The Pace Report

Season 2011 Episode 08.30.11

The Pace Report: "Soul to Soul: Reflections of Stax Records" Part 2 The Al Bell Interview

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Lincoln Center's Out of Doors summer series concluded with it's tribute to one of the most prolific record labels that give the world its own unique blend of soul, blues, gospel, comedy, and deep roots music. Stax Records was formed by the brother and sister team of Estelle Axton and Jim Stewart, a country and western fiddler. These two visionaries, along with former record disc jockey and records promotion guru Al Bell, would produced and record some of the most influential and ground-breaking soul records to come out of the mid-south. The cadre of artists that Stax and its other labels would include Carla and Rufus Thomas, Otis Redding, The Bar-Kays, The Mar-Keys, Eddie Floyd, Albert King, and Isaac Hayes. When brother and sister Estelle Axton and Jim Stewart moved their 'mom and pop' based business to the old Capitol Movie theater on 926 East McLemore in 1959, the neighborhood changed. Working class whites moved to the suburbs and many blacks migrated there right in the middle of the segregated south. Both Axton and Stewart were bold and rash and hired both black and white performers and had a integrated staff at a time when this wasn't fashionable as well as dangerous. Groups like the Mar-Keys and Booker T. and the M.G.'s backed the likes of all of acts like Otis Redding, Johnnie Taylor, and Wilson Pickett. Stax had developed their own style of music and sound unlike other famous Memphis labels like Sun and Advent Records. Al was the promotions director for Stax Records while as a disc jockey in Washington, DC when co-owner Jim Stewart asked him to join the label at a time when Stax split ways with Atlantic Records in 1967. This was time when Otis Redding was killed in a airplane crash, Atlantic due to a clause in their contract owned all the masters to Stax Records, and the label was over 90,000 in debt. Al came in and aggressively put Stax back on the map. He and the Stax house staff recorded over 27 projects and in over a year made the label millions of dollamoreless

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