Dave Mason says that it wasn’t just him, but that EVERYONE in the British rock scene of the 1960s was influenced by Steve Cropper.
Cropper, after all, was one of the giants of Memphis R&B, a guitar, songwriter and producer who was a member of Booker T. & the M.G.’s and worked with Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett, Sam & Dave and countless others. Among the iconic songs Cropper co-wrote and played on were the Booker T. & the M.G.’s hit “Green Onions,” Redding’s “(Sittin on) the Dock of the Bay,” Pickett’s “In the Midnight Hour” and Eddie Floyd’s “Knock on Wood.”
When Sam Moore yelled “Play it, Steve!” on the 1967 Sam & Dave “Soul Man” hit, that’s Cropper he’s yelling to. More than a decade later, Cropper helped introduce that song and others to new audiences as a member of John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd’s Blues Brothers band.
Mason, a fellow Rock and Roll Hall of Famer (as a member of Traffic) as well as a hitmaking solo artist (“We Just Disagree,” “Only You Know and I Know”), first met Cropper in Los Angeles, in the ’70s (“early ’70s, I would think,” Mason said). Then they met again about two years ago, in Nashville.
“Then he he came over to Maui (in 2017) to play a New Year’s Eve event for the food bank there that they hold annually,” said Mason, who has homes in California and Hawaii. “And we got to talking … I just said, ‘How about putting something together where we just could go out and play,’ And he said, ‘Man, that’s all I want to do, is just play.’ I said, ‘Okay, cool, let’s go try something different.’ ”
Their Rock & Soul Revue tour, featuring them both along with Mason’s band, comes to the State Theatre in New Brunswick, July 18. Setlists so far have included Traffic songs, Mason’s solo material, plenty of Stax classics and more.
Mason and Cropper are onstage together for most of the show.
“Everybody’s gonna know these tunes, plus there are some great surprises in there,” Mason says. “But everybody’s featured: My keyboard player, Tony (Patler). And we have a young girl singer, Gretchen Rhodes, who’s just killin’ a couple of these songs, like ‘Try a Little Tenderness.’ Tony’s got a great R&B voice. And I get to sing ‘Midnight Hour,’ which is way cool.
“What’s amazing is how few people know who the hell Steve Cropper is. But the history of what’s there is enormous. And that’s part of what’s underlying this whole show. We’ve got over 100 years (of performing), between me and Cropper. We were kind of there at the beginning.”
Mason said he recorded the first show that he and Cropper did together — in North Carolina, in May — and will be selling it on the tour.
“As to whether it ‘comes out’ as a CD … who knows, I don’t know,” said Mason. “Putting out records and stuff is … gone. That’s all I can say. But yeah, it’s recorded.”
Have they written anything together yet? The subject hasn’t really come up, says Mason.
“Other than rehearsing, frankly we haven’t spent that much time together. Now we’re going out and seeing how the show works. So that (songwriting) will either happen, over time, or it won’t. We’ll just go out and do the show. But it’ll be great; it’ll be fun to do. That’s the objective.”
Mason and Cropper perform at the State Theatre in New Brunswick, July 18 at 8 p.m., with Gretchen Rhodes opening. Tickets are available through Ticketmaster.com.
Here are some videos of Mason and Cropper performing together: