Steve Winwood, B.B. King, Sharon Jones, Bettye LaVette and Lucinda Williams are among the artists assisting guitarist Steve Cropper in his salute to the pre-rock ‘n’ roll band that has had a lasting effect on his career, the 5 Royales.
Cropper, whose guitar playing, songwriting and producing credits include “Green Onions,” Otis Redding and the Blues Brothers, has long credited 5 Royales guitarist Lowan Pauling as a key influence on his playing. Jon Tiven, who had worked with Cropper on his two albums with the Rascals’ Felix Cavaliere, asked Cropper if he would be interested in recording a tribute to the Memphis R&B group.
“I immediately thought, ‘Why didn’t I think of that?’ I said yes but asked ‘Who would be interested in putting out this record?’ It took three years to find a label for Felix and myself,” Cropper told Billboard.com
Tiven attracted the interest of 429 Records, which will release “Dedicated: A Salute to the 5 Royales” on July 12. “We started making calls and nobody turned us down,” Cropper added. “Some of the singers we called asked ‘can I be at the session?’ How many times do you get that response?'”
The album was cut it in two days with four of the singers recorded live with the band of Cropper, bassist David Hood, keyboardist Spooner Oldham, drummers Steve Ferrone and Steve Jordan and saxophonists Neal Sugarman and Jon Tiven.
His favorite session was with B.B. King, who recorded “Baby Don’t Do It” with Shemekia Copeland. “He was sitting on a couch and since he was so comfortable, we wondered if he wanted to record right there. We set up his amp in the studio and got a microphone stand and put it on the coffee table in front of him and he sat there and played and sang.”
Cropper’s name rarely turns up on the front cover of albums. He made the two albums with Cavaliere — “Nudge it Up a Notch” in 2008 and “Midnight Flyer” in 2010 – but other than a Booker T. & the MG’s reunion album in 1994, his last solo outing was 1982’s “Night After Night.”
“I’ve been asked to do another solo record, but I really wasn’t interested,” says Cropper, who turned 70 in October. “Different people tried to tip me with money, figuring that if they offered enough I’d do it. In my old age, I don’t do this. This went smoothly, quickly, effortlessly.”
Currently, Cropper has only one concert scheduled in support of the new album. LaVette, Ellis Hooks and Dylan LeBlanc will join Cropper at the 28th annual Roots of American Music Festival at Lincoln Center n New York on Aug. 14. The Bar-Kays, North Mississippi All-stars Duo and Big Sam’s Funky Nation are on the bill, too.
The next day he heads to the U.K. where he will be touring with the Animals through Sept. 22.