My Oracle, Donald "Duck" Dunn

Discussion in 'Bassists [BG]' started by Polk Salad, May 15, 2018.

  1. Polk Salad

    Polk Salad Passenger, Ship of Fools

    Sep 18, 2007

    This past Sunday marked the 6 year anniversary of the passing of my favorite bassist, Donald "Duck" Dunn so while I was reminded of this date, I found myself wandering around in my mostly empty head thinking about Duck and his playing.

    I'm almost 50 so I missed the heyday of Stax in the 1960's so like many others, my introduction to Duck came via the Blues Brothers and even then, seeing the movie when I was 11 years old, I had no idea who these musicians were, I just grooved like a MOFO to this music and begged my parents for the Blues Brothers soundtrack for my upcoming 12th birthday (got it!).

    Since then, both my belly and my library of music has grown and I began to learn not long thereafter about the Booker T and the MG's, Otis, Sam and Dave, etc. That lasted a long time but it wasn't until later that I then learned just how deep Duck's catalog was and just how far his playing reached out across music. Much like another Stax alumni Wayne Jackson, I was really surprised to learn how many other artists Duck had played and recorded with (thanks to the new thing they called the world wide web).

    Fast forward again - music was my life. As a kid my grandparents played organ and accordion. Ironically, the Lowery organ they had was the same model Pete Townshend had and used on the opening to Baba O' Riley - they got tired of that - anyway, music has always been my thang and I eventually went to college to major in music.

    Where is this rant going? O.k., o.k., right here, here's my point:

    I found the "What Duck Done" book before it cost $10,000 on eBay and was amazed. I thought I knew music really well but whether the book was accurate or not, I was *hearing* things that I hadn't heard before. I was floored. I re-listened to the old Memphis tracks and suddenly it was like the music was brand new again.

    Now, here in 2018, I bought the new "Soul Fingers" book, which then changed the game completely for me - written by a member here on TB, this to me was the musical equivalent of dropping LSD and having your mind opened up (well, maybe, I've never taken LSD, just read books about it) - hearing these bass lines again with clarity and more detail than in WDD, blew me away.

    The man was an effing melody machine. Just like Brian Wilson gets credit for his "pocket symphonies" under the Beach Boys vocals, the MG's were crafting tracks that sometimes were better *without* the vocals on top. Amazing stuff.

    Going back through the Stax catalog I have realized there are so many other tracks that he has played on which I've heard but maybe didn't pay enough attention to yet because it wasn't Otis, the MG's, or the Mar-Keys (or Wilson Pickett, or Aretha, or Sam and Dave, etc).

    Here's one which has been talked about here on TB and the groove is stellar, especially if you remove Eddie's vocals:

    I COMPLETELY understand and respect why people worship Jaco, Jamerson, McCartney, Mingus, and insert your favorite here but as far as an influence in my sphere, the oracle, the zenith, the man, the myth, the legend will always be Donald "Duck" Dunn. I will forever be a student of the master. I swear I learn and hear more every time I go back and listen to those old tracks again.

    A simple P-Bass became my sound. A simple rig became my favorite. I chose flats and learned to use a tone knob because of him.

    Buy the book. Buy the tracks. Listen and learn. I owe so much to this guy!

    Miss you Duck!

  2. I grew up with the Blues Brothers movie and he's one of my all time favorite bass players, a master of playing for the song and playing relatively economical yet effective bass lines. For the moment I am learning Blues Brothers' versionen of Sweet Home Chicago, tone for tone how Duck played. I am releasing an EP this year and one song is a tribute to the Stax soul sound.