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Legendary Stax guitarist, songwriter and producer Steve Cropper turns 80 today

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Mascot Label Group/Provogue Records

Steve Cropper, guitarist with legendary Stax Records house bands The Mar-Keys and Booker T. & the MG’s, and later The Blues Brothers, celebrates his 80th birthday today.

Formed in 1958, The Mar-Keys were the Memphis-based Stax label’s first house band. Besides backing other artists, The Mar-Keys made their own records, and in 1961, they scored a #3 hit with the instrumental single “Last Night,” which, interestingly, featured Cropper on keyboards.

In 1962, Cropper co-founded Booker T. & the MG’s with keyboardist Booker T. Jones, drummer Al Jackson Jr. and bassist Lewie Steinberg, who was replaced in ’65 by Donald “Duck” Dunn.

Like The Mar-Keys, Booker T. & the MG’s backed Stax artists and also made their own records. The group’s debut single, the classic 1962 soul instrumental “Green Onions,” peaked at #3 on the Billboard Hot 100 and topped the R&B chart.

Cropper also wrote songs with various Stax artists, including all-time classic soul hits like Otis Redding‘s “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay,” Wilson Pickett‘s “In the Midnight Hour” and Eddie Floyd‘s “Knock on Wood.”

Starting in the 1970s, Cropper began playing on and producing records for artists outside of Stax.

Among the many other artists Steve has worked with over the years are John Lennon, Ringo Starr, Rod Stewart, Neil Young, Peter Frampton, Paul Simon, Art Garfunkel, Roy Orbison and Etta James.

Cropper also played with The Blues Brothers, the blues/R&B tribute band led by Saturday Night Live stars John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd, which released a chart-topping live album in 1978. Steve was featured in the hit 1980 comedy film focusing on the group as well.

Cropper was welcomed into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame as a member of Booker T. & the MG’s in 1992, and was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2005.

Steve’s most recent solo album, Fire It Up, was released in April of this year.

Last month, Cropper’s 80th birthday was celebrated with a special concert at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium that featured performances by ZZ Top‘s Billy Gibbons, James Burton, Jeff “Skunk” Baxter, Eddie Floyd, R.E.M.‘s Mike Mills and more.

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