental albums of all-time. The organ and guitar driven grooves helped define the sound of the 60s and 70s. Amazing!
The Classic Pick is a weekly feature at 4pm M-F on The Home Stretch, sponsored by the Good Oak Bar and curated by Kris Kerry. Each Monday at 4pm Kris stops by KXCI studio to give us insight on this classic album.
Green Onions is not only generally considered one of the Booker T. & The M.G.s best albums, it effectively marks they emergence of Southern Soul as the first official release on the Stax label, setting the stage for many 60s and early 70s r&b, soul, and electric blues acts.
Other Interesting Info:
Booker T. & the M.G.s was essentially the Stax label studio band, playing on most 60s releases on the Stax label, including releases by Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett, Carla Thomas, Albert King and Sam & Dave among others.
The driving forces of the M.G.s were Booker T. Jones himself, who provided much of the bands oomph with his seething organ grooves (primarily the Hammond M3 Organ), and Steve Cropper, whose guitar riffs influenced a number of later guitar players. Al Jackson manned the drums and Lewis Steinberg played bass (later replacesd by Donald Dunn, who had played w/ Steve Cropper in The Mar-Keys).
Green Onions was the first official release on the Stax label proper. The Memphis label founded by Jim Stewart and Estelle Axton (ST ewart + AX ton = STAX) at the end of the 1950s and originally called Satellite Records. After forming a partnership with Atlantic in 1961 that lasted throughout the 1960s, Satellite Records became Stax Records. Other famous 60s Stax alumni include: Otis Redding, Sam & Dave, The Bar-Keys, Wilson Pickett, Isaac Hayes, and others.
Stax Records became synonymous with Southern soul, sometimes referred to Memphis Soul or the “Memphis Sound.” It’s main distinction from Motown r&b and later Philadelphia soul was a heavy gospel influence, and to a lesser extent Southern & Delta blues, 50s rock, and country. It is distinguished by gospel-tinged vocals, punchy horns, twangy-jangly guitars and very tight rhythm sections.
Producer credit goes to Jim Stewart, co-founder of Stax Records. Although he didn’t produce many records and primarily led Stax managerially rather than creatively, many credit the “bass heavy” sound of Stax and Southern soul to his early production work.
Green Onions was a very successful album, reaching 33 on the US Pop Albums Chart. The self-title track, “Green Onions,” reached number 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 Singles Chart and number 1 on the Billboard R&B Single Chart.
Steven Cropper (guitar) and Donald Dunn (bass) became a member of the Blues Brothers Band, appearing in the film with John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd.
Steven Cropper was named by Rolling Stone as 39 on their list of the 100 Greatest Guitarists of All-Time.
Booker T. & The M.G.s was one of the very first racially integrated rock groups ever – particularly notable and praiseworthy given this was 1962 in Memphis, Tennessee.
The term M.G.s was initially in reference to the British Sports car, but fears by the Stax label of copyright infringement let them to say it was in reference to “Memphis Group.”
Booker T. Jones was only 17 when Green Onions was recorded!
Booker T. & The M.G.s was inducted into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame in 1992.