The story of Stax records

Jun 21, 2023By Neil Greaves
Neil Greaves

Stax Records is a legendary record label that played a significant role in shaping the sound of American soul music. Founded in Memphis, Tennessee, in 1957, Stax Records was initially called Satellite Records. It was founded by Jim Stewart and his sister, Estelle Axton, who used their last names to create the label's name.

The Early Days

Stax Records began as a small studio in a garage in Memphis, Tennessee. The label's first hit was "Cause I Love You" by Rufus and Carla Thomas. The song was a hit on the R&B charts, and it put Stax Records on the map. Soon after, the label had a string of hits, including "Green Onions" by Booker T. & the M.G.'s.

stax records

The Stax Sound

Stax Records had a distinct sound that was rooted in the blues and gospel music of the South. The label's house band, Booker T. & the M.G.'s, provided the backing for many of the label's hits. The Stax sound was characterized by its tight rhythm section, soulful vocals, and raw emotion.

The Staple Singers

One of the most successful acts on Stax Records was The Staple Singers. Led by patriarch Roebuck "Pops" Staples, the group had a string of hits in the 1960s and 1970s, including "Respect Yourself" and "I'll Take You There." The Staple Singers' music was characterized by its gospel-infused soul sound and socially conscious lyrics.

staple singers

The Decline of Stax Records

Despite its success, Stax Records faced financial difficulties in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The label's distribution deal with Atlantic Records ended in 1968, and Stax was forced to find a new distributor. In 1972, Stax Records was sold to Gulf + Western Industries, and many of its top artists left the label.

The Legacy of Stax Records

Although Stax Records was only in operation for a little over a decade, its impact on American music cannot be overstated. The label's roster of artists, which included Otis Redding, Sam & Dave, and Isaac Hayes, helped define the sound of soul music in the 1960s. Stax Records also played a significant role in the civil rights movement, with many of its artists using their music to promote social change.

otis redding

The Stax Museum of American Soul Music

Today, the legacy of Stax Records is celebrated at the Stax Museum of American Soul Music in Memphis, Tennessee. The museum features exhibits on the label's history, as well as memorabilia from its top artists. Visitors can also tour the original Stax Records studio, which has been restored to its 1960s-era appearance.

The Revival of Stax Records

In 2007, Stax Records was revived as a record label. The new Stax Records is based in Concord, California, and it has released albums by artists such as Angie Stone and William Bell. Although the new label does not have the same roster of artists as the original Stax Records, it continues to carry on the legacy of the label's sound and spirit.

stax museum

In conclusion, Stax Records is a legendary record label that played a significant role in shaping the sound of American soul music. Its roster of artists, including Otis Redding, Sam & Dave, and The Staple Singers, helped define the sound of soul music in the 1960s. Although the label faced financial difficulties in the 1970s, its legacy lives on today at the Stax Museum of American Soul Music and the revived Stax Records label.