Booker T is a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member, a Grammy lifetime achievement winner and his 1962 single, with the MGs, ‘Green Onions’ won Greatest Single of All Time (popmatters.com). But this makes him sound like he’s past his prime – something which is definitely not the case. His relevance definitely endures today, as proven by his most recent Grammy award for the album Potato Hole, 2008’s best instrumental album.
Born in Memphis, Tennessee in 1944, Booker T. Jones was named after the civil rights leader Booker T. Washington. But unlike Washington whose middle name was Taliaferro, Jones’ middle name is famously just ‘T’. A multi-instrumentalist prodigy, he entered the professional world of music aged just 16 when he played baritone sax on Stax Record’s first hit ‘Cause I Love You. In 1962 he formed Booker T and the MGs, and with his group, who hit the charts in their first year, he recorded the classics Green Onions, Hang Em High, Time is Tight, Melting Pot, and, familiar to all UK cricket fans, Soul Limbo.
The MGs went their separate ways at the end of the 70s (before later reforming) and the 80s saw Booker T strike out on his own. He instantly hit the charts with 1981 single I Want You and successfully turned his hand to producing for artists such as Bill Withers and Willie Nelson. Booker T also lent his keyboard magic to recordings by Neil Young and Ray Charles.
Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1992 and presented with his Grammy Award for Lifetime Achievement in 2007, the last few years have seen some of Booker T’s best work. The critically and popularly acclaimed Potato Hole featured Neil Young, returning a favour, and this year’s The Road to Memphis will include collaborations with some of today’s funkiest artists including the Roots and Sharon Jones.
Now 66. Booker T clearly still has a lot of life in him and he’ll be bringing the curtains down on 2011’s Mostly Jazz with a typically energetic performance of old classic and contemporary greats.
Booker T. Jones
Guitar – Vernon Black
Drums – Darian Gray
Bass – Jeremy Curtis