The Impact of Stax Records on Music History

The Impact of Stax Records on Music History John W McDonald COM/172 April 20, 20011 Ms. Keller The Impact of Stax Records on Music History In 1958, a brother and sister started a small record label called “Satellite ” in Brunswick, Tn. Jim Stewart and Estelle Axton had a dream of putting out records and recording artists of all types. They both took out loans and mortgage, and quit their jobs, too make this dream come true. During the spring months of 1959, Stewart recorded and produced his first black group, the Veltones (Stax Records, 2011).

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In 1960, they moved the label back to Memphis, to rent the old Capitol Theater located at College and Mclemore. There they converted the candy shop that located next door to the theatre into a small record shop to make extra income for the recording studio. They named the record store “Satellite Records. ” In 1960, Stewart recorded a group called the Mar-Keys. The Mar-Keys recorded an instrumental named “Last Night” that became a big hit for Estelle and Jim.

When this song started up the charts, Jim Stewart became aware of another record company in California called “Satellite” so rather than risking litigation, the name of the company was changed to “Stax,” the ST from Stewart and the AX from Axton (Stax Records, 2011). Stax Records brought together many soul artists to their label. Musicians from all different races were coming together and playing and recording their passions through music. Even though prejudice was running through Americas veins at that time, Stax Records was able to bring both white and black musicians together.

Stax Records made a major impact on music history, by breaking the race barriers, and brought yesterdays and today’s society together through their love of music. As the early 1960s were coming alive, Memphis was thriving with all types of music. Music was everywhere in Memphis, from North Memphis, South Memphis, and all the way downtown by the river. Many people were putting their namesake on music history. From Sam Phillips Sun Studio, to Jerry and Estelle down on McLemore and College Avenue, music was recorded and distributed. Stax

Records had a list of national acts signed to their label. The roster included Booker T and The MGs, Issaic Hayes, Otis Redding, Carla and Rufus Thomas, The Memphis Horns, and so many others. Stax was a home and way of being too so many musicians. Some musicians even lived blocks away from the studio. Stax was bringing white and black musicians together to mold some of the best R and B and Soul music around. Music was in the air, and the world was about to get a taste of it. As the sixties roared on, so did the Stax label took the United Kingdom by storm.

The Europe shows for the Stax family were very memorable. The bands were treated like royalty from the adoring fans and reporters. The Beatles sent limos to greet Otis Redding and even stopped studio time, while recording “Seargent Pepper” to spend a night partying with Otis (Stax: The heart and soul, 2007). The fans were eating up the music, the musicians were dishing out. Otis was a major success during the Stax UK shows (Palmer,2003). After returning from an unforgettable performance in Europe, Otis Redding’s performance at the Monterey Pop Music Festival was a major hit.

But back in his home state of Georgia, he still had to face racial hatred (Stax; The heart and soul, 2011). Next for Otis came the smash hit “(Sittin’ on) the Dock Of the Bay”, which Otis never got to see the song, hit the charts. Otis was killed in a plane crash on the way to a concert in 1968. This young musician died at the early age of 26 (Martin, 2007). During the late sixties there was a lot of racial tension in the South. Though there was tension all around, it was not prevalent in the halls of Stax. Many musicians of both color, were laying down tracks left and right.

One fateful day, would bring all that to a screeching halt. On April 4, 1968, Martin Luther King Jr. was assiniated in Memphis. This brought outrage to the black community in South Memphis. “Shortly after the news of King’s death spread, William was among several black musicians who had to escort Steve Cropper and Duck Dunn of Booker T and the Mgs, out past and angry mob outside the McLemore Avenue recording studio”(Martin,2007). After the death of Ottis Redding and Martin Luther King Jr. emotions changed a lot around Stax.

Jim Stewart brought in a young man from an eastern record label, named Al Bell to help run Stax. Bell with the help of Issaic Hayes started to take the helm at the label. In 1969, Hayes talked Bell into releasing the record, “Hot Buttered Soul” (Palmer,2007). Making this move, showed record executives at the label, that he was ready to become the driving force behind Stax. Hit after hit came for Hayes and even picked up a Grammy in 1971. Along the way, Hayes picked up the name “Black Moses” and even named an album after the nickname. The money began rolling in after that.

New musicians were hired and with that change, many musicians of the old era, began to retire and part ways. “The flash, the polish that would give rise to the new blaxploitation image of the new Stax sound was beginning to outgrow the oringinal”(Curtiss, 2008). Stax kept the music coming during the early seventies. Artists such as the Staples Singers made a big mark on soul-gospel music with their hit “I’ll Take You There,” that became a huge success. Through their success, Stax would only last a couple a couple of more years, until the music market would make a shift.

In 1975, shifting the ears of music listeners, Disco made a big impact on the music market. Stax Records started showing signs of struggling, with high artist demands and pressure from the city. Resources were in distress at the label, and Al Bell was not able to pay his employees. Stax was forced, to do an unthinkable move in music industry to file bankruptcy. Over the next couple of years, Stax’s assists were sold and in 1977, the building was sold for a mere dollar. The legacy of Stax has not been lost beneath the rubble.

With many soul artists still around, the soul tradition kept pumping through the ears of music listeners in the eighties. Willie Mitchell and Al Green kept the dream alive with Memphis-based HI Records. The memories of Stax Records still live on today. Many great influences have inspired so many musicans today. The sounds of Rhythm and Blues still fill the streets of McLemore and College Avenue. A great note still hangs down on that street, as the Stax Museum of American Soul Music opened its door in 2003. Music fans from all over the country that love Soul can still get a taste of it with the legacy still strong.

Reference Curtiss, J. (2008). Online exclusive: stax/volt. Retrieved from http://www. americansongwriter. com/2008/05/online-exclusive-staxvolt History of rock. (2011). Stax records. Retrieved from http://www. history-of-rock. com/stax_records. htm Martin, G. (2007). Stax: the heart of soul. The independent. Retrieved from http://www. independent. co. uk/arts-entertainment/music/features/stax-the-heart-of-soul-434649. html Palmer, R. (2003). The history of stax. wattsstax. Retrieved from http://www. wattstax. com/backstory/staxhistory. html


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