The program included a number of guests who knew and played with Jackson, including: Gregg Allman Band saxophonist Art Edmaiston; Stax Records’ first pianist Marvell Thomas; Mar-Keys founding member Don Nix; author/documentarian Robert Gordon; former Stax singer and publicity head Deanie Parker; and Tim Sampson of The Stax Academy of American Soul Music.
Jackson, first worked with tenor saxophonist Andrew Love as part of The Mar-Keys, one of the early house bands at Memphis-based Stax Records. Love had been a go-to session player at Willie Mitchell’s Royal Studios before he ventured over to Stax at the suggestion of drummer Al Jackson, Jr. of Booker T. & the MGs.
The Mar-Keys formed in 1958 and would include Steve Cropper, Booker T. Jones, Marvell Thomas, Floyd Newman, Donald “Duck” Dunn, Don Nix and Charlie Freeman as some of its members over time.
While Cropper, Jones, Dunn and Jackson would form Booker T. & the MGs, Jackson’s partnership with Love continued for decades, first as part of The Mar-Keys and, most famously, when they formed The Memphis Horns in 1969.
The duo are recognized as the world’s greatest horn section having played on 52 No. 1 records, 116 Top 10 albums, 15 Grammy-winning releases while garnering 83 gold or platinum records. Jackson and Love were honored with a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2012, just months before Love died at the age of 70.
The trademark sound of Jackson and Love became one of the chief characteristics of what would become known as the “Memphis Sound,” tracing its roots to The Mar-Keys before evolving and being honed in grueling sessions with Otis Redding where it really became recognizable around the world.
The Memphis Horns were initially a sextet, but the line-up would change from time to time in number and personnel, but two constants remained: Jackson and Love.
Although they still did sessions at Stax, they were in such high demand that cutting tracks at such renowned Memphis locations as American Sound Studios and Royal Studios was normal as was doing studio work across the United States and later, in Europe.
The Memphis Horns, like The Mar-Keys, released a handful of albums, none really faring well on the charts, but there was no shortage of work for the section, be it in the studio or on stage.
In January 1969, The Memphis Horns were part of the session that led to one of Elvis Presley’s biggest singles, “Suspicious Minds” which turned out to be his 18th and final No. 1 single, while “In The Ghetto” went to No. 3. It was a heady year for them as they played on number of chart-friendly tracks, including Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline;” Dusty Springfield’s “Son of a Preacher Man” and Aretha Franklin’s “Share Your Love With Me.”
In 1971, the legendary horn player and band leader King Curtis incorporated The Memphis Horns into his backing band, The Kingpins — which included Bernard Purdie, Cornell Dupree, Billy Preston and Jerry Jemmott – to back Franklin for a handful of dates in Los Angeles and San Francisco. During a previous appearance on Greasy Tracks, Jackson fondly remembered the concerts and remarked that it was the greatest group of musicians he had ever played with.
Sessions or live appearances with a veritable who’s who of the music world would follow: Joe Cocker, Rufus Thomas, Albert King, Stephen Stills, Rod Stewart, Robert Cray, The Doobie Brothers, James Taylor, Al Green, Buddy Guy, Billy Joel, Bonnie Raitt, Joe Tex, Dobie Gray, Ann Peebles, Willie Nelson, Mark Knopfler, Steve Winwood, Peter Gabriel, U2 and Sting to name but a few.
Now in its 22nd year, Greasy Tracks is the longest-running soul and blues radio program in Connecticut. It usually airs Saturday’s 3:30-5:30 p.m.