R&B: Memphis Sound through Booker T. and the MGs

R&B has progressed throughout time, remaining one of the most popular music genres of today. Groups like Booker T. and the MGs helped to shape the sound of R&B. The Memphis Sound is very influential in R&B as a whole.

Rhythm and Blues, abbreviated as R&B, is a style of music that originated in African American communities, and developed during World War II in 1939-1945. The term ‘rhythm and blues’ was used to recognize and categorize every form of secular music associated with African Americans. As rhythm and blues evolved, various regions and their diversity had different takes on rhythm and blues, creating unique sounds for the particular region.


The Memphis sound originated in Memphis, Tennessee in the 1960s. The Memphis sound was described as an “urban sound with rural undercurrents” and “laidback”. Similar to other types of music, the African American community used rhythm and blues to tell their stories: realities of life in the segregated South, relationships, etc. Eventually, the Memphis sound was referred to as ‘soul’. A particular group from Memphis, Tennessee that expressed the Memphis sound of Rhythm and Blues was Booker T. & the MGs.

Booker T. & the MGs were a music group that originated in Memphis, Tennessee in 1962. The original members of the group were Booker T. Jones, Steve Cropper, Lewis Steinberg, and Al Jackson Jr. The MG stood for Memphis Group. The group started off as a band for Stax Records.

Booker T. and the MGs were said to have shaped the sound of Southern Soul and Memphis Soul. The group had many popular songs, including “Time is Tight”, “Groovin’”, “Boot-leg”, to name a few. However, their song “Green Onions” serves as their most known song. “Green Onions” is an instrumental blues song that has a bassline of 12-parts.

R&B continues to develop and progress throughout time. Music created during earlier times is very influential on modern day music. Booker T. and the MGs had a significant impact on the Memphis Sound, R&B, and Southern Soul. Booker T. and the MGs play an important role in understanding what shaped the music of today, especially rhythm and blues.

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