What is: Stax Records, “Soulsville USA” Memphis, Tennessee. Its Founder, Jim Stewart, died this week at age 92.
What was: It was the late 1950s and Jim Stewart, a white Tennessee farm boy and fiddle player, co-founded with his sister the influential Stax Records in a Black, inner-city Memphis neighborhood. They helped build the soulful “Memphis sound” – a raw sound born from Black church music, the blues and rock ‘n’ roll. It featured strong rhythm sections, powerful horn players, and singers who could be sexy and soulful in one tune, and loud and forceful in another.
During the era of racial strife, white musicians and producers worked alongside Black singers, songwriters and instrumentalists to create that “Memphis sound” embodied by Otis Redding, Isaac Hayes, Booker T. and the MGs, Carla and Rufus Thomas, the Staple Singers, Wilson Pickett, Sam & Dave and many others. The recording produced lasting hits such as Otis Redding’s “Dock of the Bay,” Eddie Floyd’s “Knock on Wood,” Sam & Dave’s “Hold On, I’m Comin'” and “Soul Man,” and “Green Onions” by Booker T. and the M.G.s. Stax and its affiliated record labels released 300 albums and 800 singles between 1959 and 1975, according to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Stewart told The Associated Press in a May 2013 interview, “There was so much talent here, under circumstances that were almost considered impossible in Memphis, Tennessee in 1960, with the racial situation here. It was a sanctuary for all of us to get away from the outside world.”
Isaac Hayes’ cadillac here