Rawhide In A

In the great Venn diagram of American music Donald “Duck” Dunn is one of the overlaps. To me it seems he has always been. At some point in our distant past, someone hit a bone against a stretched animal skin and Dunn stepped forward and said “you know, I could put a mean low end to that and make it groove.”

There’s a few names that pop up in session groups so often that it’s sometimes more surprising when they’re not listed. Some, and not all, being Chet Atkins, James Burton, Buddy Harmon, Hal Blaine, Spooner Oldham, Billy Preston and Duck Dunn.

When I heard this morning that he had passed away in the night I thought immediately of the scene in The Blues Brothers where the boys are playing a C&W bar called Bob’s Country Bunker. They stand behind chicken wire and kick into Gimmie Some Lovin’ as the patrons start chucking bottles at them. It’s not until the bartender kills the power though that they realize something’s wrong. It wasn’t up to them to determine if the bottling throwing was out of anger or good cheer. Undeterred Elwood asks the band if they remembered the theme to television’s Rawhide – the first country song a south side Chicago bluesman could think of. It’s Dunn who tells them it’s in the key of A. Sure enough the bottles keep coming, but decidedly of good cheer this time around.

The moment is worth remembering as Dunn and the rest of that band could play Rawhide upon request. This was no movie trickery, these guys really could just do it, just like they could play Stand By Your Man, and Minnie the Moocher, and Think, and Quando, Quando, Quando.

There’s two reasons genre lines get blurred. One, because the offending musician has no since of self and nothing to say. This articulates my general disdain for pop country artists. This is the problem. It’s all love songs to Proctor & Gamble in G major. Blur the lines between rock, country and easy listening and grab the widest possible swath of digital consumers. This is not the same as Tom Petty’s famous quote about trying to write a hit. This is a cynical move illuminated by a PowerPoint presentation.

The alternative reason is a pure love of music. This is Ray Charles laying down country songs and Hank Williams dropping dimes into a jukebox to hear Tony Bennett sing. This is the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band asking Doc Watson to play with them. This is the Carolina Chocolate Drops covering You Be Illin’. This is a young Stax session musician, a founding member of the elite Booker T & the MGs, named Donald “Duck” Dunn, playing bass guitar behind Otis Redding on Sitting On the Dock of the Bay, behind Wilson Pickett on In the Midnight Hour, behind Bob Dylan on his Shot of Love album.

His sessions are legendary. Who plays behind Sam and Dave, John Prine, Mavis Staples, Roy Buchanan, Albert King, Levon Helm and Muddy Waters? How about Stevie Nicks and Tom Petty, Manhattan Transfer, Peter Frampton, Jerry Lee Lewis, Neil Young and Bill Withers? This list is much longer.

Suffice to say, wherever good music is heard.

Be My Lady, Booker T. and the MGs

Rawhide, The Blues Brothers


About Iaan Hughes

Iaan Hughes is a deejay on 91.3 KBCS in Seattle. He plays country & western music.
This entry was posted in Country, Film, Folk, Honky Tonk, Music, Pop, Radio, Rock, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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