Thursday, September 23, 2010

Myron Walden's Countryfied Pushes the Boundaries of Soul

Photographer Jacob Blickenstaff recently exhibited his solo show "Still Life in Soul" at the Stax Museum of American Soul Music. Since the show, part of Jacob’s continuing work has been an intimate one-on-one documentary project with multi-instrumentalist and composer Myron Walden.

Myron Walden's new group 'Countryfied' bring the soul of American roots music forward through blues-centric composition and dynamic improvisation. It's the spirit of the blues brought into new context. Neither homage nor throwback, ‘Countryfied’ is a genuine mining of feeling, memory and idiom.

“The music of Countryfied is based in American music,” says Myron. “And American music is based in the blues.”

Myron is inspired and driven by his memories of soul and blues music he absorbed as a young man. He grew up in Florida and moved to the Bronx with his mother at the age of 10. Many of his relatives in New York also hailed from the South, surrounding him with a mix of urban and southern culture. One relative in particular, Aunt Othelle, was a special presence in Myron’s life, baking cornbread especially for him and playing Percy Sledge and Otis Redding records while doing chores. ‘Countryfied’ is an expression of that transplanted heritage and a discovery of the blues and soul influences on Myron’s musical identity.

In this multimedia slide show, Myron speaks about the intentions driving his music and the memories woven throughout it. We at the Soulsville Foundation are excited to see Soul Music growing and expanding in new and interesting ways.

Myron Walden's Countryfied from Jacob Blickenstaff on Vimeo.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Stax Museum Remembers Willie Mitchell

The Staff and Board of Directors of the Soulsville Foundation – the nonprofit organization that operates the Stax Museum of American Soul Music, Stax Music Academy, and The Soulsville Charter School – is saddened by the passing of our dear friend and colleague, Willie Mitchell, who died here in Memphis, Tennessee, this morning, Tuesday, January 5, 2010.

Willie Mitchell was as much of a Memphis music legend and pioneer as anyone in the music industry. A trumpeter, bandleader, and one of the greatest music producers in the world, his accomplishments are part of the very backbone of American music. Mr. Mitchell is perhaps best known for discovering, producing, and recording soul and gospel icon Al Green (who performed at the Stax Museum’s grand opening concert, “Soul Comes Home,” in 2003). He also created indelible music with artists such as Ann Peebles, Sly Johnson, O.V. Wright, Donald Bryant, and Otis Clay. More recently, Cat Power a.k.a. Chan Marshall, John Mayer, The Bo-Keys, and Buddy Guy, among others, also recorded at his Royal Studios. Mr. Mitchell spent his entire life creating sounds that will forever remain distinctive, particularly the soul music his Hi Records label released in the 1970s.

“Poppa” Willie Mitchell was a very kind and generous mentor to many of the people with whom he worked and was known by those close to him for his incredible sense of humor. We found it fitting and long overdue when the Grammy Foundation awarded him a Lifetime Trustee Award in 2008, as well as the City of Memphis renaming the stretch of Lauderdale Street in Memphis where Royal Studio is located as “Willie Mitchell Boulevard” in 2004. In October 2007, during the Stax Records 50th Anniversary celebration, the Stax Museum hosted a special event in honor of Mr. Mitchell – a reunion concert performed by Syl Johnson and the famed Hi Rhythm Section, with all members of the group (the Hodges Brothers and Howard Grimes) playing together for the first time in 30 years. Ms. Peebles, Mr. Bryant, and other Hi Records artists attended and were recognized.

Mitchell was a great friend of Stax Records during its heyday and shared such musicians as Booker T. & the MGs’ drummer Al Jackson, Jr., the Memphis Horns, and others. Together, Stax and Hi were known as the creators of “the Memphis Sound” throughout the world, and that remains the same today.

Our thoughts and prayers now go out to Mr. Mitchell’s family, friends, colleagues, and the millions of his fans whose lives were changed through his music.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Stax Music Academy Winter Concert with CANDI STATON December 5th!!

When the Stax Music Academy students take to the stage on Saturday, December 5, 2009 at Germantown Performing Arts Center in Memphis to salute some of the most popular female singers in American history, they will be joined by one of the most internationally renowned soul and gospel singers in the industry, Candi Staton.

The concert – “HEY SISTA, SOUL SISTA: A Salute to the Divas of Soul, Jazz, Pop, & R&B” – features all ensembles of the Stax Music Academy performing songs by the likes of Aretha Franklin, Gladys Knight, Diana Ross, Patti LaBelle, Chaka Kahn, and numerous others, including contemporary stars Beyonce, Mary J. Blige, and Jennifer Hudson. The show will also feature a special tribute to the late soul singer and Tony-nominated actress Phyllis Hyman.

Staton, perhaps known for her monster disco hit “Young Hearts Run Free,” began singing in gospel choirs in the 1950s followed by a career in soul music that earned her some 16 R&B hits and 2 Grammy nominations from Rick Hall’s legendary Fame Studios in Muscle Shoals. After decades of being one of the most sought-after gospel singers in the world, in 2000 she released her 11th album, Here’s a Blessing. Following the release of a well-received compilation of her Fame-era material (2004’s Candi Staton), Staton returned to secular music in the form of 2006’s His Hands.

The evening will also feature a tribute to former Bar-Kays trumpet player Ben Cauley and the first presentation of the Ben Cauley Honorary Scholarships to Stax Music Academy students. The scholarship was founded in September 2008 by the Stax Music Academy and attorney B.J. Wade of the Memphis-based law firm Glassman, Edwards, Wade & Wyatt, PC, and will distribute $100,000 to students of the academy and for young people to visit the Stax Museum over a five-year period.

The Stax Music Academy’s SNAP! After School Winter Concert at Germantown Performing Arts Center on Saturday, December 5, 2009 begins at 7 p.m. Tickets are $10 each (reserved seating) and may be purchased at the Stax Museum of American Soul Music, 926 E. McLemore Avenue, or by calling 901-946-2535.

Partners for the concert include ArtsMemphis, SunTrust Bank, Thomas & Betts, Knox Phillips, Amro Music, and Glassman, Edwards, Wade & Wyatt, PC.

Check out this very cool video of Candi singing "Young Hearts Run Free" back in the Disco Daze!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Oh, Yeah. There is STILL LIFE in Soul at the Stax Museum

William Bell with the Stax Music Academy band.

Eddie Floyd with the Stax Music Academy band.

Bettye Crutcher & Harvey Scales.

Last Friday night, November 6th, the Stax Museum had a shindig to beat all shindigs. It was the opening reception for our newest exhibit, "STILL LIFE IN SOUL: Contemporary Music Photography by Jacob Blickenstaff," but it was also a Stax Family Reunion and free party for Stax Museum members, and it was a blast!

It was also very powerful and moving in many ways. One of the reasons we chose to host this exhibit of Jacob's wonderful photographs is to emphasize the fact that soul music is alive and well and "authentic" soul music has gained an entire generation of new fans - throngs of young people disovering lifelong soul music artists and comeback artists at venues such as the Ponderosa Stomp, Brooklyn Soul Festival, Rabbit Factory Soul Revue, and through labels like Datpone Records that are cranking out "the real thing" again on vinyl. The photos are of artists who are still working all of the time, including Bettye LaVette, Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings, Eddie Floyd, William Bell, Tami Lynn, Teenie Hodges, Maxine Brown . . . the list goes on and on,

So for the party, in keeping with that theme, the musical entertainment was provided by a large group of Stax Music Acadey students playing for all of the soul music veterans in house to show them how we are keeping their legacy alive. It turned into an impromptu jam session that was priceless, wiht Eddie Floyd jumping in with the band on "Knock on Wood," Harvey Scales - decked out in a lime-green suit and gold shoes - on "Can't Turn You Loose," and William Bell - the classiest man in show business - on his hit "You Don't Miss Your Water." Hate to be cliche, but it really was magical.

The entire night was full of love and good times. Jacob's photographs were a huge hit, especially among his 20-or-so family members and friends who chartered a bus (!) and came down from his hometown of St. Louis. Also in the crowd were Stax legends Al Bell, James Alexander of the Bar-Kays, Curtis Johnson and Sam Jones of the Astors, J. Blackfoot of The Soul Children, William Brown of the Mad Lads, Jody Stephens of Big Star, Willie Hall, Bettye Crutcher, Teenie and Charles Hodges, and probably a lot of others with whom I didn't get a chance to speak.

So we got to bridge the gap between the generations a little bit and show that soul music is timeless and loved by people of all ages and all walks of life. It was awesome in every way.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009



“STILL LIFE IN SOUL: Contemporary Music Photography by Jacob Blickenstaff”
November 6, 2009 – April 30, 2010

The Stax Museum of American Soul Music announces a new exhibition, “STILL LIFE IN SOUL,” opening November 6th, 2009. The exhibit explores the current life, activity, and resurgence in popularity of soul music through portrait, performance, and documentary photography made since 2005 by music photographer Jacob Blickenstaff.

Opening Reception and Party

Friday, November 6, 2009 - 7-10 p.m.

Food, Cocktails, Former Stax Records Artists, Jacob Blickenstaff, and other Special Guests

Live Music by the Stax Music Academy

$20 General Admission - FREE to Stax Museum Members

Click Here for information about how to join!

More about "STILL LIFE IN SOUL":

Soul music was a nuanced, emotional, and energetic idiom that reached a worldwide audience at its height in the 1960s but then virtually disappeared by the end of the 1970s. After subsequent decades of disco, hip-hop, rap, and modern R&B – much of which covered and sampled original soul music classics from Stax Records and other labels – the roots of authentic soul are sprouting again with revived careers of veteran artists, dynamic new acts, successful concerts and festivals, reissue projects, and soul-driven independent labels.

According to Blickenstaff, “This started out as a project about music history, but I quickly found a community of music lovers, labels, bands, festivals, and DJ’s that were all coming together to support and create great music with the older artists. This work focuses on the current lives of the artists but the story is really about everyone working together to make it happen. It’s an amazing, passion-driven phenomenon that soul music is growing again in the 21st century.”

Artists represented in the 40 photos in the exhibit include Bettye LaVette, Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings, Lee Fields & the Expressions, Barbara Lynn, Maxine Brown, Roscoe Robinson, Harvey Scales, Candi Staton, Sir Lattimore Brown, Otis Clay, William Bell, Eddie Floyd, Skip Pitts, Ben Cauley, Mighty Hannibal, John Gary Williams (of the Mad Lads), and many others. The work chronicles performances at The Ponderosa Stomp, Lincoln Center, Dig Deeper, and the Brooklyn Soul Festival, as well as recording sessions at Daptone Studios. Performances were backed by contemporary soul bands the Bo-Keys, The Sweet Divines, and Eli Reed and the True Loves.

As the only soul music museum in the world, it’s an essential part of our mission to recognize these incredible artists and organizations that are dedicated to authentic soul music who are bringing a whole new generation of fans to the scene. It is also very much in keeping with the philosophy of our Stax Music Academy, where we carry the Stax Records legacy of playing real music into the future with a new generation.

Jacob Blickenstaff is a music photographer based in New York City. His work has been published internationally in magazines and newspapers including Rolling Stone, WIRE, Wax Poetics, No Depression, Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Offbeat, Gambit Weekly, and Time Out New York. He has also been an official photographer for the Ponderosa Stomp since 2007. Additional music clients include Lincoln Center, NPR Music, Daptone Records, and Proper American Records. This is the first major exhibition of his photography.
An opening reception for the exhibit will be held November 6th at the Stax Museum of American Soul Music, during which students of the Stax Music Academy will perform for guests and former Stax Records artists.

For more information, images, or to schedule an interview with the photographer, please contact Tim Sampson at 901-942-2535 or

To learn more about Jacob Blickenstaff and to see more of his photography, visit his website at

Sunday, September 20, 2009

O My Soul! Big Star box set now available at the Stax Museum

While Stax is best known for the classic soul music that it churned out in the '60s and '70s, there were also a few rock and roll bands and artists that recorded for Stax and its sister labels. One of the most celebrated and critically acclaimed bands from that era is the subject of an impressive new CD box set, which is now available at the Stax Museum Online Shop.

Big Star inspired a fevered allegiance among fans of power pop, giving rise to a cult of believers who spent decades spreading the gospel. Their enthusiasm turned this obscure Memphis pop band – one that got little airplay, sold few records, and only played a handful of times – into a remarkable rock and roll resurrection story. Big Star’s trek from obscure Memphis band to standard bearers for an entire genre of music has never been fully mapped – until now.

Keep An Eye On The Sky spans 1968 to 1975 and shows the progression of Big Star through selections from such studio precursors as Rock City and Icewater; music from Big Star’s acclaimed albums (the Ardent/Stax releases #1 Record and Radio City, as well as Third/Sister Lovers); and relevant solo work by group principals Alex Chilton and Chris Bell, who formed Big Star in 1971 with bassist Andy Hummel and drummer Jody Stephens.

This four-CD collection mixes classic Big Star tracks with a trove of unreleased demos, unused mixes, alternate versions of songs, and a 1973 concert recorded in Memphis. The lavish packaging includes extensive liner notes, rare and never-before-seen photos from William Eggleston and others, and insightful essays about the cult of Big Star and the band’s history.

Check out some of the reviews:

4 1/2 Stars
- "The four CDs of Keep An Eye On The Sky are the last word on Big Star's first, ultimately glorious lifetime." - Rolling Stone

4 1/2 Stars - "Anybody who has ever loved the band will find something to cherish here, whether it's the crackerjack live show... or merely the context of the set, which tells the story of America's greatest cult band this side of the Velvet Underground in a complete and affecting fashion." -

A - "Anyone who still needs convincing will find the case for Big Star's legendhood made beyond a reasonable doubt on Keep An Eye On The Sky." - Entertainment Weekly

9.3 (out of 10) - "Big Star aren't just rock's greatest cult band; they were arguably rock's first cult band. Keep An Eye On The Sky sounds like the one reissue that finally gets Big Star right." - Pitchfork

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Stax Museum Honors Isaac Hayes' Birthday with First Hayes Signature Shirt

Entertainment icon Isaac Hayes was born in Covington, Tennessee, on August 20, 1942. Today, on what would have been the late Stax Records legend’s 67th birthday, the Stax Museum of American Soul Music is introducing the new Isaac Hayes Signature T-Shirt for men and women.

With United States exclusivity rights from Mr. Hayes’ family and his estate granted to the Stax Museum for use of his image and name on merchandise, this new t-shirt is the first in what will become the Isaac Hayes Collection, sold at the Stax Museum, through the museum’s web store, and at other locations where Stax-related products are sold.

While obviously commercial in some aspects, the museum’s intent in designing the collection is also to promote the legacy of Mr. Hayes for future generations to come. Partial proceeds from sales of the collection will benefit the nonprofit Stax Music Academy, which Mr. Hayes dearly loved.

The new t-shirt, which features a photo illustration of the sultan of soul looking over his signature sunglasses, will be available at the Stax Museum gift shop starting Saturday, August 22, 2009.