RESPECT YOURSELF: The Story of STAX Records

STAX

RESPECT YOURSELF: THE STORY OF STAX RECORDS Bloomsbury USA

Author Robert Gordon has been writing about the music of Memphis for almost 30 years. In Respect Yourself: The Story of STAX Records Mr. Gordon not only tells the story of STAX but also the story of the Civil Rights movement in Memphis.  Passionately written and meticulously researched this book takes you from the label’s meager beginnings in a garage outside Memphis to it’s bankruptcy in 1975.   Along with Mr. Gordon’s narration you hear from the people that made STAX happen, making this book one of a kind.

A LITTLE STAX HISTORY…

Started by Jim Stewart and his sister Estelle Axton in 1957, STAX Records was more then just a record label.  It was a voice in the community.  The label’s open door policy made it possible for anyone to come in off the street and set up an audition. It didn’t matter where you were from or what the color of your skin was, you were welcomed at STAX as long as you had a passion for music.

Right from the beginning STAX did things it’s own way. Segregation may have been alive and well in Memphis during the 1960’s, but that didn’t stop STAX founder Jim Stewart from hiring an African American DJ named Al Bell to be his lead promotions man.  Working together side by side Jim, Estelle, and Al turned STAX records from a little indie label into a household name!  STAX artists like Otis Redding, Booker T. & The MG’s, Carla Thomas, and William Bell put the label on the map with singles that started appearing on the R&B and Pop charts.  Money was coming in and things were really rolling, until one very dark December day in 1967…

Today many people can remember exactly where they were when they learned that the plane carrying Otis Redding and The Bar-Keys went down. Otis was the soul of STAX and the voice of soul music.  A few months later while the people of STAX were still grieving over the loss of Otis and the Bar Keys their world was rocked again.  On the evening of April 4, 1968  Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis.  Needless to say, after the assassination of Dr. King everything was different, especially in Memphis.  If all this wasn’t enough,  the label’s distributor Atlantic Records ended it’s relationship with STAX.  With it’s biggest star gone and no way to get music to the stores most label’s would have called it a day, but most labels didn’t have Al Bell.  It was then that Al and the folks at STAX hunkered down and staged one of the biggest comebacks in music history.

The early 70’s found STAX again at the top of the Soul music world. This time around STAX would reach heights that were even greater then it did in the 1960’s.  Al Bell gained full control of the label and STAX rode the success of artists like Isaac Hayes, The Emotions, Johnnie Taylor, and The Staple Singers all the way to the top of the charts.  Sadly this rebirth would be short lived as some questionable business decisions and over expatiation lead to STAX eventually having to declaring bankruptcy in 1975.

 

MAVIS STAPELS One True Vine

Mavis-Staples

MAVIS STAPLES  One True Vine (Anti)

For Fans of: Aretha Franklin, The Staple Singers, Bonnie Raitt, and Tracy Chapman

Mavis Staples and Jeff Tweedy have teamed up once again to give us another album that is sure to become a Mavis Staples classic, One True Vine. Like it’s predecessor, You Are Not Alone, the music on One True Vine is a mix of covers and Jeff Tweedy originals all of which fit perfectly together and give the album a nice organic sound. The cover songs chosen for the album consist mainly of traditional Gospel tunes except for Funkadelic’s “Can You Get To That?” from their masterpiece album Maggot Brain!  One of the album’s strongest moments  is the song “I Like The Things About Me“.  Originally written by Mavis’ father Pops Staples for the Staple Singers this is a song that should be playing on everyone’s MP3 player and stereo from now on!  As for the Tweedy originals, both the title track “One True Vine” and “Jesus Wept” have nice Gospel-Country vibe and are just begging to be performed live. Which brings me to another point, if you’ve never been to a Mavis Staples performance now’s your chance.  She has live dates scheduled in the States and Europe all the way into 2014!  So make sure to keep an eye out for this soulful songbird who after 63 years in the business seems to only be getting better.