Stax: A Brief History
Started by the brother and sister team of Jim Stewart and Estelle Axton, Stax Records began humbly enough in Stewart's garage in 1957. Ten years later, Stax had introduced icons like Otis Redding, Sam & Dave, and Booker T. and the MGs to the world. In the process, Memphis (via Stax) achieved the status of Soulsville USA.
In the next ten years under the direct leadership of Al Bell, Stax became a voice for Black America reflecting both a sense of achievement through the Civil Rights Movement and righteous anger from the time all of this change was taking. This era of Stax's history was marked by the massively successful Wattstax festival in 1972.
Isaac Hayes Standing Triumphantly On Stage at Wattstax with Jesse Jackson
Stax Records ultimately demonstrated the creative powers of the South. From the beginning, it was racially diverse both in its artist roster and in its ownership. It gave the world artists that still reverberate through our collective culture.
STAX remains a culturally icon for the city of Memphis and the Footprint at large.
Stax Artist Interviews
(member of Booker T and the MGs, Stax's original house band, Stax producer, Stax writer of hits like "Sittin' On The Dock Of The Bay" "In The Midnight Hour" and "Soul Man")
Delaney & Bonnie
(One of the first white acts signed to Stax)
For all things Delaney and Bonnie here at Swampland:
Extended Members of the Stax Family
Tom Dowd (The late Atlantic Records' engineering wiz)
Dowd rebuilt the studio's mono Ampex 350. As Tom recalls:
The next morning, Sunday, I went by the studio to make sure all of my handiwork was up to snuff, when in walked Rufus Thomas. He was passing the studio on his way home from church, . . . and when he saw what was going on he asked if the band would record a little song he had just written, sort of a test. I chucked a reel of tape on the machine and we made perhaps as many as three passes at the song.
When I left Memphis I took along a copy of the Rufus "demo" to play for the people in New York to indicate that everything in Memphis was back in good running order. That song was released as a single and became popular under the title of "Walkin' the Dog".
This sequence of events seems to have endeared me in the hearts of everyone connected with Stax. As the years rolled by I was asked by Jim Stewart, Steve Cropper and some of the Stax artists to visit Memphis whenever they were recording.
Phil Walden (Manager of Otis Redding, Sam & Dave; Founder of Capricorn Records)
Phil Walden managed Otis Redding, and he also put together the first European tour of Stax artists.
As manager of the label's first and biggest star, Walden was a driving force behind Stax's path to soul music glory.
Stanley Booth (Famed Writer from Waycross, GA)
Booth lived in Memphis and spent extensive time at Stax. He wrote about witnessing Otis Redding and Steve Cropper writing "Sittin' On The Dock Of The Bay" in his epic book, Rythm Oil.
Features on Artists Influenced by Stax
Swampland's Stax-related Dispatches
RIP Isaac Hayes (August 08)
A Forgotten Hero: Chips Moman (July 08)
An American Hero: Steve Cropper (July 08)
The Blessing of Mavis Staples (April 08)
Otis Redding Film Premier (Oct 07)
Macon's Tribute To Otis Redding - (Sept 07)
Luther Ingram Dead at 69 (Mar 07)
Sir Mack Rice Keeps On Keepin' On (Feb 07)
Concord Music Group Reactivates STAX (Dec 06)
Reviews of Stax Records Reissues
Reviews of former Stax Artists
Other Stax Links