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STEVE CROPPER (BOOKER T. & THE MGs)

Intro

Jimi described a visit to the Stax studios in Memphis in a 1968 Rolling Stone 1 interview:

Jimi Hendrix:
"Steve Cropper turned me on millions of years ago and I turned him on millions of years ago too, but because of different songs. Like we went into the studio and we started teaching each other. I found him at the soul restaurant eating all this stuff right across from the studio in Memphis. I was playing on this Top 40 R&B Soul Hit Parade package with the patent leather shoes and hairdo combined. So anyway I got into the studio and said, 'Hey man, dig, I heard you're all right; that anyone can come down here if they've got a song' so we went into the studio and did a song and after that it was just with guitar and he was messing around with the enginering and it's just a demo acetate. I don't know where it's at now. After we did that we messed around the studio for 4 or 5 hours doing different little things, it was very strange. He turned me on to a lot of things. He showed me how he played certain songs and I showed him how I played 'Mercy, Mercy' or something like that, then I showed him. It was about 3 or 4 years ago."

Cropper has talked about the meeting on several occasions but contradicts Jimi`s claim that an acetate recording was made. Here`s an excerpt from the book "Electric Ladyland" by John Perry 2, by kind permission of the author. Perry interviewed Cropper himself and asked about the meeting:

Steve Cropper:
Jimi came into Stax one day - and somebody said, "there`s this guy out the front wants to see you". Well that used to happen once or twice a day on a regular basis, and they`d be told "well look, Steve`s real busy but if he has time he`ll try and see you". I don`t think I was cutting anything that day but I was out the back doing tape editing, a bunch of stuff and I completely forgot about it. Forgot anyone was waiting. In a situation like that, without being rude, I`d always assume when it reached a certain point that a secretary would go out and say "Sorry, but Mr. Cropper`s not going to have time to see you today" and boom - there you are.

So I finally came out about 5 o`clock...one of the girls was still there and she said "did you see that guy wanted to talk to you today?" And I said "no - why, is he still hanging around?" and she said "Yeah, he just walked across the street to get something to eat - hopin` that he`d get a chance to still see you." She said "I think he`s came in from outta town - he`s not a local guy", and I felt real bad, y`know, that somebody had sat there all day long. Well I was hungry anyway, so I went over and introduced myself, and he said "yeah I play a little guitar, up in New York, a few places", and I said "uhhh great, what have you played on?" and he named a few things, then come up with a Don Covay record, "Mercy Mercy". I said "You played on that!?" - `cos that was one of my favourite records - that lick that`s in there, that funky little intro lick. So we ate and I said "why don`t you come over to the studio?"

He didn`t have a guitar, and of course he was left-handed, but he took one of mine and turned it upside down, and tried to show me this lick - upside down! - which I never did quite get...but anyway. We hung out for a bit, though we never did make any recordings or anything, like it says in those books. And then later we ran into each other a few times on the road. Next time I saw him, I was playing Monterey with Otis, and he was JIMI HENDRIX!

Side A


As Jimi`s memories of the event were only a few years old at the time of the 1968 interview and the meeting probably made a more lasting impression on him than on Steve Cropper I`m inclined to believe that something WAS recorded. Of course no tapes or acetates have ever surfaced.


DATE OF SESSION
So far I have been unable to pin a 100% confirmed exact date on the session. If Jimi would have said which Top 40 show he was touring with at the time it might be relatively easy to find a date for the meeting but unfortunately he didn`t. There are a couple of pointers available though:

- Don Covay`s original "Mercy, Mercy" single was released in August 1964.
- from circa December 1964 until around July 1965 Jimi was playing with Little Richard.
- Booker T. & the MGs released a version of "Mercy, Mercy" on the lp "Soul Dressing" (Stax 705) in March 1965 3.
- Jimi played on the same show with Booker T. & the MGs as a member of the Isley Brothers on 9 October 1965.4

Steve Cropper says that the Stax studios session was the first time that he met Jimi. So it seems unlikely the meeting would have occurred after the October 1965 Isley Brothers gig when Jimi & Cropper were on the same bill. Cropper says that "later we ran into each other a few times on the road", the Isleys gig would have been one of those occasions. Also, though I can`t be certain of this, the impression that I get is that Cropper had yet to record "Mercy, Mercy" himself at the time of the meeting.

What further narrows the date down is Jimi`s comment that he was playing with a "Top 40 R&B Soul Hit Parade". From circa December 1964 until around July 1965 Jimi played with Little Richard so it seems highly unlikely he would have managed to play with a package show during this time, at least there is no evidence of him doing so.

All of the above would make the likely time frame for Jimi`s visit to Stax be around August-December 1964.

So, it seems likely based on current evidence, though this includes a lot of speculation, that Jimi was touring with the Sam Cooke / Jackie Wilson package tour when he visited Stax. The tour stopped in Memphis and this fits right inside the time frame as argued above:

Tuesday 3 November 1964 Sam Cooke / Jackie Wilson -Tour
Ellis Auditorium, Memphis, Tennesee

Sam Cooke & Jackie Wilson made a WHBQ-TV appearance on this date and played a concert at the Ellis Auditorium so Jimi would probably have been in town early because of the tv show and had some time off as only Cooke & Wilson took part in the filming. The performance is available on YouTube:



There isn`t any direct evidence, like a photo or an interview, that Jimi still was playing with the Sam Cooke tour at this point. So the 3 November 1964 date is not 100% certain, but based on current evidence it`s the most likely date for the Stax meeting.


SOURCES
1 Rolling Stone Vol.1, No. 7, March 9, 1968 https://www.rollingstone.com/music/news/its-jimi-hendrix-from-1968-on-early-influences-axis-and-more-19680309
2 quote from the book "Electric Ladyland" by John Perry, Continuum 2004. According to John Perry the interview was done around June 1992 (Facebook conversation with Perry 13 September 2018)
3 the Booker T. & the MGs lp "Soul Dressing" (mono Stax 705, stereo Stax SD 705) was listed under "New Album Releases" in Billboard issue 13 March 1965
4 Saturday 9 October 1965 with the Isley Brothers, Bowman Gymnasium, DePauw University, Greencastle, Indiana with Booker T and the MGs, see Univibes #43 for photo and article, also online on the Univibes website: http://www.univibes.com/JimiPlaysIndiana1965.html