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Booker T. Jones
(born November 12, 1944) is a multi-instrumentalist, songwriter, record producer and arranger, best known for fronting the band, Booker T. and the MGs.
Born in South Memphis, Tennessee, Jones was a child prodigy, playing the oboe, saxophone, trombone, and piano at school and serving as organist at his church. He attended Booker T. Washington High School, the alma mater of Rufus Thomas and shared the hallowed halls with future stars like Isaac Hayes's writing partner David Porter; saxophonist Andrew Love of The Memphis Horns; soul singer/songwriter William Bell and Earth, Wind, and Fire's Maurice White.
Jones's first entry into professional music came at age sixteen, when he played baritone saxophone on Satellite (soon to be Stax) 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 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 (Donald "Duck" Dunn eventually replacing Steinberg). While still in high school, Jones wrote the group's instrumental "Green Onions", which not only became a hit in 1962, but remains an enduring classic more than 40 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 still under contract to Stax, he appeared on Stephen Stills' eponymous album (1970). The 1971 album, Melting Pot would be the last Booker T. & the MGs album issued on Stax.
Jones produced three albums with his former wife, under the name Booker T. & Priscilla, as well as making the charts as a solo artist in 1981 with "I Want You". He produced Priscilla's sister 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 everyone from Ray Charles to Neil Young to Natalie Merchant. Jones currently still plays with Booker T. & the MGs and his own Booker T. Jones Band.
Jones was inducted into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1992, and was honored with a Grammy award for lifetime achievement on February 11, 2007.
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