Donald "Duck" Dunn, the bassist who helped create the gritty Memphis soul sound at Stax Records in the 1960s as part of the legendary group Booker T. and the MGs and contributed to such classics as "In the Midnight Hour," "Hold On, I'm Coming" and "Sitting on the Dock of the Bay," died yesterday at 70.
Dunn, whose legacy as one of the most respected session musicians in the business also included work with John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd's Blues Brothers as well as with Levon Helm, Eric Clapton, Neil Young and Bob Dylan, died while on tour in Tokyo.
Dunn was born in Memphis, Tenn., in 1941, and according to the biography on his official website was nicknamed for the cartoon character by his father. His father, a candy maker, did not want him to be a musician.
"He thought I would become a drug addict and die. Most parents in those days thought music was a pastime, something you did as a hobby, not a profession," Dunn said. But by the time he was in high school, he was in a band with Cropper.
Cropper left to become a session player at Stax, the record company that would become known for its soul recordings and artists such as Otis Redding, Sam and Dave, Isaac Hayes and the Staple Singers. Dunn soon followed Cropper and joined the Stax house band, also known as Booker T. and the MGs.
It was one of the first racially integrated soul groups, with white Dunn on bass and Cropper on guitar, and black Booker T. Jones on organ and Al Jackson on drums, and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
The group had its heyday in the 1960s as backup for various Stax artists. Dunn played on Redding's "Respect" and "Sitting on the Dock of the Bay," Sam and Dave's "Hold On, I'm Coming" and Wilson Pickett's "In the Midnight Hour." Booker T. and the MGs had its own hits as well, including "Hang 'Em High" and "Soul-Limbo."
In the 1970s, the group's members drifted apart. Jackson was killed in Memphis in 1975 by an intruder in his home.