Booker T empties the "Potato Hole" in his head

Mon Apr 20, 2009 4:57pm EDT
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By Steve James

NEW YORK (Reuters) - He led one of the greatest record-label house bands of all time, wrote a rock classic, is enshrined in the Rock 'n Roll Hall of Fame and received a lifetime Grammy award.

Now Booker T. Jones has recorded his first solo album in 20 years -- not the funky soul that Stax Records fans would expect from the organist whose band backed Otis Redding, Sam & Dave and Carla Thomas, but funky rock with some help on guitars from Neil Young and the southern rock band Drive-By Truckers.

The disc, which will be released on Tuesday, April 21, is called "Potato Hole" after the hiding place under the floorboards of plantation shacks where slaves used to keep a little extra food.

"This potato hole is my potato hole, the place where I have deposited my ideas. All my stuff," Jones told Reuters.

That "stuff," is the music he has been storing up since leaving the legendary Stax studios in Memphis 40 years ago, where he headed up Booker T and the MG's. The group had a string of instrumental hits starting in 1962 with "Green Onions," a classic 12-bar blues tune that has become a staple for every aspiring rocker.

Booker T & The MG's (for "Memphis Group") played on just about every record Stax put out in the 60's when soul music was as big as rock 'n roll.

"(But) I always loved rock 'n roll," said Jones, 64. "Otis heard the (Rolling) Stones and I heard the Beatles in '65, so I was influenced by what was happening with the guitars.

"I played guitar, but it was a softer, R&B, soulful guitar. Except when I was on my own at home and we did a couple of songs with Eddie Floyd and Otis, when the things was turned up to 10 and I was strumming the thing," he recalled.   Continued...