Steve Cropper was responsible for Wilson Pickett’s early successes on Atlantic Records. Wilson came to Stax in 1965 looking to get his career kick-started after several failures trying to get a hit while recording in New York under Jerry Wexler (a legendary recording executive for Atlantic Records and the man responsible for Aretha Franklin’s first million-selling record). Steve had performed on two singles that achieved gold record sales of a million-plus copies sold in the USA for Stax. These were The Mar-Keys “Last Night”, Pop number 3, August 7th 1961, Satellite 107 and Booker T & the MGs’ “Green Onions”, Billboard Hot 100 Singles Chart at number 3, and Billboard R&B and Soul Singles Chart at number 1, 15th September 1962, (4 weeks), UK Pop number 7, 1979, Stax 127 . Wilson’s first collaboration with Steve was “In The Midnight Hour” which they co-wrote at the same hotel in which Martin Luther King was killed several years later. The song took the number one position on the Billboard R&B chart listing from The Four Tops who spent nine weeks at number one with “I Can’t Help Myself”. Wilson’s single reached the summit on 7th August 1965 (1 week).
One of Steve Cropper’s first major successes as a songwriter and as a producer was Eddie Floyd’s “Knock On Wood” gold single which he co-wrote with Floyd. Eddie was the first solo artist at Stax to achieve a gold record and he was also a key songwriter in the Stax organisation. Featured on the recording session were fellow Stax musicians Booker T. Jones (keyboard), Donald “Duck” Dunn (bass) and Al Jackson Jnr. (drums), with Isaac Hayes on piano and the Mar-keys on horns. Cropper’s next landmark recording was Otis Redding’s “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of The Bay”, which reached the Billboard R&B and Pop number 1 for several weeks on the Billboard Singles Chart listings , after Otis Redding’s premature death in a plane accident with some members of The Bar-kays.
The song received two Grammy Awards for “Best R&B Male Vocal Performance” and “Best R&B Song” in 1969. Steve Cropper co-wrote the song with Otis Redding, played acoustic and electric guitar and also produced the track. The song has been played over six million times, making it the sixth most played song of all time and is also listed on The Grammy Hall of Fame site as of lasting and historical significance, inducted in 1998. The album entitled “(Sittin On) The Dock of The Bay” achieved UK Pop number one position in 1968 and USA Pop number 4 in 1968. In addition Cropper has co- written “The Happy Song”; “Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa (Sad Song)” and”Mr Pitiful”, all recorded by Otis Redding.
Several other Stax classics have been inducted into The Grammy Hall of Fame: ”Soul Man”, inducted in 1999, “Green Onions” inducted in 1999, “I’ll Take You There”, inducted in 1999 and “In The Midnight Hour”, inducted in 1999. Many of Steve’s songs have been covered by artists such as George Benson (“Soul Limbo”), Paul Young (“Iron Out The Rough Spots”) and Rita Coolidge (“The Happy Song”). This illustrates clearly his impact as a songwriter across a variety of musical styles. Steve’s greatest achievement was to be inducted in the Songwriters’ Hall of Fame on 9th June 2005, alongside fellow former Stax colleagues David Porter and Isaac Hayes.
Steve Cropper has also demonstrated his musical talents in the world of film, credited as producer, songwriter, performer or actor.