I have a pretty extensive music collection and am listening to something almost non-stop. I often wonder, then, who actually gets the most airtime over the years. I have tended to think it’s the big, noticeable names that would qualify, say the honorable mr. FZ for instance. I think, though, that it’s actually a lesser-known name who has only two albums of his own, but is almost ubiquitous in the recording industry: Mr. Steve Cropper who turns 67 years young today.
Cropper was born Oct. 21, 1941 in Dora, Missouri. He started out in a band called the Mar-Keys, but went on to become the indispensable guitar player for Stax records, most importantly as the unmistakable guitar sound of Booker T and the MGs but also playing with Otis Redding, Sam and Dave, Eddie Floyd, Wilson Pickett and many others. Booker and Otis in particular get so much air time, that this alone almost qualifies him as most-listened to. But he also has two great solo albums: 1969’s With a Little Help From My Friends and the collaboration Jammed Together: Albert King, Steve Cropper, and Pops Staples. He also co-wrote classics such as Knock on Wood, In the Midnight Hour, and The Dock of the Bay. After the decline of Stax, he went on to play with Ringo Starr, Levon Helm, and the Blues Brothers. He produced and played with Jeff Beck, Tower of Power, and John Prine. Especially with the omnipresence of the Stax label on three of my favorite radio shows, The Sugar Shop, The Rockhouse, and Bop Street, I give him the nod as my most-listened to figure and without a doubt one of the most easily recognizable guitar sounds out there. in 1996, he was named the greatest living guitar player (second all-time behind jimi Hendrix) by Britain’s Mojo Magazine, a label I wouldn’t argue with.
For listening tribute, I suggest his solo With a Little Help From My Friends.
image: stax records
Happy Birthday Steve Cropper!!