Legendary Memphis musician Jones—leader of Stax Records house band Booker T and the MGs—doesn’t skip a beat in his soulful memoir. Born in Memphis, Tenn., in 1944, Jones discovered music early, starting on clarinet as a fourth grader playing in the junior high school band before moving on to piano and organ, playing so well that, by age 12, he was playing church tea parties, where he once accompanied gospel great Mahalia Jackson. A consummate storyteller, Jones tells of his early days at Stax and of producing his first, and still best-known, song, “Green Onions.” Throughout his career, he worked with Rita Coolidge, Bob Dylan, and Otis Redding (“Otis was made for singing heartbreaking songs, and I was made for writing unrelentingly unconventional verse and bridge changes”), among others. Jones affectionately interweaves stories about his children as well as his mother, whose 1977 death made Jones realize that “life is a song sung between the verses... and to grasp it you let it slip through your fingers.” He concludes triumphantly in 2012, when, as music director for the PBS special In Performance at the White House, President Obama told him he’d like to enter the room to “Green Onions” instead of “Hail to the Chief.” Jones’s fluid and melodious prose sings with powerful emotion. (Oct.)
One of the Oakland Press's Best Music Books of the Fall
"Booker T. Jones composed some of the finest music of the last century, and now he's given us one of the finest music books of this one."—Wall Street Journal
"Wonderfully perceptive, generous, and open-hearted memoir."—New York Journal of Books
"Vivid and thoughtful."—Memphis Flyer
"A fun, revealing look into [Jones's] life and creative process."—News & Record
"Booker T. is a great producer, a great musician, and a great friend. Those three 'greats' together pretty much let you know how I feel about Booker. He and I worked together on many projects, all were fun-just like this book, which is as joyful to read as Booker's music is to listen to."—Willie Nelson
"Booker T. will forever be known as the Booker T. from Booker T. and the MGs. But this book reveals so much more of the man."—Bob Dylan
"Booker is simply one of the tenderest-hearted people I've ever met and I'm so honored to have ever been in his company. This beautiful memoir is a near perfect reflection of the man I would walk a million miles for: engaging, unforgettable, and deeply creative."—SinéadO'Connor
"Booker, we love you and your genius ability to touch people's hearts with your organ, your music, and now your writing."—Narada Michael Walden
"The contributions by Booker T. Jones to American Popular Music are immeasurable. In Time is Tight, Booker digs deep into his soul, revealing much about the extraordinary music he has made over nearly six decades with artists as diverse as Otis Redding, Sam and Dave, Bill Withers, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Willie Nelson and, of course, Booker T. and the MG's. In between stories of musical greatness, the readers learns much about Booker's personal life and, in the process, the depth of his humanity. Intelligent and articulate to a fault, Time is Tight is one of the finest autobiographies that I have ever read."—Rob Bowman
"I have come to view Booker T and the MGs (the Mixed Group) as one of the backbones of American popular music, and if you listen to how Booker T Jones works that Hammond B3 organ on those classic songs, you realize he is playing his life, note for note. That's how it is in his memoir, Time Is Tight: With every page he strikes a heartfelt chord as he candidly reveals his life before and during his years at Stax Records, an era of racism and segregation that defined the city of Memphis, Tennessee and America. This book brings to light the honesty, grit, and integrity he displayed in his musical brilliance for more than six decades, a soundtrack of pure genius that transcends the human soul. I dare you to put this book down once you start reading it."—AlBell, former owner Stax Records, former President of The Motown Records Group
"Time Is Tight is a whirlwind tour through Booker's incredible journey from his humble beginnings in Memphis through his tenure backing up the likes of Otis Redding, Sam and Dave, Albert King and Carla Thomas to his blossoming as an acclaimed producer and songwriter. Told with heart and soul and interspersed with loving memories of his wonderful family and talented cohorts. The story is also rife with the turbulent times he has lived through from the King assassination, the fall of Stax and Al Jackson's murder. Through it all, Booker narrates with his intelligence and wit as we travel back and forth through these amazing life and times. Absolutely one of the most engaging and engrossing memoirs I have ever read."
—Patterson Hood, writer, musician, and member of Drive by Truckers
Though this memoir from Jones (b. 1944) offers few revelations, it's nonetheless an engaging, insider's view of an influential force in American music. To refer to the R&B/funk band Booker T. and the M.G.'s as the Stax Records house band is an accurate description that also misses the point; the band's role in shaping Memphis soul, and thereby everything that emerged from and came after it, is immeasurable. Anyone who has listened to Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett, Sam & Dave, or countless other artis0ts of the 1960s has heard Jones's organ or piano. Indeed, the book is at its best when Jones is talking music. Whether citing childhood influences from a family who encouraged his musical endeavors or describing the recording of the iconic "Green Onions," Jones has clearly honed his considerable innate talent over the years. The anecdotes, which take on everything from touring to juggling recording sessions and college to dealing with racism, become a framework for a text structured more around theme than chronology. This works better than one might expect; still, the effect is more akin to hearing stories over coffee than reading a straightforward memoir.
VERDICT An enjoyable and insightful read. For fans of Booker T. and the M.G.'s, the Stax era, and soul music.—Genevieve Williams, Pacific Lutheran Univ. Lib., Tacoma
The legendary Stax artist and composer looks back on a long, fruitful life in music.
"The truth is I was never in it for the money. I loved the people and the music." So writes Jones, the keyboard wizard who helmed Booker T. & The MG's, so named for a car one of their producers owned, a group that touched off a revolution in Southern soul music that cleared a path for Otis Redding, Irma Thomas, and dozens of other players. Remarkably, given the time and place, Jones' band was interracial, with guitarist Steve Cropper and, later, bassist Duck Dunn adding to the mix. The author writes about growing up in a segregated South where it was entirely unexpected that he should know the likes of Dvorak and "Clair de Lune," music that, along with church gospel, worked its way into compositions such as "Green Onions"—which, as it happens, was born as "Funky Onions" but was renamed for fear that the word would scare off listeners in that benighted time. Jones reflects deeply on matters of race and the many injustices he had to endure. He's at the top of his form, clearly enjoying the task, when he writes about music, however. One of the book's many highlights is his mystified childhood realization that while "C was the natural key for the earth, humans, and the universe at large," other chords had their say, too: B flat for the clarinet, a discovery that "wreaked havoc in my young, developing mind—to find out the C was not really a C, but a B flat in clarinet world." Fortunately, he overcame his shock to write tunes that shaped the zeitgeist of 1960s pop, such as "Hip Hug-Her" ("the sound…makes it seem like Duck is going to break the string on every note, he pulls it so hard"), and of course "Green Onions," which countless kids use to learn keyboards.
A thoughtful autobiography that takes in not just the tunes, but the times that produced them—a delight for fans.