BY Stephen Nartey, 5:00pm January 30, 2023,

Booker T and the MGs, the soul music band that championed racial integration when everyone thought it was impossible

Booker T and the MGs/Craft recordings

The Booker T and the MGs band subconsciously preached racial integration with their composition when the world thought it was impossible. The band was made up of one white and three African Americans. From afar, it appeared the group was made up of two whites and two blacks because one had a mixed-race ancestry.

The group faced racism during some of its musical tours but diffused the prevailing racial sentiments with their performance, as reported by the Guardian.

They became known for their tune, Green Onions. “It was originally called Funky Onions – but to laced-up, deep-south America, that sounded like a cuss word, so we had to retitle it,” the group said.

On how they got the name Booker T and the MGs, one of the patrons of Stax Records had an MG motor car. That inspired the legendary name of the soul music group. The British vehicle manufacturing company that produced the brand was however not happy with the group’s association with its identity and warned it against riding on the back of it.

The band decided that MG would mean Memphis Group. One of its members, Duck Dunn, who joined later, thought “Musical Geniuses” was the best fit.

It is said that when their first hit record “Green Onions” came on the music chart and was raking in millions of dollars, the lead artist of the band, Booker T. Jones, was only 18. Jones was an organist, Al Jackson, Jr. was a drummer, Steve Cropper was a guitarist, and Lewie Polk Steinberg was a bassist. These were the original members but other artists joined the band in 1965 when others left. Jones was the one who brought Cropper, Jackson and Dunn into the fold, according to Britannica.

The racial make-up of the band became a reference point for campaigners for integration. They were the inspiration for many young artists who were passionate about soul music. The band survived until 1972 and lost the spark that made them Booker T and the MGs afterward. They came back after but they struggled to get their groove back.

In 1992, they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. If there is any legacy they left aside from their popularity in the 60s, it was the mastery over instrumentals and soul music.

Stax Records was where Booker T and the MGs was born. Stax was established in the 1960s in Memphis, Tennessee. Stax provided a welcoming environment where race never mattered in its studios. No one was bothered by the rates charged at the recording studio because Stax was more interested in the talent. Ideas were written on paper and translated into rhythms that got thousands of music fans ecstatic.

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: January 30, 2023


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