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Booker T. Jones Biography

Home > Music > B > Booker T. Jones > Biography

Born: 1944/11/12
Birth Place: Memphis, Tennessee, US
Years Active: 1961 - present
Genres: R&B, Instrumental Rock, Soul, Electric Blues

Booker T. Jones (born November 12, 1944) is a multi-instrumentalist, songwriter, record producer and arranger, best known as the frontman of the band Booker T. and the MGs.

Jones was a child prodigy, playing the oboe, saxophone, trombone, and piano at school and serving as organist at his church. Jones's first entry into professional music came at age sixteen, when he played baritone saxophone on Satellite Records' first hit, “Cause I Love You,” by Rufus Thomas and Carla Thomas.

While hanging around the Satellite Record Shop run by Estelle Axton, co-owner of Satellite Records, which would later become Stax, with her brother Jim Stewart, Jones met record clerk Steve Cropper, who would become one of the MGs when the group formed in 1962. Besides Jones on organ and Cropper on guitar, Booker T. and the MGs featured Lewie Steinberg on bass guitar and Al Jackson, Jr. on drums, with Donald “Duck” Dunn eventually replacing Steinberg. While still in high school, Jones co-wrote the group's instrumental “Green Onions,” which not only became a hit in 1962, but remains an enduring classic over 50 years later.

Over the next few years, Jones would divide his time between studying classical music composition, composing and transposition at Indiana University, playing with the MGs on the weekends back in Memphis, serving as a session musician with other Stax acts and writing songs that would become classics. He wrote, with Eddie Floyd, “I've Never Found a Girl (To Love Me Like You Do),” Otis Redding's “I Love You More Than Words Can Say” and, with William Bell, Albert King's “Born Under a Bad Sign.” The latter would later be popularized in the cover version by power trio Cream.

In 1970, Jones moved to California and stopped playing sessions for Stax, after becoming frustrated with Stax's treatment of the MGs as employees rather than musicians. While Jones was still under contract to Stax he appeared on Stephen Stills' eponymous album in 1970. The 1971 album, “Melting Pot” would be the last Booker T. & the MGs album issued on Stax.

Making the charts as a solo artist in 1981 with “I Want You,” he produced Rita Coolidge, Bill Withers's debut album “Just As I Am,” on which he also played several instruments, and Willie Nelson's album “Stardust.” He has also lent his trademark keyboards to artists ranging in genre from Ray Charles to Neil Young.

Jones still plays with Booker T. & the MGs and his own Booker T. Jones Band. Ronnie James and guitarist Troy Gonyea from The Fabulous Thunderbirds and Marc Ford from The Black Crowes toured, to considerable acclaim, with him in England in 2009, with the addition of Darian Gray on drums, as part of the promotion of his 2009 album, “Potato Hole.” “Potato Hole,” was recorded with the Drive By Truckers, and featured Neil Young. 2010, “Potato Hole” won the Best Instrumental Album award at the 52nd Grammy Awards.

In 2011 he released the album, “The Road From Memphis” which features appearances by ?uestlove and Owen Biddle of The Roots, Yim Yames (Jim James) of My Morning Jacket, Matt Berninger of The National, Lou Reed, Sharon Jones, Dennis Coffey and Rob Schnapf.

Jones was inducted into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1992, and was honored with a Grammy Award for lifetime achievement in 2007.