Steve Cropper recalls almost working with the Beatles in Memphis, before Brian Epstein pulled the plug

By Steve Newton

Steve Cropper was recently added to the Dave Mason Band tour, which is totally awesome, and not just because he’ll now be appearing with Mason at Vancouver’s Vogue Theatre next Thursday (March 21).

It’s also totally awesome because three days ago I got to interview the guitar legend for the first time ever. Cross that one off the bucket list!

Cropper called me up from his home in Nashville and we chatted about a bunch of stuff. At one point I asked him about that time he was planning to work with the Beatles in 1966.

Apparently the Fab Four were fans of Cropper’s guitar playing, and his production work with artists like Otis Redding–who he cowrote “(Sittin’ On) the Dock of the Bay” with. The story goes that Beatles manager Brian Epstein travelled to the famed Stax Studios in Memphis to see about recording there, so I asked Cropper if that story was true.

“Well it is true in a way,” replied Cropper. “He stayed in Memphis about a week and a half, and we were gonna do it, then he calls me and says ‘I don’t feel like the security’s good enough in Memphis.’ And I said, ‘Man, I got you the best place, total security!’

“But he didn’t want to believe, because he grew up with the Beatles, and you see [them getting mobbed] on TV all the time. But I said, ‘If you come here there’s not gonna be hundreds of people running up the street trying to get into the studio. It’s not going to happen in the city of Memphis.’ And he didn’t believe me. Then he asked would I be willing to go to New York, and I said, ‘Yeah, long as we cut it at Atlantic [Studios]’.

“So the guys agreed, and then he called me two or three weeks later and he said, ‘Steve, they’ve done so much on this album that we’ll have to wait for the next one.’ I said okay. And that was the Revolver album. So when I look back on it, it’s probably better that I didn’t get involved in it, because George had so much of that finished.

“That album is one of my favourites, and it was more about George Harrison than it is the Beatles themselves, I think. The rest of them are all about Lennon and McCartney, with George bein’ the guitar player, but that album was really, I think, the launch of his solo career.”

For more from Steve Cropper, stay tuned to Ear of Newt.

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