"My friend David Porter got me out of a class at Booker T. Washington High School to play baritone sax on Rufus's first Stax record," recalls Jones. Another line evokes Nathaniel D. Williams, a beloved morning DJ at radio station WDIA who also served as Jones's "inflexible" high school history teacher. "That [strictness] was good for us," Jones says. "I was in the club on Beale Street at 4 a.m. in those days, and I wasn't studying like I should. I was trying to be a jazz nightclub musician at age 13 or 14 and my schoolwork suffered."
Jones is proud to mention that he is giving himself a brand new education. He has mastered several complex software systems to compose, record and transcribe the music for Road From Memphis. In it, the MG's' spirit comes through loud and clear in instrumentals like "Walking Papers" and "The Hive," as well as cover versions of the OutKast hit "Crazy" and Lauryn Hill's "Everything Is Everything."
And speaking of cover versions: last month also saw the re-release of McLemore Avenue, Booker T. & the MG's ambitious 1970 instrumental version of the Beatles' Abbey Road. Titled after Stax Records' Memphis location, McLemore Avenue is Jones' tribute to what he calls "a breakthrough album, a courageous work." His record company didn't feel it would find an audience and reluctantly released it. "I didn't realize what a maverick suggestion it was until I returned to Memphis to make it. People thought it was kind of ridiculous, but … it's some of the best music we ever made."