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Jim Keltner on Booker T. and the MGs

Drummer Jim Keltner’s bio looks suspiciously like a rock ‘n’ roll hall of fame roll call, forming a legacy of recorded tracks that would show up on anyone’s desert island list. (He’s at the heart of all those great ’70s John Lennon tracks, not to mention fellow ex-Beatles George Harrison and Ringo Starr.)

I played with Booker throughout the years, I played on records he produced, I played on a Bill Withers record (Booker produced). I played with (lead guitarist Steve) Cropper many times in the studio. Over the years, (bassist Donald) “Duck” Dunn and I played on an Albert King record.

As a drummer, myself, I can tell you that Al Jackson Jr. was probably the most inspiring and amazing drummer of that era.

When you listen to those records, you marvel at the beauty and finesse and the timing. (Jackson) is amazingly disciplined, be-cause that’s what the band was known for — very spare, a love of economy for individual players.

The thing that was so great about Booker was there were four virtuosos.

Cropper, as a guitar player, was the guy that invented the whole Memphis thing that all the guitar players copy today. Duck Dunn, the power and the precision on his base lines. Booker’s incredibly subtle and beautiful keyboard work — put that together with the songs they wrote (and you have) one of the most important bands.

John Lennon used to call them “Booker Table and the Mater Deis.”

They were Stax (Memphis label renowned for its singular sound) in many ways, more than just being on the label. Duck Dunn told me that Al Jackson was Stax, he played on so many of the records.

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