Dunn was born in Memphis, Tennessee. He was nicknamed "Duck" while watching Disney cartoons with his father one day, Dunn grew up playing sports and riding his bike with fellow future professional musician Steve Cropper. After Cropper began playing guitar with a friend named Charlie Freeman, Dunn decided to pick up the bass guitar. Eventually, along with drummer Terry Johnson, the four became "The Royal Spades". The Messick High School group picked up keyboardist Jerry "Smoochy" Smith, singer Ronnie Angel (also known as Stoots), and a budding young horn section in baritone saxophone player Don Nix, tenor saxophone player Charles "Packy" Axton, as well as trumpeter (and future co-founder of The Memphis Horns) Wayne Jackson.
Cropper has noted how the self-taught Dunn started out playing along with records, filling in what he thought should be there. "That's why Duck Dunn's bass lines are very unique", Cropper said, "They're not locked into somebody's schoolbook somewhere". Axton's mother Estelle and her brother Jim Stewart owned Satellite Records and signed the group, who would have a national hit with "Last Night" in 1961 under their new name "The Mar-Keys". The bassist on "Last Night" was Donald "Duck" Dunn, but he left the Mar-Keys in 1962 to join Ben Branch's big band.
Booker T and the M.G.s was founded by Steve Cropper and Booker T. Jones in 1962. The original bassist, on early hits such as "Green Onions", was Lewie Steinberg; Dunn replaced him in 1965.
Stax became known for Jackson's drum sound, the sound of The Memphis Horns, and Duck Dunn's grooves. The MGs and Dunn's bass lines on songs like Otis Redding's "Respect" and "I Can't Turn You Loose", Sam & Dave's "Hold On, I'm Comin'", and Albert King's "Born Under a Bad Sign", were influential. After Dunn, Cropper, Jackson, and Jones recorded 1967's Hip Hug-Her album, they became known as more than just the Stax house band that did "Green Onions".
As an instrumental group, they continued to stretch themselves on McLemore Avenue (their reworking of The Beatles' Abbey Road album) and on their final outing, 1971's Melting Pot, where Dunn's basslines continue to be a source of inspiration for rap and hip-hop artists. In the 1970s, with Jones and Cropper gone from Stax, Dunn and Jackson remained, playing and producing. Even though they felt more and more alienated by new political forces above, they stayed with the company.
Dunn went on to play for Muddy Waters, Freddie King, and Jerry Lee Lewis, as well as Eric Clapton and Rod Stewart. He was featured bass player for Stevie Nicks and Tom Petty's "Stop Draggin' My Heart Around" single from Nicks' 1981 debut solo album Bella Donna, as well as other Petty tracks between 1976 and 1981. He reunited with Cropper as a member of Levon Helm's RCO All Stars and also displayed his quirky Southern humor making two movies with Cropper, former Stax drummer Willie Hall, and Dan Aykroyd, as a member of The Blues Brothers band. Dunn played himself in the 1980 feature, The Blues Brothers, where he had one of the most memorable lines, "We had a band powerful enough to turn goat piss into gasoline!". Dunn has recently supported Neil Young live and in the studio and still plays with Cropper and Jones, usually with the late Al Jackson, Jr.'s cousin Steve Potts on drums, as Booker T. & the MGs.
In June 2004, Dunn, Cropper, and Jones served as the house band for Eric Clapton's Crossroads Guitar Festival. The group backed such guitarists as Joe Walsh and David Hidalgo on the main stage at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas, Texas.
In 2005, Dunn's first grandchild, Michael, was born. In the 2000s, Dunn was in semi-retirement, although he still performs occasionally with Booker T & the MGs at clubs and music festivals. In 2007 Dunn and several Booker T. & the MGs members (Lewie Steinberg, Booker T. Jones, Steve Cropper, and wife of the late Al Jackson, Barbara Jackson) were given a "Lifetime Achievement" Grammy award for their contributions to popular music.
In 2008, Dunn worked with Australian soul singer Guy Sebastian touring The Memphis Album. Dunn and Steve Cropper arrived in Australia on 20 February 2008, to be Sebastian's backing band for an 18-date concert tour, The Memphis Tour.
Dunn is credited with performing on a version of the standard 'I Ain't Got Nobody' alongside Booker T Jones, Steve Cropper and Michel Gondry in Michel Gondry's 2008 film Be Kind Rewind.
Dunn currently lives in Florida.
Donald "Duck" Dunn es un bajista estadounidense de blues, soul y R&B.
Nacido en Memphis, en 1941, Donald debe su apodo a su padre, que llamaba a su hijo "Pato" por su afición al personaje de Disney Donald Duck. Sin precedentes musicales en su familia (su padre era fabricante de caramelos y se oponía firmemente a que el joven iniciase su carrera como músico), Donald comenzó a trabajar en la fábrica de su padre, pero con 16 años comenzó a tocar el bajo. Dunn ya tocaba el ukelele desde los 10 años, y había probado la guitarra, pero la encontraba muy complicada.
En 1958 Donald compró su primer Fender, un modelo Precision bass que aún conserva.1 Durante sus años de high school forma, con su amigo Steve Crooper, The Royal Spades, la primera banda de músicos blancos de Memphis en la que dejaban sentir claramente las influencias de músicos negros BB King, Ray Charles o Chuck Berry. La banda fue rebautizada como The Mar-Keys, y cuando Crooper fue contratado como músico de sesión a tiempo completo por el sello Stax, llamó enseguida a Dunn para pasar a integrar la Booker T's MGs, la banda encargada de grabar con prácticamente todos los artistas del sello nota.
Durante su estancia en Booker T & The MGs Dunn no sólo grabó discos acompañando a otros artistas, sino que también editó discos a nombre de la banda. En 1980 aparece, junto a su amigo de toda la vida Steve Crooper como miembro de la Blues Brothers Band, la banda que aparecía en el famoso film de John Belushi y Dan Aykroyd y con quien efectuaría numerosas giras posteriormente.
Desde 1992 Donald Duck Dunn es, como todos los miembros de Booker T & The MGs, miembro del Rock'n'Roll Hall Of Fame. En 2007 todos los miembros del grupo recibieron un Grammy en reconocimiento a su obra. Actualmente vive semiretirado con su familia y sólo realiza actuaciones esporádicas con Booker T & The MGs.