Donald ‘Duck’ Dunn: 1941-2012

Perhaps the greatest rock and soul bass player of them all passed away in his sleep today, aged 70.

Duck Dunn is rightly regarded as one a handful of truly great bass guitar originals for his work as a Stax house musician playing for the likes of Otis Redding, Sam and Dave, and Albert King … and as a member of Booker T’s ‘Memphis Group’.  He later played with Eric Clapton, Bob Dylan and Neil Young … and appeared as himself in the Blues Brothers movie.

You don’t have to ask what Duck Dunn’s playing meant to me, or what kind of an influence he was.  Just listen to ‘Five Gears in Reverse’ on the Get Happy album.  That was one of my many ‘tributes’ to him while he was still alive … and I hope it’s still a fitting one today.



































Transcription and tablature courtesy of John Anderson

Posted in Music | Tagged , , , , , , | 18 Comments

18 Responses to Donald ‘Duck’ Dunn: 1941-2012

  1. Mike Miller says:

    I imagine EC and Billy are in mourning today as I hear of the death of George Jones.

  2. Nick S. says:

    Bruce, I’m not really hip to Donald “Duck” Dunne. Is there a particular recording(s) you’d point to for an introduction to Duck? (I’m was/am a big CCR fan, and apparently they were big fans of Booker T & The MGs. Got a bootleg video of full early ’70s concert with both bands. BT&MGs open. Fine performances. In video, John Fogerty is effusive in his praise of them.)

    • Bruce says:

      Just check out anything that came out of Stax Records — Otis Redding, Sam and Dave etc. I saw CCR myself and they had a very similar no-nonsense stripped-down approach.

      • Nick S. says:

        Thank you, sir! I’ll look into those records.

        How cool that you saw CCR! I have a guitarist friend who downplayed their rhythm section. I disagreed with him. While to my ears, they weren’t always necessarily “stellar,” they were always, at the very least, rock solid . . . and there were always tasteful touches thrown in. “No-nonsense and stripped-down,” as you put it.

        By the album “Pendulum,” that rhythm section, IMHO, had realized their potential in that outfit. Excellent recording quality. Excellent playing. (At times on that record, they ALMOST sounded like a metal band!)

      • Bruce says:

        John Fogerty has one of the best voices in rock of all time, doesn’t he?

      • Nick S. says:

        Right on, Bruce!

        Heard great “Born On The Bayou” on the car radio, while driving, just yesterday. As song played, I thought to myself he was one hell of a singer! He could really belt out a song. (I wouldn’t dare ATTEMPT to sing along!)

        JC Fogerty was something of a musical GENIUS to me: superb singer/songwriter/craftsman; great lead guitarist; produced own records. Also, in interviews, he appeared thoughtful and humble. That was equally impressive to me.

        I was a bit too young to catch CCR live . . . but have seen JF live a number of times and was never disappointed. (One summer, outdoor double bill with Willie Nelson. Magical night.)

      • Bruce says:

        Aha — I knew being old would pay off for me one day!

      • Nick S. says:


        You ain’t old . . . I am.

        Ever notice all the “kids” who post comments at great ’60s and ’70s (and some beyond) music videos? They all wish they were around back then . . . “when music was good.”

  3. Mike Miller says:

    Did you have the opportunity to meet Duck?

  4. Chris Fox says:

    Greatest show I *ever* saw was Booker T and the MG’s on the mainstage at Memphis in May, back in 1999 or so. The sun was going down, Shelby County mayor Jim Rout was seated in the wings on stage right, and I was planted down front about 15′ from Duck’s SVT 810. He left not a note to spare, and always was right in the pocket with Steve Potts. When they got to “Time is Tight,” I was, frankly, weeping. RIP, Duck.

    • Bruce says:

      I’ve seen one or two unforgettable shows like that from the front row. I think top of the list must be Muddy Waters at the Speakeasy, while he was still on crutches from an accident, and the Stones on the next table sending him up a glass of champagne, carried by a beautiful waitress, in between each number. It put a smile on my face.

  5. David Palmer says:

    For years I assume Donald must have been Afro-Caribbean because of the swing he put into his playing. A wonderfully gifted and unique bassist – much like you, Bruce !

  6. Dave Dawson says:

    The man was a legend. In a world where playing past the 12th fret is considered avant-garde, here was a master

  7. chris y says:

    The yang to Jamerson’s yin. RIP, Duck.

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