Wayne Jackson, trumpet player and one-half of the legendary horn section the Memphis Horns, died Tuesday night of congestive heart failure at a Memphis hospital. Jackson’s wife Amy confirmed the trumpeter’s death to The Associated Press. He was 74.
“He was a beautiful soul who touched the world with his trumpet,” Amy Jackson wrote of her husband on Facebook. “As we mourn his passing, we also celebrate his incredible musical legacy, which he leaves us with. God gave him a gift, and he used it to the fullest… He loved his family, his friends and his fans the world over.”
Born in West Memphis, Arkansas, Jackson rose to prominence while still in high school as a member of Stax Records’ famed studio band the Mar-Keys, a crew of expert musicians that included guitarist Steve Cropper, bassist Donald “Duck” Dunn, keyboardist Booker T. Jones, organist Isaac Hayes and saxophonist Andrew Love, Jackson’s future Memphis Horns partner.
“Back then, we had to do those songs from front to back with no mistakes and with good feelings,” Jackson wrote in the bio on his website. “That’s what made musicians out of us. That’s what trained us. Now musicians all around the world judge their performances against those records with us on them, and that’s why we’re heroes.”
Jackson’s trumpet features on a wide range of classic LPs and singles from that era, including Otis Redding’s Otis Blue and Dictionary of Soul, Dusty Springfield’s Dusty in Memphis (including “Son of a Preacher Man”), Sam & Dave’s “Soul Man” and many more soul standards.
In 1969, Jackson and Love split from Stax to form their own Memphis Horns, and the duo would quickly find work adding their trademark brass sound to albums and singles like Al Green’s Let’s Stay Together, Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline” and Elvis Presley’s “Suspicious Minds,” to name only a few.
In the ensuing decades, the Memphis Horns were recruited to record with artists like U2 (“Angel of Harlem”), Peter Gabriel (“Sledgehammer”), Neil Young and Billy Joel, and tour with acts ranging from Rod Stewart and Joe Cocker to Jimmy Buffett and the Doobie Brothers. Jackson also performed on Jack White and Alicia Keys’ Quantum of Solace theme “Another Way to Die.”
In a tally on Jackson’s website, the trumpeter claimed that he appeared on 52 Number One songs, 83 gold and platinum-selling albums, 116 Top Ten records and 15 Grammy-winning records. Jackson and Love were given Grammy Lifetime Achievement Awards for their contribution to music in 2012; a few months later, Love died of complications with Alzheimer’s disease.
“How fortuitous of God to have put the two of us together,” Jackson said at the time of Love’s death. “The first time I heard Andrew play I knew we would be perfect together. He had a big tone, and I had a big tone. And I knew that they would blend in the most natural, beautiful way. We loved to laugh together. We laughed and traveled all over the world making records and touring with artists of all genres. We got to do what we loved everyday and share our unique gifts.”