Booker T. Jones
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|Booker T. Jones|
November 12, 1944 |
Memphis, Tennessee, US
|Genres||R&B, instrumental rock, soul, electric blues|
|Occupation(s)||Musician, songwriter, producer|
|Instruments||Organ, piano, oboe, keyboards, saxophone, vocals, trombone, guitar, bass guitar|
|Labels||Atlantic, Stax, Anti-|
|Associated acts||Booker T. & the MGs, Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Stephen Stills, Otis Redding, Drive-By Truckers, the Mar-Keys, Rancid|
|Oral History, Booker T. Jones speaks about the endless possibilities of the Hammond B-3 organ. Interview date September 9, 2013, NAMM (National Association of Music Merchants) Oral History Library|
Booker T. Jones (born November 12, 1944) is an American multi-instrumentalist, songwriter, record producer and arranger, best known as the frontman of the band Booker T. & the M.G.'s. He has also worked in the studios with many well-known artists of the 20th and 21st centuries, earning him a Grammy Award for lifetime achievement.
Early life and career
Booker T. Jones was born in Memphis, Tennessee, on November 12, 1944. He was named after his father, Booker T. Jones, Sr., who was named in honor of Booker T. Washington, the educator. Booker T. Jones, Sr. was a science teacher at the school, providing the family with a relatively stable, lower middle-class milieu.
Jones was a musical prodigy, playing the oboe, saxophone, trombone, bass, and piano at school and organ at church. He attended Booker T. Washington High School, the alma mater of Rufus Thomas, and shared the hallowed halls with future stars like Isaac Hayes's writing partner David Porter, saxophonist Andrew Love of the Memphis Horns, soul singer/songwriter William Bell, and Earth, Wind, & Fire's Maurice White.
Jones's entry into professional music came at age sixteen, when he played baritone saxophone on Satellite (soon to be Stax) Records' first hit, "Cause I Love You," by Carla and Rufus (Thomas). Willie Mitchell hired Jones for his band, in which Jones started on sax and later moved to bass. It was here that he met Al Jackson, Jr., who he brought to Stax. Simultaneously, Jones formed a combo with White and Porter, in which He played guitar.
While hanging around the Satellite Record Shop run by Estelle Axton, co-owner of Satellite Records with her brother Jim Stewart, Jones met record clerk Steve Cropper, who would become one of the MGs when the group formed in 1962. Besides Jones on organ and Cropper on guitar, Booker T. and the MGs featured Lewie Steinberg on bass guitar and Al Jackson, Jr. on drums (Donald "Duck" Dunn eventually replacing Steinberg). While still in high school, Jones co-wrote the group's classic instrumental "Green Onions," which was a massive hit in 1962.
Bob Altshuler wrote the sleeve notes on the first Booker T. & the M.G.'s album Green Onions released by Stax Records in 1962:
- [His] musical talents became apparent at a very early age. By the time he entered high school, Booker was already a semi-professional, and quickly recognized as the most talented musician in his school. He was appointed director of the school band for four years, and in addition, organized the school dance orchestra which played for proms throughout the Mid-South. In the classroom, he concentrated on the studies of music theory and harmony. ... Booker's multiple activities earned him a coveted honour, that of being listed in the students' "Who's Who of American High Schools." Booker's first instrument was the string bass, but he soon switched to the organ. Booker came to the attention of record executive Jim Stewart in Memphis, and while still in high school he worked as a staff musician for Stax Records, appearing as sideman on many recording dates for that label. It became obvious that one day Booker would be ready to record under his own name and several months later Booker's first recording session was set.
Over the next few years, Jones divided his time between studying classical music composition, composing and transposition at Indiana University, playing with the MGs on the weekends back in Memphis, serving as a session musician with other Stax acts, and writing songs that became widely regarded as classics. He wrote, with Eddie Floyd, "I've Never Found a Girl (To Love Me Like You Do)," Otis Redding's "I Love You More Than Words Can Say," and, with William Bell, bluesman Albert King's "Born Under a Bad Sign" (later popularized by the cover version recorded by the British power trio Cream).
In 1970, Jones moved to California and stopped playing sessions for Stax, after becoming frustrated with Stax's treatment of the MGs as employees rather than musicians. Even though Jones was given the title of Vice President at Stax before leaving, as he put it, "There were titles given (to us) but we didn't actually make the decisions." While still under contract to Stax, he appeared on Stephen Stills's eponymous album (1970). The 1971 album Melting Pot would be the last Booker T. & the MGs album issued on Stax.
Jones was married to Priscilla Coolidge in 1969, sister of singer Rita Coolidge. Jones produced Priscilla's first album Gypsy Queen in 1970, then the pair collaborated as a duo on three albums; 1971's Booker T. & Priscilla, 1972's Home Grown, and 1973's Chronicles, and Jones produced Priscilla's final solo album, Flying, in 1979 right as their marriage ended that year.
Making the charts as a solo artist in 1981 with "I Want You," he produced an album by Rita Coolidge, plus Bill Withers's debut album Just As I Am (on which Jones also played several instruments), and Willie Nelson's album Stardust. Jones has also added his trademark keyboard playing to artists ranging in genre from the R&B/pop/blues of Ray Charles to the folk rock/country rock of Neil Young.
On June 18, 1985, Booker married Nanine Warhurst. They have three children together, Olivia, Cicely, and Teddy. All total they have a family of eight children, including Booker T. III, Lonnie, Matthew, Brian, and Michael.
On March 1, 1995, Booker T. & the MG's won their first Grammy Award for Best Pop Instrumental Performance for the song "Cruisin'". Jones still plays with Booker T. & the MGs and his own small combo called the Booker T. Jones Band. His current touring group includes Vernon "Ice" Black (guitar), Darian Gray (drums), and Melvin Brannon (bass).
In 2009 he released a new solo album, Potato Hole, recorded with the Drive By Truckers, and featuring Neil Young. He performed at the Bonnaroo Festival with Drive By Truckers on June 6, 2009, with a set including most tracks from Potato Hole as well as some "Truckers" tracks. On January 31, 2010, Potato Hole won the Best Instrumental Album award at the 52nd Grammy Awards.
Jones also played his B-3 on the track "If It Wasn't For Bad" from the Elton John and Leon Russell collaboration album titled The Union. The track was nominated at the 53rd Annual Grammy Awards for Best Pop Collaboration With Vocals.
In 2011, Jones released The Road from Memphis. The backing band included Questlove (drums), "Captain" Kirk Douglas (guitar) and Owen Biddle (bass) from The Roots as well as former Motown guitarist Dennis Coffey and percussionist Stewart Killen. The album features vocals by Yim Yames, Matt Berninger, Lou Reed, Sharon Jones and Booker T. himself, as well as lyrics contributed by his daughter/manager Liv Jones. Booker T. Jones also recorded with the famous party band The Gypsy Queens on their eponymous album.
Jones received an honorary doctorate degree from Indiana University's Jacobs School of Music at its 2012 undergraduate commencement exercises on Saturday, May 5, 2012. Jones originally attended Indiana University in the 1960s, even after his smash-hit Stax Records recordings.
Jones was featured on organ for singer Kelly Hogan on Hogan's 2013 release on Anti- Records, I Like to Keep Myself in Pain.
In June 2013, Jones released his 10th album, Sound The Alarm, on Stax Records after originally leaving the label more than 40 years previously in 1971. The album features guest artists Anthony Hamilton, Raphael Saadiq, Jay James, Mayer Hawthorne, Estelle, Vintage Trouble, Luke James, and Booker's son Ted Jones.
Albums by Booker T.
See also Booker T. and the M.G.'s#Discography.
- Evergreen (1974)
- Try And Love Again (1978)
- The Best of You (1980)
- I Want You (1981)
- Runaway (1989)
- Potato Hole (2009)
- The Road from Memphis (2011)
- Sound the Alarm (2013)
- Booker T. Jones (keyboards)
- Vernon "Ice" Black (guitar)
- Darian Gray (drums)
- Melvin Brannon, Jr. aka M-Cat Spoony (bass)
- Booker T. Jones (February 7, 2012). "Lifetime Achievement Award: The Memphis Horns". Grammy.com.
- Bowman 1997, p. 36.
- Bowman 1997, p. 37.
- Ware, Vron and Les Back. Out of Whiteness: Color, Politics, and Culture, The University of Chicago Press, 2001, p. 245. Excerpt at books.google.com.
- Bowman 1997, p. 186.
- Megan Diskin, "Murder-suicide victim was sister of Rita Coolidge", Ventura County Star, October 5, 2014.
- "The Doors celebrate Grammy honour", BBC News, February 11, 2007.
- Mansfield, Brian. "Booker T. emerges from his 'Hole'", USA Today, January 15, 2009.
- Ventura Highway — The Gypsy Queens Feat. Dewey Bunnell, Booker T. Jones & Gerry Beckley, DR.dk.
- Eric R. Danton, "Soul Man Booker T. Jones Keeps Having ‘Fun’ (Song Premiere)", The Wall Street Journal, April 16, 2013.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Booker T. Jones.|
- Ware, Vron (2001). Out of Whiteness: Color, Politics, and Culture. University of Chicago Press. ISBN 0-226-87342-0.
- Bowman, Rob (1997). Soulsville USA: The Story of Stax Records. Music Sales Group. ISBN 0-8256-7284-8.
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