Roger Kaufman’s Stax Of Smithsonian Wax

Race relations — the gulf between black and white — have been a defining feature of American history ever since our founding. Today, much of our politics is viewed through a racial lens.

The arts have sometimes imitated our troubled legacy. Sometimes they’ve countered it.

More than 50 years ago, for example, Steve Cropper was part of a vibrant Memphis music scene. As a white guitarist with Booker T. & the MGs — Stax Records’ house band — he backed black artists like Otis Redding, Sam & Dave, Wilson Pickett and Carla Thomas. Cropper also produced many of their records.

Roger Kaufman is a longtime Westport musician. He’s old school — Old School Music is also the name of his music events production company —  and he’s long been fascinated by that era when black and white artists played together, at a time and in a city convulsed by civil rights conflicts.

Steve Cropper (left) and Roger Kaufman.

Steve Cropper (left) and Roger Kaufman.

Kaufman knows Cropper — a Blues Brothers founder, ranked 39th on Rolling Stone’s list of the 100 greatest guitarists ever. He also knows John Hasse, curator of American music at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.

Kaufman convinced Cropper that Americans need to know the story of Stax, and that important era in our musical history. He urged his friend to donate the Fender Telecaster guitar he played on “Dock of the Bay.”

The guitar Steve Cropper played on "Dock of the Bay" is headed to the Smithsonian -- thanks to Roger Kaufman.

The guitar Steve Cropper played on “Dock of the Bay” is now in the Smithsonian — thanks to Roger Kaufman.

Today (Thursday, December 1) there’s a special ceremony at the Smithsonian. Using their original instruments, Cropper’s band will play “Green Onions,” “Midnight Hour,” “Soul Man” — and “Dock of the Bay,” which he co-wrote with Redding.

Tomorrow Cropper’s guitar goes on exhibit, in the museum’s American Jazz and Blues section.  On February 1 it moves to the highly trafficked American Stories area, adjacent to Judy Garland’s ruby red slippers from “The Wizard of Oz.”

Kaufman will be there today. So will Booker T. Jones, Sam Moore, Eddie Floyd, and members of the Otis Redding, Rufus Thomas and Isaac Hayes families.

Roger Kaufman won’t perform. But he’s played a crucial role in bringing this great story of black and white music to the broad museum-going public.

“After 50 years of striving for peace, equality, human and civil rights, let’s keep the faith and enjoy the music,” he says.



6 responses to “Roger Kaufman’s Stax Of Smithsonian Wax

  1. Good for Rog, my Staples ’66 classmate and friend. He’s been keeping the rock ‘n roll faith for more than half a century, and his band was the hit of our 50th reunion this past summer.

  2. Joyce Bottone

    Nostalgic and heartwarming. Thanks for sharing. What a great era in music history to preserve.

  3. Amen to that is right i always played rythm and blues songs in 99% of my bands love that music espcially Booker T and the MGs

  4. “Rockin” Roger Kaufman does it again! This is a musical and cultural milestone and we should all be grateful that Roger pulled this together.

  5. James Phillips

    Dan, thanks for sending us the Westport News. We want you to share news of the Passing of Jim Phillips, our son. We were in Westport only a couple of years – 1974 to 76, but Jim made his mark on the Baseball, Football and especially Golf community. He played at Long Shore and won first place at Disney World’s Pee Wee International as a 7th grader. We then moved to Rochester, N.Y. where he continued with Golf and added Soccer. He eventually graduated from the University of Kansas where he was on their golf team and played a few years on the Mini-Tour. I’m sure he has friends in Westport  who knew him well. He was 54 years old and had a very rare autoimmune disease which he fought for nearly 4 years. If anyone wants to contact us, it would be fine via our email. Keep sending the news. We all loved our time in  beautiful Connecticut. Mike and Sandy Phillips Dallas Texas

    • Thanks, and please accept my condolences on Jim’s early passing. I remember him from his time here. I am thinking of him, you and his many friends.