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Steven Lee Cropper (born October 21, 1941 in Willow Springs, Missouri), also known as Steve "The Colonel" Cropper is an American guitarist, songwriter and producer. He is best known as the guitarist of the Stax Records house band Booker T. & The MG's and backed artists such as Otis Redding, Sam & Dave, Carla, Rufus Thomas and Johnnie Taylor, also acting as producer on many of these records. He later gained fame as a member of The Blues Brothers band. Cropper is generally regarded as the most well known and influential soul guitarist.
In 1950, his family moved to Memphis, Tennessee. At age ten he strummed his brother-in-law's Gibson guitar, for the first time. Cropper received his first guitar aged 14 and started playing with local musicians. His hero at the time was Lowman Pauling of the Winston-Salem, NC band The Five Royales.
and guitarist Charlie Freeman formed The Royal Spades, who eventually
became The Mar-Keys. The Mar-Keys was a play on the word "marquee",
referring to the marquee outside of Stax studios, known as Satellite
Records at that time. Eventually The Mar-Keys began playing on sessions
and had a hit single of their own with "Last Night" (1961).
At this time Cropper's fame was not limited to the United States. The Beatles favoured Cropper's playing and his production on Otis Redding records. In fact John Lennon and Paul McCartney made tentative plans to record in Memphis and to work with the guitarist. However Brian Epstein cancelled the sessions, citing security problems. During this period Rob Bowman, in his book Soulsville U.S.A.: The Story Of Stax Records, quotes Booker T. Jones as saying:
“ We were writing sounds too, especially Steve. He's very
sound-conscious, and he gets a lot of sounds out of a Telecaster without
changing any settings —just by using his fingers, his picks, and his
By 1975 Cropper had moved to Los Angeles and along with Al Jackson and Duck Dunn, he reformed Booker T. & the M.G's. Tragically Jackson, whom Cropper called "the greatest drummer to ever walk the earth," was murdered in his Memphis home before the group could make their comeback. In 1978 Cropper and Dunn became members of Levon Helm's RCO All-Stars and they went on to front The Blues Brothers Band with Al Jackson's protegé drummer Willie Hall. This led to two albums and two movie soundtracks. Cropper also re-recorded "(Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay" (1979) for Sammy Hagar. Cropper lived in L.A. for the next thirteen years before moving to Nashville and was reunited with The Blues Brothers Band in 1988.
In 1992 Booker T. & the M.G.'s were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Cropper appeared with a new line up of Booker T. & the M.G's, for the Bob Dylan 30th Anniversary concert, on October 1992 at Madison Square Gardens. At this concert they performed songs by Bob Dylan and backed Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, George Harrison, Tom Petty, Johnny Cash, Chrissie Hynde, Sinéad O'Connor, Stevie Wonder and Neil Young. The concert was recorded and later released as The 30th Anniversary Concert Celebration (1993). Neil Young later recruited this line up of Booker T. and the M.G's, to tour with him and record at his studio band.
In 1996, Cropper was named the greatest living guitar player by Britain's Mojo Magazine. When asked what he thought of Cropper, the guitarist Keith Richards said "Perfect, man". In February 1998 Cropper released Play It, Steve! which included some of Soul music's most enduring songs. The album title comes from the shout of the title phrase by Moore on Sam & Dave's "Soul Man" and later by John Belushi (with The Blues Brothers).
In June 2004 Cropper appeared with "Duck" Dunn and Booker T. Jones as the backing band for Eric Clapton's Crossroads Guitar Festival, held at the Cotton Bowl, Dallas. Others who appeared included Joe Walsh and David Hidalgo. On June 9, 2005 he was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame, in recognition of his contributions to music.
He married his second wife, Angel Cropper, in the late 1980's. They
have two children, Andrea Cropper (age: 16) and Cameron Cropper (age:
9). They currently live in Tennessee where both of his children attend
On November 12, 2009 EMP/SFM presented Cropper with their Founders Award.