Al Jackson Jr. of Booker T. & the M.G's
Al Jackson Jr laid down Many of the tracks we all play today. He was the heart of Booker T and the M.G's and responsible for the grooves behind most of the Stax recording artists.
The Soul Man drum chart is from the original recording but there are several different hip ways to play the groove. Check out the recordings and videos and use the drum chart as a guide.
Soul Man is a huge hit and lots of fun to play. The first drum video is from the original recording. The second is a cool up-tempo live version.
Mr. Jackson used Rogers drums with a 20" bass drum, 12" tom, 16" floor tom, and occasionally a 13" tom. He used a 14"x5" Ludwig aluminum shell snare drum with 8 lugs.
Zildjian 16" Crash, 18" Ride, and 14" Hi-Hats.
Al Jackson Jr(b. November 27, 1935 Memphis, Tennessee October 1, 1975 Memphis TN) was a drummer, producer, and songwriter. He is perhaps best known as a founding member of Booker T. & the M.G.s.Al Jackson Jr was called "The Human Timekeeper" for his prodigious drumming ability.
Al Jackson Jr is the son of Al Jackson, Sr. who led a huge jazz/swing dance band in Memphis, Tennessee. Born on November 27, 1935, Al Jackson Jr began playing on stage with his father's band in 1940 (aged 5!) When he recorded "Green Onions" as a member of Booker T. & the MGs with Steve Cropper, Lewie Steinberg, and Booker T. Jones, he already, at twenty-seven years old, had almost twenty-two years of experience. At the time, Cropper was only twenty-one and Jones, seventeen. The young Al Jackson Jr began playing in famed producer/trumpeter Willie Mitchell's band and at the same time was holding down the chair with the popular Ben Branch Band. Future MGs Steve Cropper and Donald "Duck" Dunn would watch Jackson, with Mitchell's band, play at the all white Manhattan Club and dream of getting a chance to play with him. Jackson Jr was so good that he almost cost Dunn a divorce from his wife June. Dunn said, "When I was working with The Mar-Keys, Al was playing with Willie Mitchell in a club. And I was playing in a hillbilly/Rockabilly club. I'd start at nine, get through at one, and, on my way home, I would pass where Al was playing at the Manhattan Club and I'd stop in. I'd never say too much; I'd just sit in the back and dream that one day I was gonna play with him. I'd get home around four or five in the morning. I was distributing King Records in those days, married and had two kids and getting about three hours of sleep at night. But I just had to hear him. He was just impeccable, man. There was nothing like it."
Booker T. Jones was hired by Willie Mitchell to play sax in Mitchell's band. He later switched to bass and had to play in front of Al on stage. Jones found Jackson to be more than a little intimidating. "He yelled at me a lot as a teenager", said Booker. "He'd be right behind me on stage and he could yell. 'You little ****, can't you get on the beat!' I mean he was really adamant about that stuff. He'd fuss at me after." Steve Cropper, who like Dunn would stop by and become "mesmerized" by Jackson's playing, said, "I had suggested, along with several other people, that Al would probably be the drummer for Stax because Willie Mitchell played a lot of dance music." Also high on Jackson were Mitchell's bass player and early Stax session man Lewie Steinberg as well as Jones. Jones recalls, "I said, 'You guys need to know about Al Jackson jr.' He was the best drummer in town. I had been trying to steal him for a good while. So we got him to come over for a session."
That session featured Jones, Steinberg, and Cropper, all there to back up Rockabilly singer Billy Lee Riley. It was the beginning of Booker T. & the MGs, as they recorded their now famous "Green Onions" during downtime. Cropper says, "It didn't take long for everybody to realize the potential of Al Jackson and how good he was, and when I say everybody, I mean the people who called the shots around there, mainly Jim Stewart, who controlled the company with Estelle Axton. Jim said, 'This is the drummer we need.' One session with Al and we all knew that we had to have that drummer. Booker was the one who begged him and offered him everything to come over." Al Jackson Jr became the first person at Stax to be put on a weekly salary. Besides Cropper's checks from Axton for working in her Satellite Record shop that was located in the front foyer of the movie theatre that housed Stax, he, Jones, Steinberg, and Duck Dunn were only paid per session. Jackson knew that he could make more money playing live than in the studio, so Jim Stewart, convinced Jackson was the one, put him on salary.
For a while, Al Jackson Jr tried to play all day at Stax and then with Willie Mitchell at night. Stax was just a fledgling label, with "Green Onions" being just one of only a handful of national hits scored by the company. Steve Cropper remembers, "It was a big deal for him [Jackson] to say, 'Okay, I'm gonna quit Willie's band, I'm not gonna play at night anymore, and I'm just gonna come over there and pick up a check and play sessions every day.' . . . Once we got Booker T. & the MGs going, with royalties coming in and all that, he started devoting full time to producing, writing, and playing drums for Stax." If a song came on the radio, you knew it was Stax because of Jackson's very slightly delayed backbeat. There was a natural delay time in the room, but it became intentional as Cropper points out, "It became our way of life."
Al Jackson Jr's pistol shot snare sound has never quite been duplicated. Just by plopping his big, fat billfold on the drum and striking down with the butt of the stick, Jackson produced the cleanest and most solid sound in music. He was flawless (Stax publisher Tim Whitsett tells of Malaco Records engineers and musicians phoning to settle a bet that Stax had used a metronome on Otis Redding's "Try a Little Tenderness". Jackson happened to be in Whitsett's office at the time and didn't know whether to be amused, insulted or proud) and unbelievably creative, able to get all kinds of sounds out of his drums. Yet, with all these potential fireworks, he never strayed from his motto: "Less is more."
Booker T. & the MGs came to be regarded as the tightest ensemble and best backing band in the world (Rolling Stone magazine hailed them the "Greatest and tightest" of all time), and Jackson was the anchor. Booker T. Jones, now playing keyboards exclusively, guitarist Steve Cropper, and Duck Dunn, who had replaced Lewie Steinberg on bass, all looked up to Jackson, trusting his ear and judgment. Cropper has been quoted as saying, "Everyone sort of pinned on Al. As writers and producers, we all had our ideas, and we all woke up in the morning knowing what we wanted to hear that day. We had a few arguments about it sometimes, but when it all came down, we usually keyed on what Al thought. . . . A lot of writers had great songs and great melodies, but they didn't know what pocket to put them in to make really good dance records. It usually took Al to do that." (He and Cropper would often go off in a corner and develop the rhythmic dynamic that became Stax's signature.) "But he wasn't that stubborn. He would let guys try whatever the hell they wanted to try and then, when they wore out, he'd say, 'Hey, wait a minute, you're not gonna keep me here all day doing this. Let's do it this way.' And usually, that's what would turn out to be the hit." Jackson would say, "Let's put a pocket on it."
That "in the pocket" philosophy was taken one step further when Al Jackson Jr began producing Albert King. (For one reason, because as Cropper remembers, probably only half-jokingly, "Albert didn't like anybody, really.") Jackson had a pretty good rapport with the 6'7" giant. The Blues guitarist came to Stax and, matched with the Soul of the MGs plus The Memphis Horns, went on to cut dozens of superb records. They became enormously influential in the world of Rock with Jackson's machine gun like drum rolls, endlessly deep, tight pockets, and snare blasts. And although musician credits of course weren’t on the 45s issued during the 60s when singles ruled the market, his playing left big impressions on other musicians like Rolling Stones timekeeper Charlie Watts who said he didn’t know who Al Jackson was but knew that he loved that drummer on all the Otis Redding and Sam & Dave records from Stax/Volt. But it was his work on the instrumental records by the MGs that was the most exciting and impressive, where he was really able to branch out.
Throughout these successes, Al Jackson Jr still remained loyal to Willie Mitchell, now ensconced as an artist and producer across town at Hi Records. He often moonlighted and played on hits for Hi at night. Cropper explains, "Howard Grimes played on most of those records, but on the singles like "Let's Stay Together", it was usually Al. Willie knew the difference between a song that would be a filler for an album and one that was a really hot song. When they knew that, they'd call Al Jackson to come play on it. Al was the guy who played that tom tom on the backbeat that everybody used to copy." Jackson, as did Mitchell and guitarist Mabon "Teenie" Hodges, also co-wrote with Al Green many of the hits that helped make Green a star and become known as "The last great Soul singer". Jackson would go with Green to Green's Arkansas cabin and they'd start laying down unusual chord changes. Then the Mitchell produced rhythm section of The Hodges Brothers (Teenie, brothers Charles on organ and Leroy Hodges on bass) and the now "for hire" Memphis Horns of Stax would create the unique sound that latter-day Hi became famous for, a sound that R&B producers have unsuccessfully tried to match ever since. Jackson also co-wrote “Breaking Up Somebody’s Home” and played on hits like “I Can’t Stand the Rain” for Ann Peebles during this period.
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