Booker T & the MGs

... was the house band of Stax Records. Booker T. Jones was the keyboards player; the rest of the band was Steve Cropper (guitar), Lewie Steinberg (bass), and Al Jackson, Jr. (drums). They played on hundreds of recordings by artists such as Wilson Pickett, Otis Redding, Bill Withers, Sam & Dave, Carla Thomas, Rufus Thomas, and Albert King. They also released instrumental records under their own name, the best known being the 1962 hit Green Onions.

Green Onions wasn't actually a hit in the UK, until re–released in 1979 – although an album on which it was the title track did reach No. 11 in 1964. The MGs' first hit single in the UK was Soul Limbo (1968), which became the theme tune for the BBC's television coverage of cricket (in the good old days, when there was cricket coverage on poor man's TV).

For many years, Stax publicity releases stated that the initials in the band's name stood for Memphis Group. (Stax was based in Memphis, Tennessee, and was the pioneer of Southern Soul – also known as Memphis Soul.) This, however, turns out to be untrue. Musician and record producer Chips Moman, who worked at Stax when the band was formed, claimed that the band was named after his sports car, and it was only after he left the label that Stax's publicity department made up the Memphis Group explanation. Moman had played with Jones and Steinberg in an earlier Stax backing group called the Triumphs, which was named after another car that he'd owned.

Stax historian Rob Bowman has since confirmed that the label concocted the "Memphis Group" explanation in order to avoid claims of trademark infringement from the manufacturers of the car.

Although, according to Wikipedia, the true story of the name's origin has been public since at least 2007, as recently as November 2016 I was asked in a quiz what the MG stood for, and the answer required was "Memphis Group". If you ever get asked this question, my advice is to answer along the lines of "It was named after the MG sports car, but Stax claimed for years that it stood for Memphis Group, to avoid lawsuits."

Good luck!

© Haydn Thompson 2017–22