5 Things You May Not Have Known About Booker T. Jones

Thursday, November 12, 2015
5 Things You May Not Have Known About Booker T. Jones

Turning 71 years old today is Booker T. Jones, a man whose first name and middle initial have been seen so often in front of the words “and the M.G.'s" that it hardly seems right when they aren't together. With that said, however, Mr. Jones has done plenty of work on his own over the years, and when he and the M.G.'s weren't recording their own material, they did quite a bit of recording as the backing band for other notable names. As such, here are five facts about Booker T. that may well be news to you.

1. He was part of the 36-hour recording session that produced Otis Redding's classic Otis Blue album. In an interview with The Guardian, Jones acknowledged Redding's intensity. “He seemed to be possessed at that time," said Jones. “Nobody was quite sure what was going on with him. He just seemed to be in a hurry. Not a hurry - obsessed. And we didn't understand why. We just went along with it. If he wanted to go for 24 hours we just did it." 2. Jones, Stills, and Withers may sound vaguely like a law firm, but it's actually a fascinating musical trifecta that took place in the early '70s: in the summer of 1970, Jones contributed a bit of organ and some backing vocals to Stephen Stills' self-titled debut album, and just under a year later, when Jones produced Bill Withers' debut album, Just As I Am, he brought Stills in to play guitar. (Yes, he is on “Ain't No Sunshine.") 3. Bob Dylan used to be his neighbor, which is how he came to contribute to “Knockin' on Heaven's Door." “He lived over in Paradise Cove and I lived on Winding Way in Malibu," Jones told the Asbury Park Press. “I bought Lana Turner's old house and I'm not sure where he lived, but he had a house just across the road there and he would come over and pick up my guitar and work on songs and stuff. They were working on the movie with Jason Robards (Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid) late one night, and for some reason (Dylan) just called me up and asked me to come over to the studio and to play on the song, and I played bass on it." 4. Dylan wasn't the only neighbor who found a spot for Jones on one of his classic efforts: that's also how Jones ended up producing Willie Nelson's Stardust. Nelson asked Jones to do the arrangement for his cover of “Moonlight in Vermont," and his efforts on the track so impressed Nelson that he asked him to produce the entire album. The whole affair only took 10 days to record, but it continues to be cited as one of the greatest albums in Nelson's back catalog. 5. Jones also made his mark on the grunge movement: he contributed organ to several tracks on Soul Asylum's 1992 album, Grave Dancers Union. According to SongFacts.com, “producer Michael Beinhorn flew to Los Angeles to record Jones but gave him very little direction, as the organist had been around the block a few times and knew just what to play for the seven songs he contributed to on the album."