Personalities | Steve Cropper | The Colonel | Guitar Heroes

Steve ‘The Colonel’ Cropper is an American guitarist, songwriter, producer and soul musician, best known for his work creating the trailblazing soul records produced by Memphis’s Stax label as a member of its studio band, which became Booker T. & The M.G.s, in the mid-1960s.

Stephen Lee Cropper was born on a farm outside Dora, Missouri in 1941. In 1950, his family moved to Memphis. Cropper received his first guitar at the age of 14, and started playing with local musicians.

Cropper and guitarist Charlie Freeman formed The Royal Spades, who eventually became The Mar-Keys, named for the marquee outside the Stax (at the time called Satellite Records) offices. The Mar-Keys began playing on sessions there and eventually had a hit single of their own with 1961’s ‘Last Night’. Also in the band were future legends bassist Donald ‘Duck’ Dunn and trumpeter Wayne Jackson. Cropper eventually became an A&R man for the label. Along with Booker T. Jones on organ and piano, bassist Dunn and drummer Al Jackson, Jr., Cropper went on to record several hits. As a house guitarist, he played on hundreds of records, from ‘(Sittin’ On) The Dock Of The Bay’, co-written with Otis Redding, to Sam & Dave’s ‘Soul Man’, on which Sam Moore shouts, ‘Play it, Steve!’ Cropper also co-wrote ‘Knock On Wood’ with Eddie Floyd and ‘In The Midnight Hour’ with Wilson Pickett.

Cropper left Stax in 1970 and played on or produced records by Jeff Beck, Tower Of Power, John Prine and Jose Feliciano. He played on Ringo Starr’s 1973 album Ringo and John Lennon’s Rock’n’Roll (1974). In the late 1970s, Cropper and Duck Dunn became leaders of The Blues Brothers Band. In 1998, he released Play It, Steve!, on which he described the inspirations behind his creation of some of soul music’s most enduring songs.

In 1996, Mojo named Cropper the greatest living guitar player (second of all time behind Jimi Hendrix). In June 2005, Cropper was inducted into The Songwriters Hall Of Fame alongside Bill Withers, John Fogerty, David Porter and Isaac Hayes. He has continued to perform and record with other artists, including The Rascals’ Felix Cavaliere for 2008’s Nudge It Up A Notch, as well as releasing solo albums Midnight Flyer (2010) and Dedicated – A Salute To The 5 Royals (2011).

Essential Recordings

Otis Redding: Otis Blue: Otis Redding Sings Soul

Sam & Dave: Soul Men

Solo: With A Little Help From My Friends

with Felix Cavaliere: Nudge It Up A Notch

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