The obituaries for Donald “Duck” Dunn highlight the fact that he was revered in the music business. When I first saw “The Blues Brothers,” I didn’t realize that Dunn, Steve Cropper and the other band members were famous musicians. After I started working in radio, I figured out that the line “play it, Steve” in “Soul Man” referred to Cropper, who played on the original record as well as the Blues Brothers’ cover. Cropper broke the news on Facebook that his lifelong friend Dunn died in Japan yesterday. Dunn and Cropper were legends of the Memphis soul scene. The two were touring together to the end.
I’ve loved “The Blues Brothers” ever since the first time I saw it. I enjoyed Jake and Elwood’s performances on “Saturday Night Live” too but the movie’s guest stars amazed me, especially Cab Calloway, Aretha Franklin and Ray Charles. At the time, my dad had a 1974 Dodge Monaco Brougham, which was the same type of car as the Bluesmobile. While driving around Northern Virginia, my friends and I would listen to the soundtrack. It has a fantastic version of “The Peter Gunn Theme,” which is still one of my all-time favorite songs.
My first trip to Memphis (and to Tennessee) was in 1987. WAVA’s chief engineer and I had arranged for Don & Mike to broadcast live from Graceland on the tenth anniversary of Elvis Presley’s death. We stayed the weekend and did some sightseeing. One night we went to Beale Street and the Peabody Hotel. As we sat in the hotel bar listening to songs Elvis made famous, I realized that it was none other than Donald “Duck” Dunn performing on stage. You can see Dunn in the white shirt at center stage in this clip from “The Blues Brothers.”