Let’s play a little word association (or phrase association as it were). What comes to mind when you hear a song described as “one of the most popular instrumental rock and soul songs ever?” One key word might have given away the answer: instrumental. While you won’t hear them as often these days, instrumentals were quite popular in the ‘50s and ‘60s, and none were better than the 1962 classic “Green Onions,” by Booker T. & the M.G.’s. The booming bass, the sweet guitar riffs, the rhythmic drums, and that iconic piano make this song one of the coolest and most recognizable in history.
A fun side note: if you’re like us, you may have wondered how this song came to be called “Green Onions.” While there doesn’t seem to be a confirmed answer, there are two prominent stories. The first story claims that it’s named after a cat whose way of walking inspired the guitar riff. Another story claims that record label Stax co-owner Jim Stewart asked Booker T. Jones why he called this song “Green Onions,” to which Jones replied, ” Because that is the nastiest thing I can think of and it’s something you throw away.” Whatever the reason for the obscure title is, we’re sure glad it exists. Check out the following live rendition from a performance in Norway from 1967.