Tuesday, May 15, 2012

RIP Donald "Duck" Dunn

I heard yesterday that Memphis legend Donald “Duck” Dunn died in his hotel room in Tokyo just hours before he was to head back to the US on a plane. He and his longtime friend Steve Cropper were accompanying Eddie Floyd on a series of concert dates in Japan. As a child, his nickname was applied by his father while they were watching a series of Donald Duck cartoons. In high school, he picked up the bass and was self taught – which contributed to his unique style.

For many of us, we heard his driving bass line, but really didn’t know his name until the release of “The Blues Brothers” movie where he and Cropper were enlisted to be a part of Akroyd’s and Belushi’s band. Friends with Cropper since high school, the two formed a band in 1958 named the Royal Spades that eventually evolved into the Mar-Keys and had a hit with the single “Last Night.” Both left the band in 1962 and Cropper became the guitarist in Booker T. and the MG’s (with an unfortunate incorrect punctuation in the band’s name). The band had its first hit in 1962 with “Green Onions.”

In 1964, Cropper asked his old friend to join the band and he became part of the better known incarnation of the group that was led by organist Booker T. Jones and also included drummer Al Jackson, Jr. One of their better known hits features that driving bass by Dunn, which is doubled for the most part by Cropper’s guitar. While the MG’s may be a continuation of the sports car names that started with Volt recording artists The Triumphs, I always heard that it stood for “Memphis Group.”

It is also only one of two singles that charted for the band higher on the Hot 100 than it did on the R&B charts. The chart positions were respectively #6 and #7. The only other record to do this was “Hang ‘Em High,” which only charted at #35 on the R&B charts, but peaked at #9 on the Hot 100. Both were released in 1969.

Single Edit

Stax Records edited down the original recording of 4:55 to 3:14. It is an excellent mix for radio and edit includes only most important parts of the instrumental to maximize its hit potential - it worked as it was a Top 10 crossover hit.

The single mix is different than the original album version as well. Cropper’s guitar and Dunn’s bass are mixed to the left and Jackson’s drums to the right. Booker T.’s organ is placed in the center. This is a much better mix than the original which had the organ to the right with the drums. The centering of the main instrument is glue that holds the song together.

Album Version

As stated, the album version of the song is mixed differently and there are additional organ and guitar parts at the beginning and end of the song. It appears to me that the guitar is a little brighter in the album version whereas, the single has the bass and guitar mixed like they are a single instrument. The song was from the motion picture soundtrack for the movie “Uptight.”

Rest in Peace Duck. We’ll miss you on the low end, but see you on the flip side.

No comments:

Post a Comment