Donald "Duck" Dunn



The Mar-Keys
Recording "Last Night" as an afterthought, the Mar-Keys landed then Satellite Records a major hit.

From Messick High
The Mar-Keys, have, as Stax historian Rob Bowman put it, a “long and byzantine” story. They began in the late ‘50s with a core of east Memphis kids, most from Messick High School, who formed an instrumental group to play parties and clubs. Guitarists Steve Cropper and Charlie Freeman, drummer Terry Johnson, pianist Jerry Lee “Smoochie” Smith, bassist Donald “Duck” Dunn, trumpeter Wayne Jackson, saxophonists “Packy” Axton, and Don Nix, and sometime vocalist Ronnie Stoots rounded out a lineup that evolved jaggedly and changed often.

The Boys Cut a Record
The Mar-Keys, and most of its individual parts, impacted the history of Stax in various and big ways. “Packy,” Estelle Axton’s son and Jim Stewart’s nephew, provided the connection to the record business. Satellite was just getting off the ground when the boys cut their first record in 1961. Stewart and producer Chips Moman concentrated on their budding star Carla Thomas, and the Mar-Keys recorded only as an afterthought and favor to the persistent Mrs. Axton. The Mar-Keys first single “Last Night,” however, sold in the neighborhood of one million copies, and reached #2 on the Billboard R&B chart and #3 on the pop chart.

A Name is Born
Not only was “Last Night” the biggest seller in the little label’s brief history, it attracted the attention of Satellite Records of California, a company, it turned out, that had a longer claim on the Satellite name. The California company threatened suit and generously offered to sell the name outright to the Memphis label. Stewart and Axton instead chose to change the name. The co-owners Stewart and Axton combined the first two letters of their last names, and, an enduring and distinctive new brand was born: “Stax Records.”

Soon after, Steve Cropper was hired as a session musician. The departure of Chips Moman elevated Cropper into the role of studio producer. The Mar-Keys followed “Last Night” with singles “The Morning After” and “About Noon.” Their rock around the clock ended there, but the fun instrumentals didn’t. “Foxy” the “Popeye Stroll,” and “Sack-O-Woe” closed out a busy 1962 for the boys. Meanwhile, the Mar-Key horns worked with other Stax reording artists, while another instrumental group, Booker T. & the MGs was evolving. The Mar-Keys had only four singles in their name the next three years. They hit a final time with “Philly Dog” in 1966. The Mar-Key horns accompanied countless other Stax sessions. They eventually included Wayne Jackson, saxmen Andrew Love, Floyd Newman, and Joe Arnold. Jackson and Love were the last remnants to use the Mar-Keys name until they left Stax in 1969 and became the Memphis Horns.




Donald "Duck" Dunn
Messick 1959


Rock and Roll Hall of Famer DONALD "DUCK" DUNN (Bass Guitar) was the bass player for Booker T. and the MGs at Stax Records where he helped create such hits as "Soul Limbo," "Hip Hug-Her" and "Time Is Tight."

During his time at Stax, Dunn became known as one of the major architects of the classic Memphis sound, playing on such hits as "I've Been Loving You Too Long," "Respect" and "(Sitting On) The Dock Of The Bay" for Otis Redding, "In The Midnight Hour" for Wilson Pickett, "You Don?t Know Like I Know," "Hold On, I?m Comin" and "Soul Man" for Sam and Dave, as well as three albums for Albert King.

Most of Dunn's work mentioned above was done with Steve Cropper. Their musical collaboration and friendship dates back to their high school days in Memphis where they had their first hit, "Last Night," as members of The Mar-Keys.

Other artists Dunn has accompanied include Muddy Waters, Eric Clapton, Elvis Presley, Levon Helm, Rod Stewart, Joan Baez and Leon Russell.

Donald 'Duck' Dunn appears on the following albums:

  1. Briefcase Full of Blues (1978)

  2. The Blues Brothers (Music from the Soundtrack) (1980)

  3. Made in America (1980)

  4. Otis, Onions And The Blues (1988)

  5. The Blues Brothers Band Live in Montreux (1990)

  6. Red, White, & Blues (1992)

  7. Blues for You (1992)

  8. Blues Brothers 2000 Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (1997)

  9. Blues Brothers and Friends (Live from chicago's HOB) (1997)



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