sl-prokeys was born April 5, 1995

Wes Garland: Webmaster

Speed Reader Page

VIDEO FILES are in Flash Player (.flv) format. Please install (free) VLC Media Player

AUDIO FILES are in .mp3 format.

designed for viewing at widescreen resolution - 24"monitor - 1920x1080

total sl-prokeys hits since April, 2003

On Thursday, August 21, 2003, at 2:45pm, my wife of 34 years, Rebecca, died in my arms in an emergency room.

The last words we spoke were in perfect synchronization: "I love you with all my heart."



RINGSIDE REPORT -  Memphis, October 14, 2002


afternoon sound check - MP3

pre afternoon sound check - VIDEO

"time is tight"

afternoon sound check - VIDEO


"serve somebody", "hip hug her"

live show - second part - MP3

steve cropper

"midnight hour"

with gary "us" bonds


gary "us" bonds

"stand by me"


ray vega

"la bamba" , "donna"


live show - first part - MP3

william bell


"you don't miss your water", "634-5789"

with steve and angel cropper

wendy rene

"proud mary", "chain of fools", "respect"

eddie floyd


"raise your hand", "knock on wood"

with carla thomas

david porter

"happy birthday"

steve cropper

"dock of the bay"

with t. graham brown


"hip hug her"

t. graham brown

"tell it like it used to be"

These tracks came from the internal mic in a Sony camcorder. 

It picks up more from the stage and stage monitors than it does from the house mix.

Distortion?  Yes.  High-quality mixing, signal processing, or compression?  No.


whatchoo hear is whatchoo get - whatchoo see is better yet!


    Steve Cropper invited me up to Memphis to play Hammond on a show with him, Duck, and Steve Potts.  Last time I played with the MGs was around 1970 or 71, when I was on staff at STAX on McLemore.  That's when Al Jackson was still alive.  I'd never played Hammond live with Steve, Duck, and Steve Potts before, but I had supplied the B3 for Booker T & the MGs a few times at concerts. 


    I'd played live with Duck at a Rascals show in Sarasota some years back.  We sat in and played about 20 songs.   We sure had fun for about an hour, playing the old STAX and R&B songs.


    But this was different.  And - this was Memphis.  

    In a way, it was like "going home".  Because I hadn't played with Steve and Duck for all these years, it was also something like an audition, all over again.  

    I might be wrong, but while discussing this on the phone, I thought I detected about .5% uncertainty in Steve's voice, because we hadn't played together for so long, and never played live, where things can disintegrate in a second. 

    "You know what?  Ninety-nine an' a half just won't do - got t' have a hunnit."  (Pickett - E) 

    For over thirty years, I've known Duck and Steve are two of the best R&B players that ever lived.  And since I first heard him, I'm just crazy about the way Steve Potts plays drums.  His left hand has to weigh 200 pounds.  I felt enthusiastic about playing with the finest R&B players in the entire world.

    This was basically Marvell Thomas' show with his group, and Cropper and Dunn were allegedly going to be "guests".  While talking to Steve on the phone, it became apparent that he was going to pretty much take charge of who, when, and what, and coordinate this event as he saw fit - thankfully. 

    Steve just happens to be a take charge type of guy.


    I loaded the trailer with one of my better Hammond B3s and three 122 Leslies.  I left Tampa on Friday afternoon, and drove 1044 miles with two rest stops for naps.  I arrived in Memphis late Saturday afternoon, and only got lost once, right in Memphis.  Typical of me.  The interstate sign was tricky.

    The show - a two part event - was located at Gibson Guitar factory, in the Gibson Showcase Lounge (Monday night tickets were $150), and up on the roof (Tuesday night - The Blues Brothers).  I wanted to bring in the B3 on Sunday, but due to Gibson's "internal security policy", I wasn't able to do so until Monday, around noon.

    The trailer was unloaded in less than ten minutes.  Everything is on casters and strapped in place, the back of the trailer opens down to a ramp, and it usually takes me about ten minutes to empty the trailer - B3, 3 or 4 Leslies, cable box, and tools.  Positioning the straps (when loading) takes more time than the loading or unloading does.  I managed to get the Leslies onstage in a few minutes, but had to "walk" them up five steps.


    I won't waste much time describing what I went through getting three security men to give me assistance with the B3 for less than thirty seconds.  The science of getting a B3 and Leslies onto a stage is something I've been practicing for about forty years.  When I say I need help for under thirty seconds - I mean UNDER thirty seconds.  In this case, the B3 went on stage in three seconds - they actually timed it.

    Because the B3 and Leslies are complex, I always show up early, and always bring a complete set of electronic tools.  I feel I need extra time to adjust, check out tubes, connections, individual Leslies, set up the mics properly, etc.  I'm glad I brought a spare Leslie amp, because one of the three had almost self-destructed on the way to Memphis, probably from vibration.

    Around 2 pm, Cropper showed up, and we began running over songs.  It felt like history repeating itself.  There's something amazing about Steve's playing - it's so naturally rhythmic, playing with him is effortless.  Steve could make rhythm pockets out of thin air, out of a paperclip, a broom.  His body sheds more R&B cells in a day than most people could retain in 20 years.  Am I trying to say I really like Steve's rhythm playing? 

    "Nah.  Don't be led in the wrong direction." (Pickett - E)

    On the phone, Steve previously asked me what key I play Booker's songs in.  I'm sorry - I had to smile about that.  It seems unquestionable to me that I would play all MGs songs in their key, which I do.  Steve told me about occasions when he'd sit in somewhere, played something like "Green Onions" in E, (it's in F), and the keyboard player didn't have the slightest clue.  I wouldn't have the nerve to ask Steve Cropper to play his own songs in some other key. 

    "You got to realize - Ninety-nine an' a half ain't gon' get it."  (Pickett - E)

    Duck and Steve Potts hadn't arrived yet, but sound check wasn't until later.  We ran over a bunch of songs, including some of Booker's songs.  I discovered that I had the right changes to the extended end of "Time Is Tight".  What a surprise - try it yourself sometime - and use both hands.      

    I'd forgotten some things about Steve through the years, which again made me smile.  He sometimes relates to a song "being in a key" depending where the guitar part starts: "Pretty Woman", starts on an E guitar line, it's actually in A.  And, sometimes we call the same essential chords by different names - depending how Steve inverts a chord, it could be an F#maj 7 for him - for me, it could be a straight Bb minor.  (I think guitar and keyboard players have been doing this since chords first began.)  

    Played together, we blend, it comes out right, that's what counts.  What I'd really forgotten, and what amazes me, is how Steve is so much more of a tactile player than I am.  When he physically plays it, touches it - he's fine with it, it's like he owns it.   

    In awhile, Steve Potts and Duck arrived, and sound check started for real.  We ran over a few of Booker's songs.  Evidently, I knew my place.  We discussed doing a "Booker T set" of five or six songs.  I was really hoping we could do "Serve Somebody", "Hip Hug Her", "Sarasota Sunset", "Green Onions", and "Time Is Tight" at the show, but it didn't work out like that.  I got a kick out of Duck and Steve communicating when I did something "right", eye contacting, nodding, smiles ..... I promised I would make Duck and both Steves proud of me.  I believe I kept my promise.

    Something pretty unusual happened at sound check.  Marvell "invited" himself to play my Hammond, while William Bell ran down "You Don't Miss Your Water". 

    I didn't really care, I just played Marvell's electric piano.


    But I think William preferred that I play Hammond behind him.  He called Marvell out to the lobby to discuss this, and the yelling could be heard on Beale Street.

    I played Hammond behind William that night.   

    During this time, Doug Neel, who is the sound engineer and production coordinator for Gibson, proved himself to be an absolute pleasure to work with.  Anything he could do to assist, he was right there.  If you get to Gibson's Showcase, go introduce yourself to Doug.  A perfect gentleman, and he knows his job inside and out.  This is exactly the kind of guy that artists love to work with.  


    Marvell Thomas and his group were to open this show and do around forty five minutes.  That turned into about ninety minutes or more.  Marvell played electric piano.  He kept his hands off my Hammond. 


    I'd like to mention - I have a LOT of respect for Marvell.  We play a LOT differently, and Marvell deserves plenty of respect for what he does. 

    He's a well educated, jazz-oriented keyboard player who - in many ways - could play me right under a table.  No denials from me

    But not when it comes to R&B and STAXThat's my forte. 

    As soon as Marvell's group finished, Duck and I went on stage - Cropper and Potts had been there the whole time.  Now is when the fun started: 

    I backed Eddie Floyd, William Bell, Carla Thomas, Gary "US" Bonds, Wendy Rene, T. Graham Brown, David Porter, Ray Vega, Steve Cropper, and others.  

    As you might expect, with all this going on, I only got to play one Booker song - "Hip Hug Her" - and it went over real well. 

    People in the audience were calling for "Green Onions", "Time Is Tight", and I was ready to do more Booker songs, but the time really was tight.  There were more vocal artists stacked up, and Cropper had to use the available time sensibly - it was a juggling act.  The place was packed with enough vocal artists to last awhile.

    William Bell was at sound check.  When we saw each other for the first time in about thirty years, instant recognition, and a whole lot of hugging and laughter.  At the show, Eddie Floyd and I saw each other for the first time in about twenty five years.  Instant recognition, and a lot more laughter. 


    After the Monday show, the owner or manager of BB King's invited the vocal artists and players to come over to BB's, and many of us did.  There were limos waiting out front to take us two blocks to BB's.  Within thirty minutes, the STAX people took over the stage at BB's and just plain threw down on them.  I'm sorry to say Steve Potts didn't come to BB's, and Duck was playing Budweisers at the bar.  I think the whole day had really exhausted Duck, and probably Steve Potts, too.    

Something pretty strange happened:  Steve got onstage, picked up the guitar, it's not Steve's guitar, it's the other player's.  I got behind the Hammond, or what was left of it.  If that was my B3 and Leslie, I'd unquestionably rebuild it - it was really in sad shape.   

The first song was right on top of us, already being counted off.  Unusual noises were coming from Steve's direction for the first couple of chords.  If I remember right, that first song (I think an old Sam and Dave song) had a bunch of changes, and guitar lines in it.  Song finished.  He leaned over, "Sandy, the guy got this fucking thing tuned in F."  "Shit, man, you're playing it."  We tuned him in E, to the Hammond - normal tuning for 99.99% of all guitar players.  "Why didn't you say so?", "I did it just to prove I could."  He damn sure proved he could.  

    We had a great time playing real Memphis R&B music for a whole bunch of people that wanted to hear real R&B.  William Bell, T. Graham, and several other singers did plenty of old R&B music, and it was a pleasure to be a part of it.  I guess we played for well over three hours, and it was all 100% genuine STAX/Memphis R&B.  We could have played another five hours, and just about been getting started!

    A lot of beers were lined up on the bar for me when I got off the stage, and some people even asked for my picture and autographs - why, I don't know, but it sure felt nice. 

    It was a night to remember for a long time.

    Steve "Sandy"

click picture for fullsize view


Gibson Showcase

BB King's

STAX Menu Prokeys Site Map