“Hold On, I’m Coming” — Sam and Dave

No Words, No Song
5 min readApr 20, 2019

I caught a TV documentary about classic Memphis record label Stax the other evening, which was, of course, a great excuse for the documentary makers to weave in a host of classic Stax tracks while they told their story.

In amongst the soundtrack of this documentary, jam-packed with some of the most memorable songs of the 1960s, was the unmistakable horn refrain from one of my all-time favourite soul tracks, “Hold On, I’m Coming” by Sam and Dave.

Throughout the 1960s and 70s, the name “Stax” was synonymous with “soul”. They even branded themselves “Soulsville USA”, riffing on Motown’s “Hitsville USA” strapline.

The Stax sound remains one of my favourites to this day. And Stax got that sound, in large part, due to the Stax house band, an incredibly tight and skilful unit which was easily at least the equal of other great studio bands of that era — the Funk Brothers at Motown, the Swampers in Muscle Shoals and a handful of others.

To perfect their funky, soulful sound, Stax stuck with two main components right through the studio’s golden era.

The label’s “house band” was the fusing together of two great bands in their own right. First, the Mar-Keys, Stax’s original house band with wonderful musicians like Steve Cropper on guitar, Duck Dunn on bass and trumpet player Wayne Jackson among others.

A kid called Booker T Jones started working at Stax in the early 1960s and the Mar-Keys largely morphed into Booker T and the MGs who had a US Top 3 hit of their own in 1962 with the instrumental “Green Onions”… (here if you need a reminder).

Unusually for the time, the studio band who made the recording also went on the road with the Stax artists. If you watch the video below, you’ll see Booker T and the MGs getting a shout-out.

Also unusually for the time, if you watch the “Green Onions” video above, you’ll note that Booker T and the MGs was a fully-integrated band who demonstrated that black people and white people could work perfectly well together, contrary to some views at the time, while creating beautiful music to make the world a better place along the way.

You might think that a combination of the Mar-Keys and Booker T and the MGs was enough to be getting on with, but that’s not all…Isaac Hays, who would go on to enjoy tremendous success of his own with “The Theme From ‘Shaft’” (here) in the early 1970s, was also a prominent…

No Words, No Song

Without words, it’s just a nice tune. Add words — now you’ve got a song. And songs can change your world. I write about some that changed mine.