At Stax Records Steve Cropper had many different roles as record producer, engineer, studio musician, songwriter and recording executive. He learned his engineering skills from Chip Moman, the main recording engineer at Stax during its early years of operation. Steve played on Stax’s first major hit, a duet with Rufus Thomas and his daughter Carla Thomas, entitled “’Cause I Love You”. Stax’s open-door policy and consensus working methods enabled Cropper to develop a deep passion for music that transcended racial lines. A deep creative bond developed between himself, Al Jackson Jr, Booker T
Jones and Donald “Duck” Dunn.
Jones and Jackson were black, born in the deep South, whilst Dunn, like Cropper, was white. Together they became the nucleus of Stax’s studio band and the touring support band for Otis Redding, Sam and Dave and other acts signed to Stax, complemented by the Memphis Horn section. They emerged of course as Booker T & the MG’s
The men and women who came together at Stax developed a raw and refined Southern Soul sound to rival other hit-making centres such as Chicago and Detroit, with its Motown Sound. Steve was one of the key people who helped the Stax organisation develop as a multi-racial company during a period in American history of deep racial discord. Cropper’s signature guitar sound is found on many of the major R&B and Soul hits to come out of Memphis during the 1960s and early 1970s.
The classic hit song “Soul Man” with the powerful guitar intro and the response from The Memphis Horn Section is one of the best of these. Steve’s approach to playing set him apart from many of his contemporaries and became a significant element in the development and delivery of Stax’s raw and refined sound. For his great impact on contemporary music, he was named the second greatest guitar player of all time, behind Jimi Hendrix, according to Britain’s Mojo magazine in 1996. Many educational institutions are actually conducting courses on Steve Cropper’s guitar techniques, with many publications available to the public. He was elected to The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1992 by his peers for his historical influence on the development of music through several decades.