NEW YORK - Andrew Love, a tenor saxophonist who as half of the Memphis Horns helped define what came to be known as the Memphis sound, infusing 83 gold and platinum records with instrumental buoyancy, died Thursday at his home in Memphis. He was 70.
The cause of death was complications of Alzheimer’s disease, said his wife, Willie.
Mr. Love was black, tall, and laid back. His musical partner, the trumpeter Wayne Jackson, was white, short, and intense. After meeting at Stax Records in the mid-1960s, they became a singular musical force, backing up label performers like Otis Redding, Sam and Dave, Rufus and Carla Thomas, and Isaac Hayes.
They went on to add ballast and blast to soul performers on other labels, like Atlantic’s Aretha Franklin and Wilson Pickett.
The Memphis Horns helped shape classic records like Elvis Presley’s “Suspicious Minds,’’ Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline,’’ Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together’’ and Dusty Springfield’s “Son of a Preacher Man.’’ They backed up Stephen Stills, Rod Stewart, the Doobie Brothers, Joe Cocker, Sting, Bonnie Raitt, Peter Gabriel, U2, Jimmy Buffett, Willie Nelson, B.B. King, and Robert Cray.
When Mr. Love and Jackson toured, they sometimes hired others to expand their sound. But the preponderance of their work was in the studio, where they added their artistry to recordings they had never heard before.
They worked out their arrangements spontaneously. After listening to a few bars of a recording, Mr. Love might “hear’’ a saxophone lick and Jackson a trumpet lick, Mr. Love told The Commercial Appeal of Memphis in 1996. They would devise lines on the spot and hum them to each other, then practice them briefly and record their parts twice, effectively doubling the instruments. The third time through, Jackson would add a part on trombone.
Even with gold records to hang on their walls, the two musicians remained in the background, or at least until this February, when the Memphis Horns received a lifetime achievement Grammy. The only previous group of backing musicians to receive that honor were Motown’s Funk Brothers. Neil R. Portnow, president of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences called the Horns “the breath of soul.’’
Andrew Maurice Love was born in Memphis in 1941, three days before Jackson. He got his first saxophone in the ninth grade from his mother, a church organist. His father, the minister of Mount Nebo Baptist Church, was pleased when his son played “Amazing Grace’’ there. He was less charmed when he began playing in nightclubs the next year.
After attending Langston University in Oklahoma for a year on a music scholarship, Mr. Love did recording for Hi Records in Memphis. After hearing that Stax, which preferred horns to backup singers, was looking for a saxophonist, he got a job there. The next day he was playing with Jackson on a Rufus Thomas record.
“His individual tone and mine blended in a certain way that was unique.’’ Jackson told The Commercial Appeal this year. “We realized it from the start. You can’t make that stuff happen. It was fate.’’
Fate may have also intervened on Dec. 10, 1967, when the two musicians had been scheduled to tour with Otis Redding. But they had ended up staying in Memphis to overdub the horn parts to Redding’s “(Sittin’ on) the Dock of the Bay.’’ Redding’s plane crashed that day in a Wisconsin lake, killing Redding and many others on board. Only one musician survived.
In 1969, Mr. Love and Jackson left Stax because the label wanted them to record for it exclusively. For the next 30 years, they lent their distinctive sound to countless singers. “They all got a little Memphis on them,’’ Jackson said.
Mr. Love’s Alzheimer’s disease had kept him from working since 2004, when the Memphis Horns recorded an instrumental album, “Perkin’ It Up.’’ It was released last November in honor of their 70th birthdays.