Fender Duck Dunn Bass Guitar

Fender Duck Dunn Bass Guitar

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In 1998, Donald "Duck" Dunn collaborated with Fender to produce a signature Precision Bass, a candy apple red-colored model based on the late 1950s style, with a gold anodized pickguard, a split-coil humbucking pickup and vintage hardware.

As a member of Rock'n'Roll Hall Of Famers Booker T. & The MGs, Duck Dunn was house bass player at the legendary Soul/R'n'B label, Stax, where his meaty playing helped define one of the most distinctive and enduring sounds in popular music. Among the timeless recordings Dunn held down the bottom end of, are Respect, Dock Of The Bay and I've Been Loving You Too Long, by Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett's In The Midnight Hour, and Hold On I'm Coming by Sam and Dave, not to mention sessions with Neil Young, Eric Clapton and Jerry Lee Lewis.

Born in Memphis in late November, 1941, Dunn was given his nickname by his father as the two watched a Donald Duck cartoon on TV. "It was just one of those things that stuck," he recalls. "Most of my school friends and even a few of my teachers called me Duck."

Although a grandfather he never knew played fiddle, there was no music in Duck's immediate family. "My father was a candy maker. Duck tried to conform: "I worked for my dad in the candy factory for a while. I also had a job with an electrical company repairing long range air raid sirens." In his heart, though, Dunn always knew where his talents lay. I picked up a ukulele when I was about 10 and I started playing bass when I was 16. I tried the guitar but it had two strings too many. It was just too complicated, man! Plus, I grew up with Steve Cropper. There were so many good guitar players another one wasn't needed. What was needed was a bass. I mostly learned just by listening to records. I don't know how to explain it but I knew if I could do it, I'd be good at it! My first bass was a new Kay, one of the cheaper models."

And, of course, it was slightly less than Duck wanted. Smiling at the memory, he adds: "When I used to look in the music store windows and see the Fenders hanging there, I was like a kid at Christmas. The Kay was fine but you knew if you could get your hands on a Fender you would do better. I bought my first Fender in '58 and I still have it at home. I lost it once and I got it back," he pauses. "It's a Precision, with a maple neck. I just always took it for granted, never worried about the setting or action. It was a Fender, man, I didn't care!"

Influenced by blues and R&B stars like BB King and Ray Charles, Dunn and Cropper formed their first band, The Royal Spades, in high school. Cropper subsequently left the band to become a full-time session musician at the Stax studio. He urged Dunn to follow him and the two became part of Booker T's MGs, which in turn become the house band at Stax.

"I would have liked to have been on the road more but the record company wanted us in the studio. Man, we were recording almost a hit a day for a while there. But I never knew how popular that music was until I came to England with Otis Redding in 1967." He adds with a chuckle: "I think most of the English people thought I was a pick-up bass player. Without being racist they probably thought that being affiliated with that music, Donald 'Duck' Dunn was black!"

Like many recognisable sounds from Sun to Motown, the Stax sound evolved by happy accident from a blend of musicians who worked well together. "Everyone contributed," remembers Duck. "Sometimes, if I couldn't find something to play maybe Booker found the bass line. Or maybe Steve Cropper. It was a real family-orientated company. No one had any particular ego. We were a
real team."

In many instances, plenty of song riffs and rhythms famously emerged from spontaneous jam sessions on the play-out of the previous recording. "When we came to the fade-outs, almost everyone would change their rhythm or the notes they were playing. That was the fun part of it. When we got to the end we all knew we could relax and do what we wanted to do."

In common with most musicians from that era, the people who created the Stax sound came away with less money than they deserved. "I always look back and say I should have made more," sighs Duck, slowly. "It should have been more lucrative, but it wasn't. We were cheated a little bit. But with the music and what I learned... it doesn't matter. I have no regrets."

Dunn's greatest pleasure, however, came from the music he created with the MGs. Dunn joined the MGs when bassist Lewis Steinberg left the band after having scored a million seller with the instrumental Green Onions in 1962. The MGs continued to hit the charts well into the '70s. Among their biggest successes were Hang 'Em High and Time Is Tight, both from movie soundtracks, also Soul Limbo, a Caribbean-styled number later to become very familiar as the cowbell-intro'd theme tune of the BBC's test cricket coverage.