Steve Cropper Stays 'Dedicated' to His Early Heroes
Steve Cropper was amazed to learn recently that he has played on more than 3,000 records. Many of those have been stone classics, such as Otis Redding's '(Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay,' Wilson Pickett's 'In the Midnight Hour' and Sam and Dave's 'Soul Man,' on which Sam Moore famously hollered "Play it, Steve!"
Those sessions Cropper remembers well. His recollections of other, less illustrious recordings: not so much.
"I'm a Top 40 record guy," says the guitarist, 69. "I remember the hits and don't remember the flops. Something in my brain blocks them out. Now and then, someone will play an album cut, and I'll go, 'Dang, that's me!'"
That's Cropper all over the new album 'Dedicated,' an all-star tribute to the "5" Royales, an underappreciated R&B group from the 1950s whose late guitarist, Lowman Pauling, has been a lifelong inspiration to Cropper. Pauling died in 1973 at age 47; reportedly, he was working as a custodian in a Brooklyn synagogue when he collapsed of an epileptic seizure.
"I'm deeply saddened I didn't get the chance to meet him," says Cropper. "I've talked about him my whole life."
He did see his hero perform, however. As a teenager growing up in Memphis, Tenn. Cropper played in a band with bassist Donald "Duck" Dunn called the Royal Spades. The name, Cropper says, was inspired by the "5" Royales and the fact that a royal spade flush is the highest possible poker hand. (Today, they don't bring up the original band name much, given the negative connotation of the slang term "spade." "It's