Trumpeter Wayne Jackson was the personification of mixed emotions in February when he and his longtime musical partner, saxophonist Andrew Love, were presented with a Lifetime Achievement Grammy Award for their work over half a century together as the Memphis Horns.
Jackson tearfully acknowledged the music industry accolade for the hundreds of recordings that he and Love made in Memphis and elsewhere. They had backed such R&B and soul music greats as Otis Redding, Aretha Franklin, Al Green, Sam & Dave and Wilson Pickett, and rock, pop and country luminaries that included Elvis Presley, U2, Neil Young, Willie Nelson, Robert Cray and James Taylor.
Jackson’s tears were less about the long-in-coming industry recognition as for the absence that day of Love, who had suffered fromAlzheimer’s diseasefor nearly a decade, a fact that his family publicly announced only a few days before the Grammy ceremony.
Love died Thursday from complications ofAlzheimer’s, said his wife, Willie. He was 70.
Two weeks ago, Jackson visited Love and posed for a photograph with him and their Grammy.
“The sound we generated was just great,” Jackson said Friday from his home in Memphis. “Everybody knew it, and we knew we couldn’t do any better, so we just stayed together. It came as natural to us as breathing.”
Love and Jackson performed with more than 30 members of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, played on 14 Grammy-winning songs, 52 No. 1 hits and 113 Top 10 singles. Together and individually, they played on 83 gold and platinum records that have sold an estimated 40 million copies.
They produced what sounded like a full horn section, a punchy and meaty attack bigger and thicker than just two instruments should be able to make.
“Stax Records would not have become what it became without them,” Stax co-owner Al Bell said Friday. “I love saxophone players, and I have many saxophone players I admire and hold in high esteem. But I have never heard a saxophone player who affects and penetrates me like Andrew Love. It was the spirit in him, and you could feel it in the music. He could arouse your deepest emotions, but he would do it gently, softly. It was like he was making love to your soul.”
The professional collaboration and lifelong friendship between Love and Jackson — one black, the other white — also came to symbolize hard-won transcendence over racial divisions throughout the South and beyond in the 1960s.
The pair played virtually as one on dozens of hits prominently featuring their work, records that regularly soared into the upper reaches of the pop and R&B sales charts through the 1960s and ‘70s.
“If you’ve ever heard the brilliant unison horns that play the starting phrases on records such as ‘Knock On Wood,’ ‘Hold On, I’m Comin’ ’ or ‘In the Midnight Hour,’ then you’ve experienced the excitement that the Memphis Horns can stir when opening a song,” fellow Memphis studio stalwart Booker T. Jones said while presenting the lifetime achievement award.
“If you call the Memphis Horns, you know what you’re going to get: solid horn lines and warm, flowing harmonies to accentuate the vocals or highlight the melody,” Jones said.
The Memphis Horns were a staple of much of the music made at Stax Records, the celebrated studio and record company that was one of the most important R&B and soul labels of the 1960s, along with Atlantic and Motown. In fact, executives at New York-based Atlantic scored numerous hits from records their artists made at Stax.
Love was born Nov. 21, 1941, in Memphis, one of two children of the Rev. Roy Love and his wife, Dolly. For more than 50 years, his father was the minister at the city’s Mt. Nebo Baptist Church, where Love’s funeral will be held April 21.
He studied psychiatry at the University of Tulsa in Oklahoma. But having grown up playing sax with the gospel band in his father’s church, he was strongly drawn to music.
Love was working at the Manhattan Club in Memphis when Jackson first heard him play. Jackson had grown up across the Mississippi River in West Memphis, Ark., and had been a member of the Mar-Keys, a white instrumental group that scored a Top 5 hit with “Last Night” for Satellite Records, which soon became Stax.
“I remember the first time we played together,” Jackson said. “I loved how our tones blended and so did Andrew. We had a unique sound.”
At the Grammy presentation, Jones described Love and Jackson’s contributions during the session that yielded Redding’s soul classic “Try a Little Tenderness.”
“Otis said he wanted to begin with a horn part that was reminiscent of a traditional Southern ballad for this slow romantic song,” Jones said. “What at first seemed a simple request morphed into a maze of musical possibilities. This note or that? Start in unison and develop into harmony. Build here, a decrescendo there.
“As the Horns patiently entertained and played through Otis’ ruminations, which he hummed to them, as well as the ideas of other musicians, including myself, I witnessed their endurance and professionalism,” he said. “The process of inclusion and elimination, which in times past might have taken only a few minutes, stretched out for more than an hour, but the simple, beautiful gem that resulted was well worth it, and we started the song with this longing, emotive phrase.
“Only the horns are heard during this introduction,” Jones said. “Plainly presented and arguably one of history’s most moving showpieces, they pave the way for Otis’ aching vocal performance.”
The Memphis Horns continued to work together until 2004, when Love’s deteriorating health prompted him to retire. Jackson has continued performing on his own.
Upon accepting the recent Grammy honor, Jackson’s voice broke as he said, “I thank and honor my best friend Andrew tonight. I wish he was here.”
In addition to his wife, Love is survived by four children, Andre Love, Vincent Thompson, Terry Lawrence and Angela Parker; his older brother, Roy Love Jr.; eight grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.