NEW YORK (AP) — Donald “Duck” Dunn, the bassist who helped create the gritty Memphis soul sound at Stax Records in the 1960s as part of the legendary group Booker T. and the MGs and contributed to such classics as “In the Midnight Hour,” ”Hold On I’m Coming” and “Sitting on the Dock of the Bay,” died Sunday at 70.
Dunn, whose legacy as one of the most respected session musicians in the business also included work with John Belushi and Dan Ackroyd’s Blues Brothers as well as with Levon Helm, Eric Clapton, Neil Young, Bob Dylan and others, died while on tour in Tokyo.
News of his death was posted on the Facebook site of his friend and fellow musician Steve Cropper, who was on the same tour. Cropper said Dunn died in his sleep.
Dunn was born in Memphis, Tenn., in 1941, and according to the biography on his official website, was nicknamed for the cartoon character by his father.
His father, a candy maker, did not want his son to be a musician
“He thought I would become a drug addict and die. Most parents in those days thought music was a pastime, something you did as a hobby, not a profession,” Dunn said.
But by the time Dunn was in high school, he was in a band, the Royal Spades, with Cropper, a group that would eventually become the Mar-Keys.
Cropper left the band to become a session player at Stax Records, the legendary Memphis-based record company that would become known for its gritty soul records and artists like Otis Redding, Sam and Dave, Isaac Hayes and the Staples Singers.
Soon, Dunn followed Cropper and joined the Stax house band, which would become Booker T. and the MGs. It included Booker T. Jones on organ and Al Jackson on drums and was later inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
“I would have liked to have been on the road more, but the record company wanted us in the studio. Man, we were recording almost a hit a day for a while there,” Dunn said.
The group had its heyday in the 1960s as backup for Stax artists such as Redding. Booker T. and the MGs had its own hits as well, including “Hang ‘Em High,” and “Soul-Limbo.”
In the 1970s, the group’s members drifted apart. Jackson was killed in Memphis in 1975 by an intruder in his home.
The remaining members had a brief reunion in 1979, but Cropper and Dunn would have a sustained reunion when they joined Ackroyd and Belushi’s Blues Brothers band and appeared in the 1980 “Blues Brothers” movie.
“How could anybody not want to work with John and Dan? I was really kind of hesitant to do that show, but my wife talked me into it,” Dunn said in a 2007 interview with Vintage Guitar magazine, “and other than Booker’s band, that’s the most fun band I’ve ever been in.”
Dunn also did session work on recordings by Clapton, Young, Dylan, Rod Stewart, Sam and Dave and Stevie Nicks, according to his discography. He was on Redding’s “Respect” and “Sitting on the Dock of the Bay,” Sam and Dave’s “Hold On I’m Coming” and Wilson Pickett’s “In the Midnight Hour.”
Dunn once said that he and Cropper were “like married people.”
“I can look at him and know what he’ll order for dinner,” he said. “When we play music together we both know where we’re going.”
Dunn received a lifetime achievement Grammy award in 2007 for his work with Booker T. and the MGs.
He is survived by his wife, June; a son, Jeff; and a grandchild, Michael, said Michael Leahy, Dunn’s agent.
Nekesa Mumbi Moody is the AP’s music writer. Follow her at http://www.twitter.com/nekesamumbi
More Related Stories
- Cannes: Ryan Gosling's new movie draws the boo-birds
- Radio host tweets rape joke, blames journalists for reporting on it
- Juror responds to Joe Francis' insults with thoughtful email
- New track from the Lonely Island features Solange Knowles, semicolons
- Amazon introduces fan fiction publishing platform
- Naomi Watts, "Argo," "Wonderstone" among bizarre Teen Choice Awards nominees
- Imprisoned Pussy Riot member declares hunger strike
- The camp-free "Behind the Candelabra"
- Justin Bieber will destroy you if you live-tweet his parties
- Marc Maron on Twitter feud with Michael Ian Black: "We have an understanding"
- "Girls Gone Wild" creator Joe Francis to jury: "You should be euthanized"
- Ai Weiwei releases heavy metal music video
- Actually, Beyoncé is a feminist
- Marc Maron and Michael Ian Black's epic Twitter battle
- Cannes: Directing 101 with James Franco
- Welcome to the jungle: The definitive oral history of '80s metal
- Burt Bacharach opens up on daughter's suicide
- Steven Spielberg to produce "Halo" television series
- Amazon set to launch fine-art gallery
- Twitter torches Dan Brown's "Inferno"
- Brad Pitt keeps breaking his silence on how boring marriage to Jennifer Aniston was
Featured Slide Shows
The week in 10 picsclose X
- 1 of 11
Lisa Montgomery embraces her nephew Thursday after a tornado tore apart her home in Cleburne, Texas. The twister killed six people and destroyed entire swaths of the North Texas town.
Credit: AP/LM Otero
Jack McMahon, the defense attorney for abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell, speaks outside the Criminal Justice Center in Philadelphia Tuesday. His client was convicted of killing three babies in his clinic, and will serve multiple life sentences.
Credit: AP/Matt Rourke
A photo taken Monday captures Vice President Joe Biden's response to a Milwaukee second-grader's innovative proposal to end America's epidemic of gun violence. This guy!
Credit: AP/Jenny Aicher
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., flanked by a grouper-eyed Michele Bachmann, addresses the IRS' admission that it targeted Tea Party groups in advance of the 2012 election. In an op-ed for CNN Thursday, the Kentucky senator slammed the president for his faux outrage.
Credit: AP/Molly Riley
Ousted IRS chief Steven Miller is sworn in on Capitol Hill Friday. Miller testified before the House Ways and Means Committee on the extra scrutiny the agency gave conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status.
Credit: AP/J. Scott Applewhite
Attorney General Eric Holder pauses as he testifies on Capitol Hill before the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday. Holder is under fire, among other things, for the Justice Department's gathering of phone records at the Associated Press.
Credit: AP/Carolyn Kaster
O.J. Simpson sits during an evidentiary hearing at Clark County District Court in Las Vegas, Nev., Thursday. Simpson, who is currently serving a nine-to-33-year sentence in state prison for armed robbery and kidnapping, is using a writ of habeas corpus to seek a new trial.
Credit: AP/Las Vegas Review-Journal/Jeff Scheid
Major Tom to ground control: On Sunday astronaut Chris Hadfield recorded the first music video from space, a cover of David Bowie's "Space Oddity."
Credit: AP/NASA/Chris Hadfield
When it rains it pours. President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference Thursday with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, inexplicably inspiring an #umbrellagate Twitter meme.
Credit: AP/Jacquelyn Martin
A smoke plume rises high above a road block at the intersection of County A and Ross Road east of Solon Springs, Wis., Tuesday. No injuries were reported, but the the wildfire caused evacuations across northwestern Wisconsin.
Credit: AP/The Duluth News-Tribune/Clint Austin
Recent Slide Shows
- 1 of 11