Stax at 60: Celebrating an iconic American record label


Hi I’m Mark Wheat from The Current. We’re
celebrating Stax Records, looking back on why they’re important and some of our favorite
tracks from the label as well. [Jill Riley] Stax records is essential because it’s history,
quality and it’s a groove, it’s a feeling. [Jim McGuinn] Stax records — what an essential
sound of America in the 1960s and 1970s and while you had Motown coming out of Detroit
in the North, more industrialized society, you had Stax from the south, from Memphis,
capturing a lot of the tumult that was happening in the south in America, in that era. One
thing that’s always evident with Stax is that Black and white lived in harmony at Stax,
and that’s a beautiful thing. Especially thinking about the ‘60s, and especially
all that Memphis went through in the ‘60s with Dr. King getting shot there.
[Mark Wheat] As a Musichead, we always like to think of places being really important, and of course
Memphis, Tennessee is important, they helped put that on the map. [Jade] It helped define
the Memphis sound and gave voice to Southern Soul by launching the careers of artists like
Otis Redding, Isaac Hayes, the Staple Singers, Booker T and the MGs, and so many others.
[Mark Wheat] But their studio was important too. On East McLemore street, i think, in
Memphis. It was an old movie theater and they renovated it, but they kept the sloping floor,
and the basic main room of the cinema, which gave a lovely deep rich bass sound to everything
they recorded. Some people say you can always tell a Stax record within the first couple
of beats because of that sound. [Bill DeVille] This music sounds as good today as it did
sixty years ago when it was recorded. [Mark Wheat] That building, the original studio,
was knocked down when the label went bankrupt after a tough distribution deal with CBS in
the late ‘70s. But, miraculously, they rebuilt it and reopened it in 2003, and they did it
so well that people who had been in the old one, went in the new one and said “it’s
the same place!” But it wasn’t – it was rebuilt … to spec! So they recreated
history. So not only were they important back in the ‘60s and the ‘70s, but they’re
back being an important label, keeping that music alive, and actually creating a studio
that young musicians can now come and record in. [Jim McGuinn] Some of the greatest music
ever recorded came out of Stax. [Bill DeVille] I love the music of Stax records.

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