Steve Cropper explains why he still looks at the fretboard after nearly 70 years of playing

 Steve Cropper.
Steve Cropper.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

Session heavyweight and soul guitar legend Steve Cropper has dropped an interesting revelation: after nearly 70 years of influential guitar playing, he still looks at his fretboard inlays to navigate his instrument.

The Missouri-born 82-year-old guitarist helped found the famed Stax Records house band, Booker T. & The M.G.’s, and has contributed parts, songwriting, and production to countless iconic hits, such as Soul Man and Sittin’ On The Dock Of The Bay.

But in an upcoming interview with Guitar World, the guitarist opened up on his reliance on inlays to help him move around the fretboard of his guitars.

Cropper made the admission when discussing In the Midnight Hour and Knock on Wood – two tracks he co-wrote, Cropper once told Ronnie Wood, by simply “following the dots”.

His penchant for following the dots goes beyond his songwriting, though, with Cropper observing he still uses the humble inlay as a point of reference for moving between guitars.

“It’s true about following the dots. Every guitar has one and they're basically all in the same place if you look at the dots. I can't play without looking at the dots.” he admits.

“I just play what's needed. I use the guitar as a tool rather than as an instrument. I had to use whatever was called for on a day during a session.

“Somebody asked me one time, ‘How come there's only one guitar on most of the songs?’ I replied, ‘Because we couldn't afford two guitar players in those days.’ It was hard enough just to have three horns on the songs.”

In his upcoming interview, Cropper also revealed he is set to return with his 12th studio album, and the instrumental record will feature two high-profile guest artists: Billy Gibbons and Brian May.

“The new album is much like 2021’s Fire It Up album, which got nominated for a Grammy,” he reveals. “I don’t know when we're going to release it, but it's mostly done, all written... the record company already has it and they love it.

“It's got Billy Gibbons playing on it and Brian May from Queen. Brian plays on one song while Billy plays on everything else except that one.”

Keep your eyes peeled on for the full Steve Cropper interview, in which he recalls classic studio sessions with Otis Redding and Sam and Dave.