Positivity on wax. That’s Booker T & the MGs. Or at least it was back in 1967 when they released Slim Jenkins’ Place as a single. It was originally the A-side but the flip, a cover of Groovin’ by the Rascals got more radio play and they were switched over. Both Slim Jenkins’ Place and Groovin’ appear on the album Hip Hug-Her – arguably the pinnacle of the MGs’ career.
You could throw in a load of other contenders for their finest hour – most notably Green Onions in 1962 – but it seems to me that their Hip Hug-Her saw the MGs at their most uplifting, and Slim Jenkins’ Place is the album’s most uplifting moment.
When the album was recorded, the MGs and their label, Stax, could do no wrong. As well as being artists in their own right the MGs – Booker T Washington on keyboard, Steve Cropper on guitar, Al Jackson Jr on percussion and Donald ‘Duck’ Dunn on bass – with their incredible rapport, were the label’s house band at a time when its roster included Sam & Dave, Otis Redding and Isaac Hayes.
Stax and the MGs had established a loose, collaborative, musician-led production process which was highly conducive to creativity and led to the establishment of the ‘Memphis soul’ sound which gained huge popularity on both sides of the Atlantic. But more than this, the interracial cooperation within the company and particularly within the MGs’ line-up was a beacon of racial harmony in the divided South. The upbeat sound of Slim Jenkins’ Place reflects the confidence and optimism of that time.
By mid-1968 Otis Redding had been killed in a plane crash, Martin Luther King had been assassinated in Memphis and Stax had acrimoniously broken up with Atlantic Records, losing control of most of their back catalogue, as well as Sam & Dave in the process.
Booker T & the MGs continued to make their incredible music, but never again with the unrestrained, youthful optimism that they had shown on Slim Jenkins’ Place.