Donald 'Duck' Dunn, Bassist With Booker T. and the MGs, Stax, Dies at 70

Donald Duck Dunn

Dunn, who was in Tokyo for a series of shows, died in his sleep Sunday; the musician has played with countless legends, including Otis Redding, Eric Clapton, Neil Young and Jerry Lee Lewis.

Bass player and songwriter Donald "Duck" Dunn, a member of the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame band Booker T. and the MGs and the Blues Brothers, has died in Tokyo. He was 70. Dunn was also a studio musician for the legendary Stax studios who played with countless musicians, including Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett, Jerry Lee Lewis and later in Los Angeles Rod Stewart, Neil Young, Eric Clapton and others.

Dunn was in Tokyo for a series of shows. News of his death was posted on the Facebook site of his friend and fellow musician Steve Cropper, who was on the same tour. Cropper said Dunn died in his sleep.

Miho Harasawa, a spokeswoman for Tokyo Blue Note, the last venue Dunn played, confirmed he died alone early Sunday. She had no further details. 

Dunn was born in Memphis, Tennessee, in 1941. He was given his nickname by his father as the two watched a Donald Duck cartoon on TV. "It was just one of those things that stuck," he recalls. "Most of my school friends and even a few of my teachers called me Duck."

Dunn and Cropper formed their first band, The Royal Spades, in high school. "We played anything from Jerry Lee Lewis and Little Richard to Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley stuff," Dunn recounted on his website. "We were a white band trying to play rhythm and blues music, kinda the first in Memphis to do that," The Royal Spades evolved into the Mar-Keys, who had a hit with Last Night. Cropper left the band to become a full-time session musician at the Stax studio with Dunn and where the two joined Booker T's MGs, which in turn become the house band at Stax. Dunn backed up such legends as Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett, Carla Thomas, Sam & Dave, Jerry Lee Lewis.

By the mid-70s Dunn and Cropper had moved to L.A. There, Dunn backed-up with many musicians including Eric Clapton, Neil Young, Rod Steward and many others. In 1980 he appeared as himself in the "The Blues Brothers" movie and became a part of popular R'n'B revue.

Booker T & the MGs were inducted into the Rock and Roll hall of Fame in 1992. Dunn also received a lifetime achievement Grammy award in 2007 for his work with Booker T. and the MGs.