I got a tattoo of Otis Redding about 15 years ago. Sadly, I’ve probably mentioned it before. Yes, I think tattoos are lifelong reminders of the bad decisions you make in your twenties, but this Otis tattoo is different — simply because the subject matter endures.
Well, Marc Maron had Booker T. Jones of Booker T. and the M.G.s on the show this week. Yep, the fulcrum of all things Southern soul and the man behind Redding’s sound was in the garage, and Maron was as impressed as a I would’ve been. I should probably mention writer Jerry Stahl made a little appearance at the beginning of the show. He’s promoting his new novel, Happy Mutant Baby Pills. No slight on Stahl here. He’s funny, self-deprecating, and chock-a-bloc with more tales of depravity than any one man should be privy to. But Booker T. is my man.
As the in-house organ and piano player on most of Redding’s studio recordings, Jones helped define rhythm and blues, soul, and rock music as we know it. He was a keyboardist and session mainstay for Memphis-based Stax Records in the ’60s. With Steve Cropper (guitar), Al Jackson, Jr. (drums), and Lewie Steinberg (bass), Jones laid the groove on “Soul Man,” “Who’s Making Love,” “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long (To Stop Now),” “Try a Little Tenderness,” and so many others. Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett, Carla Thomas, Albert King, Jean Knight all benefited from Jones’ wizardry. I’m sort of guessing with Jean Knight. But I’d like to think he arranged “Mr. Big Stuff” too. And let’s not forget “Green Onions,” the track that put him on the map (video below).
What struck me first was Jones’s composure. Not that I expected a larger-than-life personality, but this guy was undeniably cool and politely dismissive of the artifice of pop music; he gave away all of his instruments to Katrina victims. That means some lucky kid in New Orleans is presumably making magic on one of Jones’s trademark Hammond B3 organs right now.
One would assume Jones has told his Otis origin story a million times, but I had to rewind it a couple times anyway. You can hear the glee in Maron’s voice when the soul legend relays his introduction to the then driver for the Pinetoppers. I would’ve Chris Farleyed all over the place.
He’s very matter-of-fact about his experiences. It seems the greats always are. He tells it like he remembers it and qualifies those memories with the possibility that over time the details may’ve changed by his recollection. It still made me wish I had a time machine.
What’s more; Maron is rolling out three episodes a week starting Monday. My rides home from work are going to be a breeze. Great get, Maron. This episode was the happiest surprise of the month.