Stax Records is synonymous with Southern soul music. Originally known as Satellite when it was founded in 1957 by Jim Stewart, the fledgling company set down roots in Memphis two years later and in 1961 changed its name to Stax, from the first two initials of Stewart’s last name and that of his sister and co-owner, Estelle Axton. Among the many artists who scored hits on Stax and its Volt subsidiary during the Sixties were Rufus and Carla Thomas, Booker T. & the MGs (an interracial instrumental quartet that also served as the company’s rhythm section), Johnnie Taylor, Albert King, and Otis Redding. Redding’s death in 1967 signaled the end of the first Stax era (to which Atlantic retains distribution rights). Subsequently the company spawned a new crop of hitmakers, among them Isaac Hayes, the Staple Singers, and the Dramatics. In June 1977, a year and a half after Stax went bankrupt, the company’s masters were purchased by Fantasy, Inc., which periodically revived the Stax and Volt logos for new recordings, in addition to reissuing older material. Stax/Volt became part of the Concord Music Group in 2004.
Rufus Thomas ~ Stax Profiles (Selected by Roger Armstrong)
For two decades Roger Armstrong has been a frequent flyer from London to Berkeley, California, where he’s combed the Stax archives at Fantasy Records in order to compile albums for Ace Records. His label has done much to bring new awareness of the seminal soul sounds of Memphis to audiences in the U.K. Here, Armstrong assembles his personal favorites from Beale Street song-and-dance man Rufus Thomas’s prolific association with Stax. They include the Thomas signature songs "Bear Cat" (originally conceived as an answer to "Hound Dog"), "Walking the Dog," "Do the Funky Chicken," and "The Breakdown," as well as a couple of terrific obscurities—"Funky Hot Grits" and "Memphis Train ’75." Thomas was known as "the funkiest man alive," and although he left this world in 2001, at the age of 84, his legend lives on through recordings such as these.