Wow! Steve Cropper. I can’t believe it. What an honor! Pinch me please. So, on Friday at 4 pm, I head over to Will Lee’s house (bass player extraordinaire, one of my musical heroes and favorite people) to record with the legendary Steve Cropper. Steve wrote “Sittin’ On The Dock Of The Bay” (Otis Redding), “In The Midnight Hour” (Wilson Pickett), was featured in the Blues Brothers movie, was part of Booker T & The MG’s (“Green Onions”), and played a huge role in Stax Records. Steve is literally American soul music personified and indelibly woven in American soul history! Memphis and Stax!
So, I honestly can’t even tell you what a sweet, warm, wonderful guy he is. I walk in, and Steve and I immediately give each other a hug. He’s so down to earth, relaxed. A true living legend. He’s just beautiful. So we sit down in the studio and he’s jamming, playing those “Steve Cropper licks” on his electric guitar. And then suddenly he’s telling us about Otis Redding’s tunings on the guitar. Steve’s showing us the guitar voicings Otis and he used for “Sittin’ On the Dock Of The Bay”! Holy s**t! Wow! I’m so excited, stunned, and mesmerized, with my mouth hanging down in awe, I wonder if I’m drooling on myself. I probably was.
So I’m literally sitting 2 inches from Steve, while he’s showing us these legendary Otis guitar parts. I swear if I would’ve dropped acid, ate a pound of mushrooms, and drank the Kool-Aid, this would not have been any more surreal. It’s wild to see the secrets of music history revealed, so close, so intimately.
Steve tells us stories; they used no headphones in Stax recording sessions, they played to the room. Wow, what a wildly different time the ‘60s were. How in those days record producers did EVERYTHING in their power to eliminate hiss and noise on tracks. Funny now, all people want is that “analog” sound; we go out of our way to ADD the hiss and noise for the “warm analog” feeling. How strangely ironic!
Steve plays 1 or 2 takes of my song, (I’m simultaneously calm and grounded while thinking how the eff did I get to be sitting next to Steve Cropper playing on my song?) Steve’s the coolest wisecracking mofo. We’re laughing the whole time. And before you know it, he’s played these soulful, heartfelt licks and parts, and it’s a wrap.
The session happened so fast, and I want to ask him so many questions. Were you and Otis close friends? What inspired the arrangement of “Dock of the Bay?” Did you feel or experience any prejudice in the Jim Crow South while working together, at that time? Were you part of the Civil Rights movement? Did you feel like you channeled any songs you wrote?
Anyway, I’m still in shock. I feel so lucky and blessed I had the original soul man play on a song I wrote. That he inspired in a way. He’s the grandfather of this song…it’s all about lineage and honoring what came before you, while being here in the now. I can’t wait to share this recording with you guys!
We filmed some of the session, so I can’t wait to share that with you too! I’m so overwhelmed and honored. Thank you, Steve Cropper! You’re beautiful.