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Stax: A Soulful Journey Through History

During the emergence of the rock and roll genre in the late 50s, a small record studio in the heart of Memphis would rise to prominence. This record studio would help shape the landscape of the genre and shine a light on the gems that made music what it is today.

Stax Records, formerly known as Satellite Records, was built from humble beginnings in a newly renovated movie theater. Jim Stewart, the founder and first owner of Stax Records, mortgaged his family home to invest a large sum of money in the company. 

The studio quickly began to gain traction, mostly due to its unique characteristics. The raw energy and top-tier production with low-tier tools helped paint Stax Records as a perennial powerhouse record studio. 

One of the more defining features of Stax Records was the integrated approach taken with music production. Being one of the first record studios in the Deep South to welcome Black artists and engineers, Stax helped start and ignite the careers of artists and groups such as Otis Redding, Sam & Dave, Soul Children and many more.

Not only did these artists generate commercial success, but they also paved the way for other Black artists and producers to be allowed into originally segregated studios. Songs from these artists were perceived as anthems for all people seeking social change and racial equality. 

‘Despite the label being dissolved in 1975 due to legal and financial disputes, Stax reemerged in 1978, featuring a new roster of influential artists. These artists/groups include the Bar-Keys, William Bell, Rufus Thomas, Soulive and more.`

In 1989, the original Stax Records recording hall was demolished, leading to over a decade of limbo for the label and listeners. However, in 2003, the Soulsville Foundation, a non-profit organization, helped financially construct a replica rebuild. On May 2, 2003, the Stax Museum of American Soul was born. 

The museum also brought a brand new recording studio, which, to this day, is used for various community programs and events. 

Stax Records has a tremendous legacy that shows how music is able to transcend racial barriers and unite people. While some of these artists may have been before our time, they still continue to have an influence on today’s music and how we perceive it.

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