It was sad this Mother’s Day morning to learn that Duck Dunn died yesterday at the comparatively young age of 70 while touring Japan with Neil Young.
Duck was one of the seminal R&B bass players in the 60s, playing on many of the hits out of Memphis’ Stax records behind Otis Redding, Sam and Dave, Albert King, Carla Thomas, Eddie Floyd, and many others, as well as being one of the members of Booker T and the MGs.
Duck’s style was all about finding and anchoring the groove. He was the epitome of that magic bassist who could make a song really happen by laying down the simplest of lines with impeccable timing. Duck was a huge influence on me and most all the bass players of my generation.
Back in ’79 when I was working for Dire Straits I heard Jimmy Iovine and Shelly Yakus talk about how they just couldn’t pull the groove together while mixing the song You Tell Me for Tom Petty’s Damn The Torpedoes album. Duck wandered into the studio, took a listen, and asked if he could take a crack at laying down a bass track. The resulting first take track pulled the whole tune together into a sort of Born Under A Bad Sign kind of groove.
Here’s a great video with Duck and MGs backing up Sam and Dave in Europe – these classic songs have almost become cliches from having been played so much, but was there ever a badder soul groove than this?
And here, from the same 1967 tour, is the same band backing Otis Redding on the great Try A Little Tenderness.
Duck, you will be missed!