A Booker T. and the MG’s gig — without keyboardist Booker T. Jones? Yes, it happened at least once during the group’s prime, remembers guitarist Steve Cropper, who has vivid memories of such a show taking place in his birth state of Missouri.
Steve Cropper: “This was when Booker T. had gone off to college; this had to be sometime in 1963. Ray Brown, who was a booking agent out of Memphis who used to book us, called and said, ‘Man, I’ve got this great gig coming up.’ It was for pretty good money in Kansas City, Missouri.
“So we called Booker, and he said, ‘Aw, man. I can’t do that. I’m already booked with this other band up here in Indiana.’ I said, ‘Man, you gotta do this gig.’ And he said, ‘I can’t. I’m already committed.’
“So [we realized], ‘Well, nobody really knows what Booker looks like, so let’s take Isaac Hayes.’ We went and asked Isaac, “Would you go this weekend to Kansas City and play Booker T. stuff?’ And he said, ‘Yeah, man.’
“We get up there, and we’re playing in this auditorium in downtown Kansas City. And we’re [playing] the second or third song — we’re going, we’re playing, everybody’s having a great time — and there was a gal who stood up in the second row and said, ‘You’re not Booker T.!’ Isaac ducked behind the organ [and stayed there for a long time].
“You never know who’s going to be around (laughs). They’ll call you out in a minute, man.”
— As told to Chris M. Junior
* Dedicated, Steve Cropper’s new album, is out now on 429 Records. The star-studded salute to the music of The 5 Royales features guest appearances by B.B. King, Steve Winwood, Sharon Jones, Delbert McClinton, Lucinda Williams and others.
On Aug. 14 at Lincoln Center in New York, Cropper will perform as part of a free 5 Royales-themed show starring Bettye LaVette, who also appears on Dedicated.
Photo by Chris M. Junior