Booker T. & The MGs (the Memphis Group), a biracial jazz ensemble, was formed in 1962 in Memphis, Tennessee. The group’s original members were Booker T. Jones (organ, piano), born December 11, 1944; Lewie Steinberg (bass), born September 13, 1933; Al Jackson, Jr. (percussions), born November 27, 1935; and bassist Donald Dunn, born November 24, 1941. All were born in Memphis. Guitarist Steve Cropper, who later joined the group, was born in Willow Springs, Missouri, on October 21, 1941.
In 1962 Booker T. & The MGs released the hit instrumental “Green Onions.” It peaked at no. 1 on the R&B charts and no. 3 on the pop charts and remained charted for 16 weeks on Billboard Hot 100. “Chinese Checkers” came out in 1963 and went up to no. 78, and for seven weeks, it stayed on the charts. The following year, in 1964, “Soul Dressing” reached no. 95 and was charted for two weeks, while “Mo-Onions” peaked at no. 97 and stayed there for three weeks.
In 1965, when Jones was a junior at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music in Bloomington, the group released “Boot-Leg,” which reached no. 58 and for 10 weeks, it stayed charted. In 1966, Jones received a bachelor of arts degree in music education, and “My Sweet Potato” was recorded peaking at no. 85 and stayed charted for five weeks.
In 1967 the group released their first single with Stax Records, “Hip Hug-Her.” Later that year they released “Groovin’,“ which reached no. 21 on the R&B charts, followed the next year by “Soul-Limbo” which peaked at no. 17 and remained there for 10 weeks.
Ending a decade of hits, in 1969 the group recorded “Time Is Tight,” which peaked at no. 6 and floated on charts for 13 weeks. They released three other singles that year: “Mrs. Robinson,“ which reached no. 37 and charted for eight weeks; “Slum Baby,” which peaked at no. 88 and charted for for weeks; and “Hang ‘Em High,” which reached no. 9 and stayed on the charts for 18 weeks.
In the 1970s, Booker T. & The MGs recorded “Something,” which peaked at no. 76 and stay charted for four weeks. Afterward, they toured the United Kingdom. Their last Stax album was Melting and their last Stax single was “Melting Pot,” in 1971. It peaked at no. 45 and remained charted for 16 weeks.
Booker T. & The MGs disbanded in 1972 when Jones relocated to Los Angeles, California, where he joined A&M Records as a staff producer. Al Jackson was shot and killed in his Memphis home by a burglar on October 1, 1975.
In 1988, Booker T. & The MGs reunited and four years later they were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. In 1994, they released their first album in 23 years, That’s The Way It Should Be. In 2004, Rolling Stone magazine ranked them no. 93 on its list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.
They continued to perform. In 2006, the group traveled to Burnaby, British Columbia, for The Burnaby Blues and Roots Festival. The following year they were at the Montreux Jazz Festival 2007 in Montreux, Switzerland. In 2007 they received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award and a year later they toured Australia, playing at both the Sydney Opera House and Hamer Hall in Melbourne. In 2014 they were featured at the North Sea Jazz Festival in Rotterdam, Netherlands, and three years later they were at the Monterey International Pop Festival in Monterey, California.
Booker T. Jones received an honorary doctorate from Indiana University in 2012. Donald Dunn died on May 13, 2012, in Tokyo, Japan.