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"Green Onions" is an instrumental R&B hit recorded in 1962 by Booker T. & the M.G.s. The tune is a 12-bar blues with a rippling Hammond organ line. The guitarist Steve Cropper used aFender Telecaster on "Green Onions" as he did on all of The M.G.'s instrumentals.[5] Originally the song issued on the Volt 102 subsidiary of Stax Records in May 1962 as the B-side to "Behave Yourself", it was quickly reissued as the A-side of Stax 127; it also appeared on the album Green Onions.[1] According to Steve Cropper, the name is not a marijuana reference, rather it is named after the Green Badger's[clarification needed] cat, Green Onions, whose way of walking inspired the riff.[6] Although, according to Songfacts.com, the song was named by Booker T. Jones stating that when asked by Jim Stewart what he'd name the song, Booker T. Jones replied "Green Onions." "Why 'Green Onions'?" Jim asked. Booker T: "Because that is the nastiest thing I can think of and it's something you throw away."[7]

On a Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me! broadcast on June 24, 2013, host Peter Sagal asked Booker T. why his song was called, "Green Onions." Booker T. said, "The bass player thought it was so funky, he wanted to call it, 'Funky Onions,' but they thought that was too low-class, so we used 'Green Onions' instead."

Single track listings[edit source | editbeta]Edit

Name Location Format Record Label Release Date
"Behave Yourself" b/w "Green Onions" US/UK 7" 45 rpm Volt Records(US) May 1962
"Green Onions" b/w "Behave Yourself" US/UK 7" 45 rpm Stax Records(US)/London Records(UK) September 1962
"Green Onions" b/w "Boot-Leg" United Kingdom 7" 45 rpm Atlantic Records March 1967

Chart performance[edit source | editbeta]Edit

"Green Onions" entered the Billboard Hot 100 the week ending August 11, 1962 and peaked at No. 3 the week ending September 29, 1962. The single also made it to No. 1 on the soul singles chart, for four non consecutive weeks: an unusual occurrence in that it fell in and out of top spot three times.[8] On the UK Singles Chart it first appeared December 15, 1979 at #74, it then hit its highest position on January 26, 1980 at #7, it then left the charts on March 1, 1980 at #51, and ended up staying on the charts for a total of 12 weeks.[9]

Similar recordings[edit source | editbeta]Edit

"Green Onions" is remarkably similar in style and chord progression to John Lee Hooker's "Onions", which appears on his 1963 album, The Big Soul of John Lee Hooker,[10]although on that LP the songwriting credit was to John L. Hooker, not Jones/Cropper/Steinberg/Jackson.[11]

Booker T & the M.G.s released a continuation of "Green Onions" titled "Mo' Onions" on the album Green Onions on November 1962 and later released it as a single in February 1964 and reached #97 on both the R&B Singles and Billboard Hot 100 charts.[12]

Sonny Boy Williamson's 1963 recording "Help Me" was based on "Green Onions" and features Willie Dixon performing an upright bass riff very similar to the riff in "Green Onions" performed by Lewie Steinberg.[13]

Legacy[edit source | editbeta]Edit

"Green Onions" was ranked No. 183 on Rolling Stone'list of the 500 greatest songs of all time. The song is currently ranked as the 85th greatest song of all time, as well as the best song of 1962, by Acclaimed Music.[14] British rhythm and blues singer Georgie Fame credited the single with being a main influence on his switch from piano to Hammond organ.

In 1999 "Green Onions" was given a Grammy Hall of Fame Award.[15]

In 2012 it was added to the Library of Congress's National Recording Registry list of "culturally, historically, or aesthetically important" American sound recordings.[16]

In popular culture[edit source | editbeta]Edit

"Green Onions" has been used extensively in radio, television, film and advertising, such as in the films American GraffitiDragon: The Bruce Lee StoryThe Flamingo KidGet ShortyHappy GilmoreHouseguestThe Sandlot and A Single Man. The song was also featured on the soundtrack to Quadrophenia. It was used in the menu screen and various cutscenes in EA's game Skate. The song is prominently used in the TNT comedy-drama series Memphis Beat. It was also featured in X-Men: First Class and was used in a commercial for the movie, Chicken Run. "Green Onions" was used in the "Bar Mitzvah Hustle" episode of American Dad! The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim played the song at Angel Stadium when the opposing team's starting lineup was being announced. A instrumental that sounded similar to "Green Onions" was used in Ed, Edd n Eddy, in the episode "Pop Goes the Ed" and other subsequent episodes. The song is featured in video game Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, on the in-game radio station Master Sounds 98.3. The song plays as part of the area music loop in Cars Land at Disney California Adventure park in Anaheim, California, which opened in 2012. The song is also heard in the Hellas World Home Video logo from Greece. An episode of BBC's Top Gear used this during a segment called "Quaint My Ride" where Jeremy modifies the inside of a Mercedes-Benz to resemble the inside of his house.

Cover versions[edit source | editbeta]Edit

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