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.
The Staple Singers – Stax Profiles
During a recording career that spanned four decades, the Staple Singers moved from performing purely religious material to protest songs in sync with the Civil Rights Movement to chart-topping pop and R&B hits. The switch from the "soul-folk" style associated with their protest period to the more secular sounds of such smashes as "Respect Yourself" and "I’ll Take You There" occurred during the Chicago-based quartet’s 1968-75 tenure at Stax Records. Included in this 14-track profile of "the first family of song" are the gripping protest song "Long Walk to D.C.," produced in Memphis by Steve Cropper, and all of the group’s biggest secular hits for Stax, produced in Muscle Shoals by Al Bell. No matter which type of tune Pops Staples, his daughter Mavis, and her siblings applied their Mississippi-drenched harmonies to, there was always a message in the Staple Singers’ music.