Talking Soul Limbo and cricket with Steve Cropper


Talking Soul Limbo and cricket with Steve Cropper

By Howard Campbell
Observer senior writer

Friday, February 28, 2020

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With legions of well-heeled admirers, including Jimi Hendrix, Keith Richards, and The Beatles, Steve Cropper has earned his stripes as a guitar legend. His rhythmic riffs helped make songs like These Arms of Mine and (Sittin' On) The Dock of The Bay by Otis Redding, pop music standards.

Cropper was a member of Booker T and The MGs, house band at Stax Records in Memphis, Tennessee, where those songs were recorded. In 1968, he played on Soul Limbo, an instrumental rocker that became synonymous with the powerful West Indies cricket teams of the 1970s and 1980s.

Cropper, 78, spoke to the Jamaica Observer recently. He was unaware of Soul Limbo's legendary status in the Caribbean; the song is from Booker T and The MGs album of the same name.

“I didn't know that, I know it was definitely Jamaican. I learned about ska and blue beat in the early '60s from (audio engineer) Tom Dowd. So that was still fresh in my mind when we began recording Soul Limbo,” he said.

Booker T Jones' funky Hammond Organ riffs are one of Soul Limbo's highlights. Another is the frenetic marimba solo by Terry Manning, who was an audio engineer based in Memphis.

According to Cropper, Manning's memorable jam was recorded one day after the actual session.

“I said, 'It needs something. It's reggae-sounding but it needs something”. We had a jingle session the night before with a big orchestra in the studio and the vibes were still there. Terry Manning came in and nailed it,” he said. “Lots of people have played that solo and think it was Booker, but it's Terry Manning.”

Soul Limbo was a massive hit for the MGs whose previous hits included Green Onions and Chinese Checkers. The quartet also included drummer Al Jackson Jr and bassist Donald “Duck” Dunn.

The Missouri-born Cropper played on many songs that were hits in Jamaica. In addition to Redding's classics, he can be heard on Eddie Floyd's Knock on Wood, Carla Thomas's Gee Whiz, Hold on I'm Coming and Soul Man by Sam and Dave, The Emotions' So I Can Love You and the William Bell ballad, I Forgot to be Your Lover.

After leaving Stax, Cropper worked extensively as a session musician. He played on a reggae album by famed American saxophonist Bobby Keys, but it was never released.

As for Terry Manning, he moved to The Bahamas where he was part of Chris Blackwell's Compass Point team. He worked as an engineer with rock's elite, from Led Zeppelin to Iron Maiden and Lenny Kravitz.

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