He was a bass guitarist, producer and songwriter, nicknamed “Duck”, born in Memphis, Tennessee, to a family where his father was a candy maker. He grew up with his close friend and fellow guiratirst Steve Cropper and was given his nickname by his father after they had been watching cartoons on the television one day.
When his friend Steve started playing the guitar while in high school with a friend, he decided to do try his hand at it and after teaching himself began playing the bass guitar and before too long they were in their own group The Royal Spades. After being signed to Satelite Records they released the single “Last Night” in 1961 going by their new name, The Mar-Keys but unfortunately he did not appear on that recording as he was fishing in Mississippi when it was made.
He later joined Steve Cropper in his co-founded Booker T & The MGs after their guitarist Lewis Steinberg had left in 1964 and appeared on the successful “Hang ‘Em High” and “Time is Tight” among others and also did much session work in the Stax studio. He can be heard on Otis Redding’s “Respect” and “(Sitting on) The Dock of the Bay”, “Born Under a Bad Sign” by Albert King, “In the Midnight Hour” by Wilson Pickett and “Hold On, I’m Comin'” by Sam & Dave among many other hit records of the time and also on the album McElmore Avenue which was Booker T & The MGs take on Abbey Road by The Beatles .
Although Booker T and Steve Cropper had left the studio, he remained with Stax throughout the 1970s and would go on to perform with Jerry Lee Lewis, Freddie King, Muddy Waters, Jimmy Buffett , Rod Stewart and Eric Clapton among many others. He joined up with Steve Cropper again in Levon Helms’ RCO All Stars and then after teaming up with the actor Dan Aykroyd and the Stax drummer Willie Hall he entered into the world of movies with the incredibly successful The Blues Brothers Band.
The 2000s saw him supporting Neil Young and performing as a member of the re-united Booker T. & The MGs. Appearing on countless albums throughout his career he can be heard on Southern Lights by Jerry Lee Lewis, Pain in My Heart and Otis Blue by Otis Redding, And Now….Booker T & The MGs, Uptight and Sould Dressing with Booker T & The MGs, Blowing Away by Joan Baez , Shot of Love by Bob Dylan , Hard Promises by Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, In the Midnight Hour by Wilson Pickett, Soul Folk in Action by The Staples Singers, Atlantic Crossing and A Night on the Town by Rod Stewart, Pastiche by Manhattan Transfer , Playing My Thang by Steve Cropper , Briefcase Full of Blue by The Blues Brothers Band, Back at Cha’! by Sam & Dave, Raised on Rock/For Ol’ Times Sake by Elvis Presley , Anthology Vol. 2 by Duane Allman, Will o’ the Wisp by Leon Russell , Knock on Wood and Rare Stamps by Eddie Floyd, Hot Water by Jimmy Buffett , Who’s Making Love by Johnnie Taylor, Fathers and Sons by Muddy Waters, Push Push by Herbie Mann, Just As I Am by Bill Withers , Blues for Elvis by Albert King, Money & Cigarettes by Eric Clapton, Rita Coolidge, Presenting Isaac Hayes by Isaac Hayes and far too many more to mention.
On the business side of things he went into collaboration with Fender to produce The Duck Dunn P-Bass signature bass.
He semi-retired in 2007 and was honoured with a Grammy Award for “Lifetime Achievement” with the other members of Booker T & The MGs.
In May 2012, when he was 70 years old, he was touring Japan with Steve Cropper and Eddie Floyd. After having completed his fifth double show in Tokyo it was discovered the following morning that he had died in his sleep overnight.
Here he is playing bass with The Blues Brothers on “Peter Gunn”…