GRAMMY-winning recording artist Booker T. Jones was the featured guest in an installment of the GRAMMY Museum's An Evening With series on May 12. Before an intimate audience at the Clive Davis Theater, Jones discussed his early musical influences, his introduction to Stax Records, the creation of Booker T. & The MG's, and discovering the organ, among other topics. Afterward, Jones was joined by special guests Ozomatli for a performance, including a rendition of his 1971 hit "Melting Pot."
"This instrument was in my piano teacher's dining room, and I thought it was a china cabinet," joked Jones, referencing the organ. "She opened it up for me and played it and I fell in love with it. You have to make the sounds happen on this instrument. It can sound like an orchestra."
A pioneer of Southern soul, Jones developed a love for music at an early age, learning to play saxophone, trombone, oboe, organ, and piano. In 1960 he was invited to play saxophone on a recording by Rufus and Carla Thomas for Satellite Records, owned by Estelle Axton and Jim Stewart. Axton and Stewart subsequently changed the label's name to Stax Records and Jones and guitarist Steve Cropper drummer Al Jackson Jr., and bassist Lewis Steinberg (who was later replaced by Donald "Duck" Dunn) became the house band, playing on recordings for Stax artists such as Eddie Floyd, Albert King, Otis Redding, and Sam & Dave, among others. The quartet also recorded under the moniker Booker T. & The MG's and released their debut album, Green Onions, in 1962. The title track became the group's highest-charting hit, peaking at No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100. The MG's scored two additional Top 10 hits in 1969 with "Time Is Tight" and "Hang 'Em High." Jones later mixed in work as a producer, collaborating with Willie Nelson on his 1978 album, Stardust, which cracked the Billboard 200 Top 40 and solidified Nelson as a crossover act.
Booker T. & The MG's won their first GRAMMY Award for Best Pop Instrumental Performance for "Cruisin.'" in 1994. The group received a Recording Academy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2007. Jones won an additional GRAMMY as a solo artist in 2009 for Best Pop Instrumental Album for Potato Hole. His latest album, The Road From Memphis, was released in May and chronicles his musical journey from Memphis to the influential sounds emanating from cities such as Detroit, Los Angeles and Philadelphia.
Upcoming GRAMMY Museum events include Great Guitars: Warren Haynes (June 27), Homegrown: Miguel (June 28) and An Evening With Ben Harper (Sept. 7).
For more information on the GRAMMY Museum, visit www.grammymuseum.org.
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