Tuesday, May 15, 2012

R.I.P. Donald "Duck" Dunn, 1941-2012‏

"Steve Cropper and Duck Dunn!" Maybe you remember John Belushi shouting that at the end of the classic "Soul Man" from the first Blues Brothers movie. He referred, respectively, to guitar player Cropper and bass player Dunn, who starred in the band that was "powerful enough to turn goat (pee) into gasoline." And it was hard to miss Duck's appearance with his afro, his beard and his pipe.

On Mother's Day, May 13, 2012, word came that Duck had died in his sleep in Tokyo after doing two shows the previous night with Stax greats Eddie Floyd and Steve Cropper. He was 70 years of age.

If you're any sort of hipdog, you know that Duck Dunn came up with Booker T And The MGs, although he did not join until after "Green Onions" (bass on that cut was handled by Lewis Steinberg). When you took Booker and them, added The Memphis Horns and Isaac Hayes on piano, you had the house band at Stax Records.

Wilson Pickett, Sam And Dave, Otis Redding, Carla Thomas, Johnnie Taylor. When they cut their hit records at Stax, the mighty Duck Dunn was anchoring the low end. Alongside the fabulous Al Jackson, Jr (nicknamed "The Clock" for obvious reasons) on drums, he laid down a groove that may well outlast the pyramids.

I wouldn't know this until many years later, but Felix McDonald's fabled 70-cycle bass cutoff in the KAAY audio chain only enhanced and defined Duck's soulful low notes. The compression in the line and the tubes in the RCA transmitter made 'em as thick and greasy-delicious as a plate of Memphis ribs. All I could tell you at the time was that those Stax records jumped right out of the speaker and grabbed you by the butt!

Yeah, it was KAAY that brought Duck Dunn to my teenage wasteland, same as it brought me the lonesome moan of Levon Helm--and now they're both gone to the Skywave.

Here's a couple of choice examples of Duck Dunn's legacy, first with Johnnie Taylor, then with Otis Redding:



David B. Treadway
Doc Holiday VII
The Last PD

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