Stax Records co-founder Jim Stewart dead at 92


Jim Stewart, the white Tennessee farm boy and fiddle participant who co-founded the influential Stax Records along with his sister in a Black, inner-city Memphis neighborhood and helped construct the soulful “Memphis sound,” has died at age 92. 

Stewart died peacefully and surrounded by his household on Monday, the Stax Museum of American Soul Music stated in a information launch. A explanation for dying was not disclosed and funeral plans have been pending.

Stewart was co-founder of Stax Records in Memphis, the place, throughout an period of racial strife, white musicians and producers labored alongside Black singers, songwriters and instrumentalists to create the “Memphis sound” embodied by Otis Redding, Isaac (*92*), Booker T. and the M.G.s, Carla and Rufus Thomas, The Staple Singers, Wilson Pickett, Sam & Dave and lots of others. 

Stax and its affiliated file labels launched 300 albums and 800 singles between 1959 and 1975, in keeping with the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Stax fostered a raw sound born from Black church music, the blues and rock `n’ roll. It featured sturdy rhythm sections, highly effective horn gamers, and singers who may very well be attractive and soulful in a single tune, and loud and forceful in one other. 

American gospel and soul group The Staple Singers, fronted by Roebuck (Pops) Staples, proper, rehearsing for the Stax Records Christmas live performance in Memphis, Tenn., Dec. 20, 1968. (Don Paulsen/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

Before Stax went bankrupt in 1975, the recording studio in Memphis’ “Soulsville” neighbourhood produced lasting hits reminiscent of Otis Redding’s Dock of the Bay, Eddie Floyd’s Knock on Wood, Sam & Dave’s Hold On, I’m Comin’ and Soul Man, and Green Onions by Booker T. and the M.G.s. 

“There was a lot expertise right here, underneath circumstances that have been virtually thought of inconceivable in Memphis, Tenn., in 1960, with the racial state of affairs right here,” Stewart advised The Associated Press throughout an interview in May 2013 — his first interview in at least 15 years. “It was a sanctuary for all of us to get away from the skin world.” 

Creation of Stax

Stewart grew up on a farm in Middleton, Tenn., earlier than shifting to Memphis to attend Memphis State University and becoming a member of a gaggle known as the Canyon Cowboys as a rustic music fiddler. He was recording nation music in his spouse’s uncle’s storage and dealing at a financial institution when he and his sister, Estelle Axton, based the Satellite file label in 1957.

In 1961, after studying of a California label with the Satellite title, Stewart and Axton determined to mix the primary two letters of their final names to create a brand new title, Stax. The pair moved the studio into an outdated movie show on the nook of McLemore and College streets in Memphis.

Soon, younger musicians from the neighbourhood began hanging round, serving to Stax construct a home band that included organist Booker T. Jones, guitarist Steve Cropper, bassist Donald (Duck) Dunn and drummer Al Jackson Jr. — often known as Booker T. and the M.G.s. 

Musician Booker T. Jones performs on Feb. 10, 2017 at a Grammys occasion in Los Angeles. The iconic musician was as soon as a part of Stax Records’ home band. (Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

Stewart stated he turned Stax right into a soul and R&B label after listening to Ray Charles sing What’d I Say

“I used to be transformed, instantly,” Stewart stated. “I had by no means heard something like that earlier than. It allowed me to develop from nation into R&B, into jazz, into gospel, wrapped multi function. That’s what Stax is.” 

Booker T. and the M.G.s have been racially blended, as have been the Memphis Horns, which backed lots of Stax’s hits. 

Stax signed a distribution cope with Atlantic Records and introduced within the songwriting workforce of Isaac (*92*) and David Porter. Stewart additionally employed Al Bell as Stax’s nationwide gross sales director, and the label continued rising and producing extra hits, reminiscent of Who’s Making Love by Johnny Taylor. 

The first tragedy to hit the label was the dying of Otis Redding and 4 members of his backup band, the Bar-Kays, in a aircraft crash in 1967. Then the assassination of civil rights chief Martin Luther King Jr. in April 1968 in Memphis led to riots within the metropolis. 

In 1968, Stewart, Axton and Bell bought Stax to Gulf & Western in trade for stock. Stewart and Bell repurchased the label in 1970. 

Stax noticed a couple of extra successes within the early Seventies, together with the discharge of The Staple Singers’ I’ll Take You There and the Wattstax live performance in Los Angeles in 1972. But money move began to decelerate, payments stopped being paid and lawsuits have been filed. 

Stewart bought his share of Stax to Al Bell in 1972. Three collectors pressured Stax into involuntary chapter in 1975, marking the dying of Stewart’s brainchild. 

“He was harm,” Axton advised The Commercial Appeal for an Aug. 20, 1989, article on the historical past of Stax. 

From studio to museum

The studio was torn down in 1989. Since then, Stax has been rebuilt and reborn within the type of a museum, a music academy and a constitution college. 

Stewart, who largely stayed out of the general public eye after Stax stopped making music, was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2002. 

In 2013, Stewart made a uncommon look at Stax, touring the museum earlier than visiting with the teenage musicians who attend the Stax Music Academy. Stewart made a couple of different appearances at Stax after that, together with in 2019 for a information convention to announce plans for the academy’s twentieth anniversary.

“The music continues to be alive and that is what’s nice about it,” Stewart stated through the 2013 tour. “I’m very happy with what they’ve finished. It’s superb to me.” 


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