Stax Records pioneered the Southern Soul sound, a musical genre as beloved today as it was in the Sixties. Soak in the history of this incredible music label at the Stax Museum of American Soul Music right in the heart of Soulsville USA.
Barbecue sandwiches may be a delicious part of the Memphis legacy, but they’re only a part of the story. It’s impossible to think about Memphis without thinking about the music, if you’ve heard a Southern soul record sometime in the last 50 years, you’ve heard the influence of Stax Records.
Hundreds of records were produced here by some of the most beloved soul and R&B bands in the world. The surrounding neighborhood is even named Soulsville, USA, if that gives you an idea of how important Stax Records is to the city.
The original recording studio may have closed in the late ’70s, but it has been lovingly restored, allowing music fans to come and pay homage to some of the best music ever made.
We got a chance to catch up with the museum’s executive director, Jeff Kollath, and he painted a picture of humble beginnings and incredible achievements.
First, though, we walked in to a church. That’s right, a church. When they rebuilt the museum they brought the church all the way up from the Mississippi delta, back to the roots of the music. The church is their way of paying homage to the spirituals and gospel music that are the foundation of soul. As our friend Jeff said, “blues and soul are Saturday night, and gospel is Sunday morning.”
Studio A is where titans of American music like Otis Redding, Isaac Hayes, The Staple Singers, and Booker T and the Em-Gees recorded hundreds of award-winning records. To people who know recording, they sound of a Stax record is instantly recognizable. The room was built in an old theater, which gave it a distinct sound. Especially in early recordings, the room was usch an important part of the final record. The space at Stax was just about perfect acoustically, and it left it’s mark on the music.
The museum is full of original instruments, stage clothes, and a copy of every single Stax record ever made. The showpiece, though, is the stuff of Memphis legend – Isaac Hayes 1972 Cadillac El Dorado. It features a refrigerator, a TV, and a purple sheepskin interior. If you grew up in Memphis, you may even remember the car being driven around.
Thank you, Stax, for showcasing such an important piece of American history!