The Stax Museum of American Soul Music is located at 926 East McLemore Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee. It is the former location of Stax Records which is an American record label based in Memphis.The record label was influential in creating Southern soul and Memphis soul music. They have also released blues, funk, and gospel recordings.The museum is operated by Soulsville USA which also operates the Stax Music Academy that is adjacent to it.
In 1976, Stax Records went bankrupt and had closed. Their studio was sold by the Union Planters Bank to Southside Church of God in Christ that is located near McLemore Avenue. In 1989, it was torn down after it was used as a soup kitchen. But a group of concerned people and anonymous philanthropists organized a nonprofit revitalization effort for the area in 1998. It was dubbed as the Soulsville after the slogan “Soulsville USA” which Stax called its studio on its former theater marquee.
The construction of the Stax Museum began in April 2001 and it opened in May 2003. It is a replica of the Stax recording studio, the former Capitol Theater, and the sloping floor of studio A. The museum is 17,000 square foot in size and it contains over 2,000 videos, films, photographs, original instruments used to record Stax hits, interactive exhibits, stage costumes, and other memorabilia.
Some of the wonderful exhibits you can see when you visit the Stax Museum include an authentic 101-year-old Mississippi Delta church to help show the gospel roots of soul music, the Soul Train dance floor, Isaac Hayes’ restored 1972 gold-trimmed Cadillac El Dorado, and a changing gallery where special exhibits change five times every year. Stax Museum celebrates the legacy of Stax Records and its artists such as Otis Redding, Isaac Hayes, Carla Thomas, and more. Aside from that, it also features other soul music labels like Atlantic Records, Hi Records, and Muscle Shoals.
The Most Successful Artists from Stax
Here are some of the most successful artists to come out of Stax:
- Booker T. & the MG’s: They werea rhythm & blues instrumental band.They aresignificant in creating the sound of Southern soul and as well as Memphis soul. The band was composed of Booker T. Jones on organ and piano, Lewie Steinberg on bass, Steve Cropper on guitar, and Al Jackson, Jr. on drums.
- Carla Thomas: She is often referred to as the Queen of Memphis Soul. She recorded a duet with her father Rufus Thomas, “Because I Love You” at the age of 17 and it became a Southern hit, giving the Stax Records its first real success.
- Otis Redding: He was an American, highly influential, rhythm and blues and soul singer. His singing style had influenced a lot of other soul artists of the 1960s and he’s considered as one of the greatest singers in the history of American popular music.
- Eddie Floyd: He is a soul and R&B singer-songwriter who is popular for his work on Stax Records in the 60s and 70s. Aside from having great hits on his own like the soul music anthem “Knock On Wood”, he also wrote songs for other artists like “You Don’t Know What You Mean to Me” for Sam & Dave.
- The Staple Singers: They were an American soul, R&B, and gospel singing group from Chicago who signed their first professional contract with Stax in 1952. The group was composed of Roebuck “Pops” Staples who is the patriarch of the family together with his children Cleotha, Pervis, Yvonne, and Mavis. The group is best-remembered for their 1970s hits such as “Respect Yourself” and “I’ll Take You There”.
- Isaac Hayes: He was an influential singer, musician, songwriter, arranger, producer, and actor and one of the key creative forces behind Memphis’ Stax Records. His recording career began in 1962 and he soon played saxophone for The Bar-Kays. He had also written lots of hits for Stax artists such as Sam & Dave and Carla Thomas.
- Sam & Dave: They were an American duowho performed rhythm and blues, and soul music from 1961 to 1981. Sam Moore was the tenor voice and David Prater was the baritone voice. From 1965 to 1968, they had consistent R&B chart success with 10 consecutive top 20 singles and 3 consecutive top 10 albums.
- The Bar-Kays: They were a popular Memphis soul, R&B, and funk group who began performing in 1966. They began at Stax Records as a favorite soul studio sessions group backing major artists and they were also choses by Otis Redding in 1967 to play as his touring backup band.
- Albert King: He was an American blues singer and guitarist, and one of the “Three Kings of the Blues Guitar” along with Freddie King and B.B. King. He signed with the Stax Record label in 1966 and released an album in 1967 called Born Under a Bad Sign. The title track of that album became King’s best known songs.
- William Bell: He was an American songwriter and soul singer, and one of the finest of the Stax soul artists. William Bell was similar to Otis Redding because he can tell a story with great sincerity and flawless musicality. He is best known for his 1961 debut single, “You Don’t Miss Your Water”.
If you want to visit the Stax Museum of American Music, it is open from Tuesday to Sunday from 10 am to 5 pm. It is another wonderful place to stopover in Memphis. You will definitely learn a lot about Stax Records and soul music in this museum.