If Chuck Berry forever defined the sound of rock ‘n’ roll with his guitar and Chet Atkins did the same for country, then we could say that soul guitar has Steve Cropper’s DNA all over it.
With his role as main session guitarist, composer and producer at Stax Records, his sound has been a fundamental part of one of the most important labels of all time. With his economic and recognizable style with country and R&B influences, he is one of the fundamental elements behind great classics by Wilson Pickett, Sam & Dave, Eddie Floyd, Otis Redding and his own group, Booker T. & The M.G.’s.
As the teenage guitarist of the band the Mar-Keys, he was instrumental in putting the young label on the map with the smash hit Last Night. Later, as a member of the legendary house band Booker T. & The M.G.’s, he provided some of the most enduring soul riffs of all time, backing artists such as Sam & Dave, the Staple Singers, and Wilson Pickett, while also influencing fellow guitar greats like Jimi Hendrix and Keith Richards along the way. As a songwriter, he helped to pen some of Stax’s most quintessential hits, including Eddie Floyd’s Knock on Wood and Otis Redding’s (Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay. From the fall of 1961 through the end of 1970, Steve Cropper was involved in virtually every record issued by Stax Records. In the late 1970s, Steve joined John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd as a member of the Blues Brothers Band, an act that was born out of a popular Saturday Night Live skit.
Cropper continues to be an in-demand musician and producer. In 2021, he released Fire It Up, which was nominated for a Grammy in the category of best contemporary blues album.
Cropper joined us in the Gumbo Kitchen for a conversation.