In Chinese philosophy, yin and yang describe how seemingly contrary forces may actually be complementary and interconnected, and how the interrelation of the two helps to strengthen each individual piece.

In the world of music, there may be no better representation of this concept than the Memphis Horns, the duo of saxophonist Andrew Love (tall, black, and suave) and trumpeter Wayne Jackson (short, white, and intense) who went on to play on a staggering 83 gold and platinum albums, 116 Top Ten records, and 15 Grammy-winning records.

Long before they were global ambassadors to the “Memphis sound,” Love and Jackson--who were born three days apart in 1941--were just kids with an early passion for music. Wayne Jackson began playing the trumpet in his hometown of West Memphis, Arkansas, at the age of eleven, while across the river in Memphis, Andrew Love was honing his skills playing at Mt. Nebo Baptist Church, where his father was the preacher.

By high school, each had already secured a place in some of the city’s most celebrated bands. Jackson was a member of The Mar-Keys, an instrumental band that also included future legends Steve Cropper, Duck Dunn, Packy Axton, and Don Nix. The group scored one of Stax Records’ earliest hits with the 1961 song “Last Night.” Meanwhile, Love was cutting his teeth down the road at Willie Mitchell’s Hi Records, where he was said to be Mitchell’s favorite horn player.




Top 10 Records

Gold and Platinum Albums

Grammy-winning records

I knew that they would blend in the most natural, beautiful way.

Al Jackson, Jr

A Musical Connection

In 1965, Booker T. & the MGs’ drummer Al Jackson, Jr. recommended that Love join the Stax Records family, where horns had largely taken the place of backup singers. The brass session players at Memphis studios would include, in addition to Love and Jackson, horn greats like Gene “Bo-Legs” Miller, Floyd Newman, Joe Arnold and Ben Cauley at Stax and Lewis Collins, Jack Hale, Jr., Ed Logan, James Mitchell, Roger Hopps and others at Royal Studios. Major producers like Atlantic’s Jerry Wexler would call Jackson and say, “Wayne, baby, I need some of them Memphis horns!” The day after Andrew Love joined Stax, he found himself in the studio recording alongside Wayne Jackson on a song for Rufus Thomas. Although Love and Jackson had not worked together previously, they had become familiar with each other’s work from gigging at local clubs.

“The first time I heard Andrew was at the Manhattan Club in Memphis with the Willie Mitchell Band. I knew we would be perfect together. He had a big tone, and I had a big tone. I knew that they would blend in the most natural, beautiful way,” Jackson said.

While the duo of Love and Jackson had an instant musical connection, they also developed a deep friendship, somewhat of a rarity in the racially tumultuous times of the 1960’s. “Musicians are musicians… if you can play, you’re alright with me,” Love told NPR in 2003. Jackson held a similar view, telling author Robert Gordon “Other people might spout philosophical about being white, being black, but when you saw Wayne and Andrew onstage, you couldn’t imagine that anyone had any trouble down South, ‘cause we had so much fun. And we sounded so good together.”

Horns for Hire

Despite the tragic deaths of Redding and Martin Luther King, Jr., both of which cast a long shadow over both Stax Records and the city as a whole, the Memphis Horns (as they were now called) continued to pile up hit songs. The group quickly became one of the hottest commodities in popular music and artists and record labels hungry for a bit of their Memphis magic began desperately attempting to book sessions with the group. Stax, however, wanted exclusivity. Faced with the difficult decision of whether to stay or venture out on their own, the two eventually decided to freelance and officially departed from Stax in 1969. “We needed to be making money every day with those horns,” Jackson explained.

As a horn section for hire, the Memphis Horns would add their signature “fat Memphis sound” to hit tracks from fellow Bluff City legends like Elvis Presley (“Suspicious Minds”), Al Green (“Let’s Stay Together”), and Ann Peebles (“I Can’t Stand the Rain”), as well as to records from non-Memphians like the Doobie Brothers, Willie Nelson, Neil Diamond, and countless others. “They all got a little Memphis on them,” Wayne Jackson said.

In the 1980s and ‘90s, the Memphis Horns worked extensively with the blues act The Robert Cray Band, playing on five of the band’s albums. They also continued to provide horns to some of the biggest artists of the era, including stints with U2, Sting, Peter Gabriel, and Billy Joel. Despite their unparalleled career, the Memphis Horns remained relatively unknown outside of the music industry. That all changed in 2012 when the group became only the second “backing group” to be awarded the Grammy’s Lifetime Achievement Award, arguably the most prestigious award I music. Only a few weeks after receiving the award, Andrew Love lost his battle to Alzheimers. Wayne Jackson passed away in 2016.

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Itta Benna Funk
The Memphis Horns
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Peter Gabriel
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Knock On Wood
Otis Redding & Carla Thomas

They all got a little Memphis on them.

Wayne Jackson

An Enduring Legacy

For nearly 50 years, Jackson and Love played together on some of the most beloved songs of the 20th Century, providing the blueprint on which hundreds of other horn players would base their careers. Above all else, though, the Memphis Horns are a testament to the power of friendship, dedication, and craft. “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 every day and share our unique gifts,” Wayne Jackson said in 2012. “How fortuitous of God to have put the two of us together.”


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