Friday, December 12, 2008


Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Benjamin Krain

NEVER one to rest on his laurels, former Stax Records owner Al Bell is at it again. And he's at it to change the music industry once again, just as he has done so many times before.

Mr. Bell's new company, "Al Bell Presents," just launched its new website,, a 24/7 cornucopia of classic soul music, new soul music, and everything in between in an attempt to “entertain, engage, excite, inform, and educate," fans of all ages regarding all sub-genres of soul music, from Stax and Motown to hip-hop and neosoul. He is carefully hand-picking the programming and has included a great mix of music, bios, personal observations, and much, much more. And in the process of this progress in the works, he will be doing some great things to help promote the Stax Museum, Stax Music Academy, and The Soulsville Charter School. Al has always been a great "giver-backer" and that's one of the many things we appreciate about him. That and he is just plain cool!

Look for the industry to pay attention to this, as "Billboard" has already bitten and wants more. And click here to read a recent, indepth profile in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

If you like some of the 2,000 tracks of music on the site, there's plenty more at the newly revamped Stax Museum Online Web Store.

Here is the official press release from Al Bell Presents.

Stax Records Legend Al Bell Launches
“Al Bell Presents,” And Announces New
Internet Radio Station and Website

LITTLE ROCK, AR and CHARLESTON, SC (December 11, 2008):
Former Stax Records owner and Motown president Al Bell, a legend in the evolution of American music, today announced the launch of a new company, Al Bell Presents, LLC. The centerpiece of this new venture is a full-service website and the first of several Internet music channels, “Al Bell Presents American Soul Music,” both of which were built by
Charleston, SC-based American Media Services-Interactive.

Mr. Bell notes that both the website and online radio station were launched as works in progress so that the consumer, the recorded music industry, entertainment industry, and businesses in general would know what he is doing. Bell insists that, during these changing times, he wishes to create an entity that can be ‘of service’ to many.

The Al Bell Presents website is designed to function as an interactive Internet portal that offers users a variety of elements designed to “entertain, engage, excite, inform and educate.” Within these parameters it serves as a fully integrated online experience that will be scalable and constantly updated in order to provide its audience the most up-to-date content possible.

Similarly, Al Bell Presents American Soul Music features musical selections hand-picked and programmed by Mr. Bell, including over two thousand classic tracks from Stax, Motown, Philadelphia International, and other record labels’ catalogs. Mr. Bell has committed his expert ear and sense of radio formatics to develop this channel into the quintessential online listening experience for all fans of Soul, R&B, Blues, Gospel, Jazz, Neo-Hip-Hop, Neo-Rap, and Neo-Soul. In addition to the music, the channel will feature Al Bell’s personal observations about the artists, the emotions, the history, and the heritage.

Both the online channel and the website can be experienced at

“It is my desire to provide a music experience that has not been enjoyed before,” commented Al Bell, chairman and chief executive officer of Al Bell Presents. “It is my desire through this diverse mixture of music to provide a connection to the past and a life line into the future. I ask all who will listen to help me. Please give me your comments and recommend the music we should be playing. Make this your – our – radio station. Email me at”

“Mr. Bell came to our offices in Charleston to sit down with me and learn what our capabilities were,” recalls Edward F. Seeger, chairman of American Media Services. “I showed him what we had done thus far with TheRadio.Com and our ‘Stax Trax’ channel, which featured the artists he worked with and the label he ran in Memphis. He then shared with me his vision of the future for music, programming, and sales, and it was a perfect fit with mine, so we came to the conclusion to make it work together. AMSI is proud to work with Mr. Al Bell, an icon of the music industry, and to take this concept into the digital realm. The site is outstanding with its streaming 24 hour music format and the plans for more and more features will make this a must-visit site for anyone who appreciates Soul music. There is a profound change coming – no, it's already here and quickly growing from analog to digital. The venture between American Media Services-Interactive and Mr. Al Bell will be a front-runner in this new music era.”

More About The Website
The Al Bell Presents website is being designed with a “contemporary-retro” look and state-of-the-art functionality that provides users a number of audio and visual features, including:
· On Air: Online radio.
· Artists: Up-to-date bios, photo galleries, classic videos, and other information about dozens Soul, R&B, Blues, Gospel, Jazz, Neo-Hip-Hop, Neo-Rap, and Neo-Soul artists.
· Backstage Access: Exclusive artist interviews, behind the scenes stories, in-studio videos, etc.
· Screening Room: Artist videos, classic performances, movie trailers, and other visual representations of classic and contemporary music.
· People’s Music: New music from unique, up-and-coming artists and musicians.
· Merchandise: Lots of great stuff available for free (and some for sale).

Each individual element of the website has an intrinsic value crafted to attract corporate co-branding and sponsorship opportunities. Because the website was designed so that features are changing constantly, it is believed that users will keep coming back on a regular basis – allowing for advertiser to achieve significant “reach and frequency.”

More About Al Bell Presents American Soul Music
Al Bell Presents American Soul Music provides a unique experience to a global audience that wants to listen to quality Soul, R&B, Blues, Gospel, Jazz, Neo-Hip-Hop, Neo-Rap, and Neo-Soul programming, something that currently does not exist on terrestrial radio or on the Internet. Mr. Bell used his 50 years’ experience in the radio and recording industries to develop a sound unlike that heard on any terrestrial or Internet radio station, and it shows. Listeners have already found the station and the “time spent listening” statistics demonstrate their unanimous love for the channel.

About American Media Services-Interactive
American Media Services Interactive is a digital media enterprise whose services include “leading edge” solutions for emerging media, engagement strategies for audio/video streaming, customized and branded music channels, HD radio formats, content management systems, custom application development, website programming and design and corporate/retail “storecasting” at point-of-purchase. AMSI is an affiliate company of American Media Services, an engineering and broadcast development firm that has worked with virtually every public radio group in the U.S., including Clear Channel, CBS Radio, Citadel Broadcasting, ABC Radio, Cumulus Media, Radio One, and Saga Communications. More information about AMSI may be found at

For more information contact:
Reed Bunzel, 843-388-5024


Tuesday, December 9, 2008


If you can’t get it at the mall, can’t find it at a major record store, can’t watch it on television, and can’t find it on any other web site, you must be looking for Stax Records music and other hard-to-find soul music CDs and DVDs, as well as soul music-themed apparel, books, giftware, mouse pads, keychains, magnets, and other merchandise that is now available to anyone in the world via the new online web store of the Stax Museum of American Soul Music.
Launched in early December in time for holiday shopping, the new “We’re Selling Our Soul” web store has many items that can’t be found for sale at any other location in the world other than in the museum’s physical Satellite Record & Gift Shop. The site uses the most recent technology to make shopping easy and fun, with You Tube video samples of some of the music offered and other new features. New Stax-related items, new music and DVD releases, and other merchandise will be added regularly. Shoppers will also be treated to Soulsville Picks of the Week, New Arrivals, Best Sellers, and more.
From rare compilations to new releases and repackaged classics, the selection of music available in the web store has been carefully chosen by the Stax Museum staff to appeal not only to fans of the Stax family of artists, but to fans of other classic soul music as well.

To make shopping in the store even more fulfilling, the Stax Museum donates a portion of all proceeds to the Stax Music Academy, the Soulsville Foundation’s learning center where primarily at-risk, inner-city young people are mentored through music education and unique performance opportunities.
For more information on the Stax Museum, please visit and to go directly to the new store, please visit

Thursday, December 4, 2008


Who would have thought back in 1957 when Jim Stewart founded Satellite Records and a couple of years later changed its name to Stax Records, that the little label would grow so big that its artists and influence are still garnering Grammy nominations today? Yesterday, when the nominations were announced, Stax was in the house in four different categories, and we at the Soulsville Foundation couldn't be happier for those involved.

Drumroll, please......

  • Best Long Form Music Video (For video album packages consisting of more than one song or track. Award to the Artist and to the Video Director/Producer of at least 51% of the total playing time.)
    Respect Yourself — The Stax Records Story(Various Artists)Robert Gordon & Morgan Neville, video directors; Mark Crosby, Robert Gordon & Morgan Neville, video producers[Stax/Tremolo Productions/Concord Music Group]

  • Best Pop Instrumental Performance (For solo, duo, group or collaborative performances, without vocals. Singles or Tracks only.)
    Love Appetite - Steve Cropper & Felix CavaliereTrack from: Nudge It Up A Notch[Stax]

  • Best Pop Instrumental Album (For albums containing 51% or more playing time of INSTRUMENTAL tracks.)
    Sax For Stax Gerald Albright[Peak Records]

  • Best Gospel Performance (For solo, duo, group as collaborative performances. Singles or tracks with vocal containing Gospel lyrics. All genres of Gospel music are eligible.)
    I Understand - Kim Burrell, Rance Allen, Bebe Winans, Mariah Carey & Hezekiah Walker's Love Fellowship Tabernacle Church ChoirTrack from: Randy Jackson's Music Club, Volume One[Concord Records/Dream Merchant 21 Ent.]

Congratulations to all in the Stax Family for these nominations, and for all of the nominations and Grammys you've received since the early days of Stax. Robert Gordon, director of the nominated Respect Yourself: The Stax Records Story, summed it up this way today after learning of the film's nomination:

"The success of the Stax documentary is a reflection of the power of Stax, not just the music but also the circumstances that created the story. The soul of Stax is deep, and it resonates across generations, because of the bridge built between the races at 960 E. McLemore. At a time when racial cooperation was illegal, disparaged, and resented, the people at Stax were open-minded, honest, and fair, and you can hear that in the music. We were honored to be able to share that story in the documentary. The nomination is a nod to everyone who made Stax what it was then, and what it is today."


Tuesday, December 2, 2008


Photo by Andrea Zucker


This year's Stax Music Academy SNAP! After School concert will be held Thursday, December 18th at 7 p.m. at the Germantown Performing Arts Center (GPAC). The concert, titled "Go Down Moses: A Tribute to Isaac Hayes," will honor the late Stax legend and international entertainment and philanthropy icon with performances of songs that trace his unparalleled career.

Featuring all ensembles of the Stax Music Academy along with The Soulsville Charter School's Soulsville Symphony Orchestra, the concert will also feature former Stax artists including Ben Cauley, Lester Snell, and others. Tickets are just $10 and are available at the Stax Museum gift shop and at the door night of concert.

What: Stax Music Academy SNAP! After School Winter Concert
When: Thursday, December 18th, 7 p.m.
Where: Germantown Performing Arts Center (GPAC)
Tickets: $10. Available in advance at the Stax Museum Gift Shop and at the door night of concert if not sold out.

Sunday, November 23, 2008


Stax and soul fans will want to pick up a copy of the new issue of Rolling Stone magazine, which lists the 100 Greatest Singers of All Time, as determined by a poll of prominent musicians, critics, and industry insiders.

All of us here at the Stax Museum are thrilled to see Otis Redding all the way up at #8, accompanied in the magazine by a nice essay from Booker T. Jones. Other Stax and Memphis-related artists making the list are Al Green at #14, Bobby "Blue" Bland at #44, Mavis Staples at #56, Wilson Pickett at #68, Sam Moore at #85, and B.B. King at #96.

But just like the Stax Museum covers more than just Stax and Memphis Soul, Rolling Stone's list pays tribute to all of the icons of American soul music. Seven of their Top 10, and ten of the Top 20, are classic soul or blues artists spotlighted in the Stax Museum. Check it out:

1. Aretha Franklin
2. Ray Charles
4. Sam Cooke
6. Marvin Gaye
8. Otis Redding
9. Stevie Wonder
10. James Brown
14. Al Green
17. Tina Turner
20. Smokey Robinson
22. Etta James
26. Jackie Wilson
40. Curtis Mayfield
44. Bobby "Blue" Bland
49. Donny Hathaway
51. Gladys Knight
56. Mavis Staples
65. David Ruffin
68. Wilson Pickett
78. Sly Stone
85. Sam Moore
89. Solomon Burke
95. Patti LaBelle
96. B.B. King

Just goes to show how timeless and influential soul music truly is. But if you've been through the Museum, you probably already know that, don't you?

Congratulations to all of our soul heroes that made this list!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


If you’re looking for an alternative to the normal leftover turkey and mad dash shopping on the weekend after Thanksgiving, the Stax Museum of American Soul Music will be offering something special on Saturday, November 29th.

The museum will be the location that day for the National Urban League and Walgreen's Take Care Health Tour, which is visiting 22 urban communities across the country as part of an 11-month mobile health campaign. The tour’s 38-foot customized educational health screening bus features six free screenings, worth more than $115 in value. All services take place inside the customized vehicle and include screenings for blood pressure, bone density, glucose levels, cholesterol levels, waist circumference and body mass index. Anyone who takes advantage of the free health screening will receive $1.50 off regular admission to the Stax Museum. Museum and health screening hours are 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.

Also, if you have friends and family in town and want to treat them to a unique experience, the Stax Museum is offering one free admission for every three paid and a free holiday CD with any $50 purchase in the museum’s Satellite Record & Gift Shop, which offers unique music and gifts of all kinds that can be found at no other retailer.

Monday, October 27, 2008


Our great friend and supporter, John Fry, founder of the renowned Ardent Studios, has donated the historic Auditronics console, which was used for many years in his studios, to the Stax Museum of American Soul Music. The console was often used in shaping the sound of countless Stax Records hits during a period when Ardent worked closely with the Stax label and recording studios.

The console was made by the Memphis company Auditronics, owned by Welton Jetton and Steve Sage. Auditronics had supplied smaller consoles to both Ardent and Stax in 1966. The donated console was fabricated from amplifiers and equalizers made by Spectrasonics of Odgen, UT. The 20-input, 8-output console was installed at Ardent's location on National Street in 1969 and moved to Ardent's present location on Madison Avenue, where it served in Studio B until 1985. Auditronics also supplied Stax with an identical console for its A Studio in 1970.

Songs recorded on the Ardent console now at the Stax Museum include Isaac Hayes' Hot Buttered Soul; The Staple Singers' The Staple Swingers; Best of Sam & Dave; Led Zeppelin III; James Taylor's Mudslide Slim and the Blue Horizon; Big Star's #1 Record and Radio City; ZZ Top's Fandango and Tejas; the Bar-Kay's Too Hot to Stop, Booker T. & the MGs' McLemore Avenue, and hundreds of other recordings that define the sound and songs of a generation.

A little-known fact to many: Estelle "Lady A" Axton produced the crazy 1977 Rick Dees mega-hit "Disco Duck." And yes, it was mixed on this console!

Thank you, John, for this great donation and ALL of your support.


Pictured at top, David Moreu and Valencia Robinson with students of The Soulsville Charter School at a special screening of "Down to Earth."

Last week, a new short film by Spanish journalist and filmmaker David Moreu was screened at the Barcelona Blues & Boogie Festival to rave reviews. This was all the result of one email in the summer of 2007.
David Moreu emailed us looking for a photograph of Booker T. & the MGs for an article he was working on and after much correspondence, he eventually ended up traveling to Memphis in November 2007 to cover the Stax Museum during our Stax 50th Anniversary celebration. While here, he conducted interviews with many people for several articles he later published in the Spanish press. But he interviewed his subjects on film.

After a lot of hard work in the editing room, Moreu finally finished "Down to Earth," a 30-minute documentary about Memphis and the Civil Rights Movement and its relation to soul music, particularly that of Stax Records. The film includes interviews with former Stax Records publicity director and former Soulsville CEO Deanie Parker; Stax songwriter and recording artist David Porter; Rev. Samuel Billy Kyles, who was standing on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. when he was assassinated there in 1968; Memphis-based soul singer Valencia Robinson; Hi Records legend Willie Mitchell; and various barbers and beauticians from the Soulsville, USA community.
The film had been screened only once before, privately at the Stax Music Academy for special guests and students from The Soulsville Charter School. The Barcelona screening was the first public screening, and we hope there are many more!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008


William Bell.

If you haven't had a chance to check out the newly renovated Levitt Shell in Overton Park in Memphis, this coming Friday night, October 3rd at 7 p.m. will be the perfect time. There's a free concert by none other than Stax royalty William Bell, backed by the Bo-Keys, that hard-working Memphis soul band that includes other Stax royalty Ben Cauley and Skip Pitts!

The newly renovated Levitt Shell (where the Stax Music Academy Summer Soul Tour Band opened for Kirk Whalum recently) is great. Gone are those uncomfortable benches and now there's a nice grassy lawn that slopes down to the stage, landscaped grounds, food consessions by Memphis restaurateur Karen Blockman Carrier, and just a great vibe.

I can't think of a better way to spend a crisp October evening than hanging out under the stars and listening to William and the Bo-Keys. And for free? Can't beat that!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


TIME magazine just named its picks for America's Top 50 Authentic American Experiences. For the state of Tennessee, they chose the STAX MUSEUM OF AMERICAN SOUL MUSIC!

Click here to read what they have to say!

Thursday, September 18, 2008


Stax Records and Memphis music legend Ben Cauley. Photo by Justin Fox Burks.

Left to Right: B.J. Wade, Ben Cauley, Karla Redding-Andrews, Zelma Redding, & Deanie Parker.

Last Friday, September 12th, was a very special day for all of us here at the Soulsville Foundation and for the entire City of Memphis, not to mention the music-loving world.

As many of you know, Ben Cauley was the only member of the Bar-Kays aboard Otis Redding's plane to survive the horrible crash on December 10, 1967 that also took Otis's life and that of his pilot. Since that time, Ben has been not only a Memphis music tradition and institution, but also an inspiration for generations of young musicians.

On Friday, Memphis attorney B.J. Wade and his associates at the Memphis law firm of Glassman, Edwards, Wade & Wyatt settled an unrelated class action lawsuit in Circuit Court Division VI at the Shelby County Courthouse and allocated funds from the settlement to several Memphis organizations, including the University of Memphis Shool of Law and Memphis Area Legal Services.

In addition to those, Mr. Wade, a longtime fan and friend of Ben Cauley and champion of Ben's amazing story, allocated a gift of $100,000 over the next five years to establish the "Ben Cauley Honorary Scholarship" at the Stax Music Academy. Before the court proceedings, a reception was held at the law firm's office. Attending both the reception and courtroom proceedings were Ben and his family, along with many, many friends and Stax Family members, including Zelma and Karla Redding-Andrews (Otis Redding's widow and daughter), Bar-Kays members James Alexander and Larry Dodson; Mable John, David Porter, and many others.

We are extremely grateful to Mr. Wade for making all of this possible, and to Ben for being such a hero to us and so many others. This scholarship will help countless children in the years to come as we mentor them through music education and unique performance opportunities, much as Stax Records did for Ben and his bandmates more than 40 years ago.

Thanks to all who participated, attended, and helped us celebrate what Mayors WW Herenton and AC Wharton proclaimed "Ben Cauley Day" in Memphis and Shelby County.'



Frankie Beverly (left) and Soulsville Foundation board chairman Howard Robertson at the Stax Museum of American Soul Music.

One of the hardest-working men in show business today, Frankie Beverly of Frankie Beverly & MAZE, paid a very special trip to Soulsville last Thursday, September 11th, to visit with students of The Soulsville Charter School and tour the Stax Museum of American Soul Music. He spent a great deal of time with the students, fielding questions from our 7th grade Soulsville Symphony Orchestra class about his career, the music industry, and even his wardrobe and the first love of his life! Mr. Beverly enouraged the children not only to attend college upon graduation but also to pay close attention to their love of music.

Mr. Beverly also presented the Stax Museum with a generous cash donation and some items of memorabilia, including one of his signature white suits made especially for him by his costume maker of some 35 years. He then toured the Stax Museum and promised he would return soon.

The following night he and MAZE delivered a knock-out sold-out performance at Memphis grand Orpheum Theater as the main entertainment headliner of the Southern Heritage Classic Annual Cultural Celebration.

Thanks, Frankie! We had a great time.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008


The Stax Museum marquee.
Photo by Ronnie Booze.

Needless to say, it has been a very emotional time for the Soulsville Foundation, as it as the rest of the Stax music family and many others, since Isaac Hayes passed away on August 10th. While the foundation has other plans in the works, today, August 20, 2008 will be honoring his memory and his legacy on what would have been Isaac's 66th birthday with a special celebration in the Stax Music Academy and The Soulsville Charter School.

  • The event will include:

    Welcome/Occasion: Soulsville Charter School Chancellor and Stax Music Academy Executive Director Cary Booker;

    Introduction of the Soulsville Symphony Orchestra & brief remarks: Soulsville Charter School orchestra instructor Bobby Hawkins;

    Soulsville Symphony Orchestra: Performance of Isaac Hayes’ “Theme From Shaft” and other musical selections;

    Brief Remarks: Soulsville Charter School students;

    Remarks: Soulsville Foundation CEO Marc E. Willis;

    Closing Remarks: Soulsville Charter School Principal NeShante Brown

    Guests at the Stax Museum will be invited to attend. The event should last approximately 30 minutes. Special photographs of Isaac Hayes will be on display.
Please check back by visiting the Stax Museum News Blog at for further updates.
We miss you, Isaac.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008


Photograph by Andrea Zucker

The Soulsville Foundation is sad to post this information about the memorial service planned for Isaac Hayes on Monday, August 18th. We are extremely honored that the family of Mr. Hayes has requested that in lieu of flowers, those wishing to memorialize Mr. Hayes should send donations to the Stax Music Academy. The following is a statement by Soulsville Foundation CEO Marc E. Willis, followed by an announcement about the service and a statement from the Hayes family:

Marc Willis, CEO of the Soulsville Foundation in Memphis (which operates the Stax Museum of American Soul Music, Stax Music Academy, and The Soulsville Charter School) said today: “While we continue to mourn the loss of our dear friend Isaac Hayes, we wish to express how humbled and grateful we are to his family for asking that people make their memorial donations to the Stax Music Academy. The academy, which is adjacent to the Stax Museum, has been mentoring thousands of primarily at-risk young people through music education and unique performance opportunities since 2000, and we have changed many lives by providing this positive experience through scholarships we offer to more than 90 percent of our students.

“Just as Isaac Hayes made an indelible mark on the music industry,” Mr. Willis continued, “Stax Records, and international popular culture, his legacy will live on by helping us help these young people become successful adults for generations to come. Our heartfelt thanks go out to his family for their generosity during this difficult time, and his memory will always be alive and in our hearts and souls at the Soulsville Foundation.”


Family Issues Statement on the Occasion of Hayes’ Passing

A memorial service will be held on Monday at Hope Presbyterian Church, 8500 Walnut Grove Road, Cordova, Tennessee from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. to celebrate the life of pioneering soul icon Isaac Hayes, who passed away on Sunday at the age of 65.

Born in the rural poverty of a sharecropper's family on August 20, 1942, in Covington, Tennessee, Hayes rose to artistic success as an accomplished GRAMMY®, Golden Globe® and Academy Award® winning composer/musician, paving the way for his fellow African Americans in the arts and entertainment world. As well as being a published author, actor and radio personality, Hayes is a coronated King of Ghana in western Africa. Instead of a palace, he built an 8,000 square foot educational facility as he felt that education and literacy is the key to a successful life.

He is survived by his wife of three years Adjowa Hayes, and their two–year–old son Kwadjo Hayes, ten children—Jacqueline Fields, Felecia Hayes Fisher, Veronica Hayes, Vincent Hayes, Melanie Hayes, Nikki McGhee, Heather Hayes, Isaac Hayes III, Darius Caston and Lillian Bryant—14 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

The family issued the following statement: “We are overwhelmed with the outpouring of support and love from Isaac’s dear friends, colleagues and fans from every corner of the world, and we thank each and every one of them for their kind thoughts and prayers. While he was an iconic figure to many, to us he was husband, father and friend. We will ever miss his love, wisdom, humor and the familiar comfort of his voice.”

To celebrate Hayes’ constant support of the Stax Music Academy and his Stax Records Legacy, the Hayes family, in lieu of flowers requests that donations be sent to the Stax Music Academy in Memphis, made out to Soulsville, 926 E. McLemore Avenue, Memphis, TN 38106. Please specify “In memory of Isaac Hayes.”

Condolences may be sent to the family at


The Stax Music Academy mentors young people - primarily those residing in the Soulsville, USA neighborhood of Memphis - through music education and unique performance opportunities, with the goals of enhancing their leadership and academic skills and inspiring them to become facilitators for community change. The Stax Music Academy began its first music program—a summer camp for area youth—in Summer 2000. It has since grown to serve several hundred young people from throughout Memphis every year with a variety of music classes and performance opportunities, as well as vital mentoring, tutoring assistance, and leadership development programs. Regardless of how long they pursue their interest in music, all Academy students learn values—hard work, responsibility, self confidence, respect for others, and community awareness—that will serve them for the rest of their lives. As part of the non-profit Soulsville Foundation, the Stax Music Academy is funded through generous individual gifts, grants, and corporate sponsorships.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008


As the details about a memorial service for the late Isaac Hayes are being finalized, we ask that if you would like to stay updated, please visit and sign up for our e-news service. Simply click on the e-news icon on the right side of the main page and enter your name, email address, and postal code.

Will do not bombard our e-news suscribers with constant emails, but this is a way for you to be contacted with the latest news in the most efficient way. When the details of the memorial service are released, we will send you the information.

Thanks, and in the meantime, please enjoy the wonderful photograph above of our dear, dear friend and colleague, Isaac, taken in March this year by Andrea Zucker.

Monday, August 11, 2008


Thanks so much to everyone who has visited the blog here and left such warm and loving comments about Isaac Hayes. Everyone at the Soulsville Foundation is still very shocked and we held an internal moment of silence today for all who work here.

I was lucky enough a couple of years ago to sit down and interview Mr. Hayes at length for a cover story for Memphis magazine and for those of you who live in faraway lands, I have posted a link to it below. It was the December 2006 issue of the publication and in it Mr. Hayes offers some interesting insight into his life and David Porter talks about his lifelong soul brother.

The more recent photos are by Andrea Zucker.

Hope you enjoy.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008


Stax Music Academy Summer Soul Tour Presented by FedEx concert in Melbourne's Federation Square.

Well, it has been a while since the ol' Stax Museum News blogger has posted any news, but that's because things have been hopping at the Soulsville Foundation.

We recently returned from the Stax Music Academy Summer Soul Tour Sponsored by FedEx, which was a two-week concert tour and cultural exchange with 15 of our academy high school students to Australia. While in the Land Down Under, we first visited Melbourne (after the 20-plus-hour trip there!) and hit the ground running. Literally, the staff and students had to hightail it straight from the airport to the hotel and then to the site of the first concert venue for interviews with the Aussie press.

The concert was in the city's really wonderful Federation Square, an architecturally stunning outdoor/indoor gathering spot as well as home to several museums, restaurants, and the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI), whose staff members did so much work in advance for us it was almost embarrassing. Before the concert on Fed Square's Main Stage, the students were treated to ACMI's current exhibit, "Game On," which tells the history of the video game. Now, you might think 15 high school students wouldn't have much interest in checking out 150 portals where they could play video games but....kidding!

The concert that evening drew a crowd of approximately 700 people, most of whom were dancing in the plaza not only to the students' Stax set, but also to the special tribute to Australian music, which included tunes by AC/DC, Little River Band, the Bee Gees, Men At Work, and others. While in Melbourne, the academy students also performed a special concert/workshop for the Song Room Foundation, an organization that helps recently arrived refugee children to Australia from all over the world. Even though most of them did not speak English, they understood the music and had a blast. The students also performed for the Royal Children's Hospital in Melbourne.
In addition to their performances and workshops, the students took a trip to Phillip Island, stopping along the way at a park where they got up close and personal with and got to pet and hand feed some tame kangaroos, and at a nature reserve where they watched Koalas mostly sleep in the trees. And yes, they are as cute in person as they are in photos.

On Phillip Island, we first traveled to a spot atop some cliffs with the ocean waves crashing onto the beach below. No tourist attractions, just pure, beautiful nature, including plenty of wallabies hopping about the hillsides. From there we sat at dusk near the beach to watch the Fairy Penguins make their way from the ocean across the beach and into their burrows. Yes, they waddle like little men and women wearing feathered tuxedos.

From Melbourne, we traveled to the Australian capital city of Canberra, where the students performed for roughly 400 guests at the city's newly renovated Llwellyn Hall at the University of Australia Canberra. A highlight of the Canberra trip was having tea with the United States ambassador to Australia and his wife -Ambassador Robert McCallum and Mimi McCallum. Both the ambassador and his wife are native Memphians, and welcomed us to their embassy residence with such hospitality we felt like we were in our own home. In a way we were, since our tax dollars pay for it! They were very quick to point that out.
Then, ah, on to Sydney. Sydney is one of the most laid-back but majestic cities most of us had ever seen. While there we performed at two high schools, the Royal Children's Hospital, and a special July 4th party hosted by the U.S. Consulate General at one of Sydney's nicest hotels. We generally rocked the house and had a ballroom full of diplomats stirring in their suits.
We also visited La Peruse, the site of the first Aboriginal community in Australia, and were treated to a tour by a man man named Vic, an Aboriginal activist who helped reclaim the land for the original/Aboriginal owners. We stood at the very site where Captain John Cook sailed into Botany Bay and discovered the continent and all its riches. We also had great visits to Bondi Beach and the Toronga Zoo, which takes up most of an island in the Sydney Harbor.

A trip like this is life-changing on many levels. For many of the students, it was the first time they had flown on an airplane, first time to visit another country, and the first time to see the ocean. And while those firsts are great experiences, they barely scratch the surface of what it means to travel like this.

First of all, in many respects it's hard work. Nine performances in ten days in three cities is no easy feat. Getting the music just right, being on time, leaving the hotel at 6 a.m. many days, and having to all get along with each other are also challenges. Oh, and I didn't even mention performing live in Sydney on national television in front of viewing audience of millions with one day's notice.
All in all, it was a great trip and we can't thank FedEx enough for helping make this possible. The Stax Music Academy Summer Soul Tour students and staff will never forget this incredible journey.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008


Well, we’re at it again. And this time it’s going to be in the land Down Under!

This coming Sunday, June 22nd, 16 Stax Music Academy high school students and 5 administrators from the Soulsville Foundation are leaving for a tour of Australia on the Summer Soul Tour Presented by FedEx. We’ll be having concerts, workshops, cultural exchanges, sightseeing trips, and other cool opportunities in Melbourne, Sydney, and Canberra over a 10-day period.

Coming on the heels of Australia’s Guy Sebastian’s successful “Memphis Album” and his spring tour with Booker T. & The MGs original members Steve Cropper and Donald “Duck” Dunn, this will be one more great opportunity for the people of Australia to experience the soul music created in Memphis by Stax Records, as well as the students’ versions of some hits that came from Australia, including songs by AC/DC, Men at Work, The Bee Gees, and others. I just hope we survive the flight there!


  • Wednesday, June 25th performance on the Main Stage in Federation Square in Melbourne (5:30-6 p.m.) followed by a special event and screening of the film “Wattstax” at the adjacent Australian Center for the Moving Image (ACMI) at 7 p.m. The film will be introduced by staff from the Soulsville Foundation.

  • Sunday, June 29th performance at Canberra’s Llewellyn Hall (2:30).


  • Wednesday, June 25th concert/workshop for The Song Room Foundation in Melbourne

  • Thursday, June 26th visit and concert at the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne

  • Thursday, June 26th concert/workshop for The Song Room Foundation in Melbourne

  • Wednesday July 2nd workshop with Woolooware High School Sydney

  • Thursday, July 3rd Special July 4th Celebration Concert for US Consulate General Sydney

While in Canberra, the students and faculty of the Stax Music Academy will be treated to tea at the United States Embassy with U.S. Ambassador Robert McCallum and his wife, followed by a tour of the embassy grounds. Ambassador McCallum is a native of Memphis, Tennessee and an avid Memphis music fan. We’re also going to pet some koala bears and kangaroos!
The Stax Music Academy Summer Soul Tour began in 2006, when 14 Stax Music Academy students traveled to Italy to open the festivities for the prestigious Porretta Soul Festival in Porretta Terme. . In the summer of 2007, a group of students went on a domestic Summer Soul Tour, performing at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland, Ohio; Afro-American Music Institute in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania; Sunoco Welcome America Festival in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; and capped off the tour with a July 4th concert at The Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. This performance was also filmed and was featured on The Kennedy Center’s web site.

But none of us has ever been to Australia and this will be the first time most of the students have been outside the United States. It’s a fantastic opportunity for our students, all of whom have been working like crazy rehearsing every day and getting ready for the trip.

We’ll have a special Summer Soul Tour web site so you can keep up with us. I’ll post more details about that before we leave. In the meantime, wish us luck!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008


Left to Right: Andria Lisle, Karla Redding-Andrews, Wayne Jackson, Ben Cauley.

This past weekend was filled with activity for the Soulsville Foundation, the nonprofit parent company that operates the Stax Museum, Stax Music Academy, and The Soulsville Charter School.

Friday morning, as I posted earlier, we held a press conference with AT&T to unveil the new AT&T Real White Pages with the museum on the front cover. I can't wait to see what happens when the 580,000 of them printed are distributed in the coming weeks.

The following night, we had our Stax Music Academy SNAP! After School Spring Concert, which sold out the 900-plus seat Michael D. Rose Theater at the University of Memphis. Three of the academy's ensembles performed, as well as The Soulsville Charter School Soulsville Symphony Orchestra. Special featured guests were our academy's Artist in Residence, internationally acclaimed saxophonist and composer Kirk Whalum, along with Otis Redding's sons, Otis III and Dexter Redding, who finished the concert by performing "(Sitting On The) Dock of the Bay" with the students' Stax Music Academy Rhythm Section.

During the concert, 3 Stax Music Academy students - Ricardo Canaday, Ashton Riker, and Terrell Sharkey - were presented with scholarships to the Berklee College of Music in Boston for their upcoming five-week Summer Music Performance Program, and twelve academy students took the stage to announce that they will be traveling to Australia this summer during the Stax Music Academy Summer Soul Tour Presented by FedEx.

On Sunday, the museum hosted "Conversations with the Reddings," a panel discussion/Q&A moderated by music writer Andria Lisle. While Otis Redding's wife, Mrs. Zelma Redding, had to cancel because of personal issues and his sons Otis Redding III and Dexter Redding didn't participate in the actual panel, the family was represented well by Otis and Zelma's daughter, Karla Redding-Andrews, as well as stax legend Wayne Jackson of the Mar-Keys and Memphis Horns, and Bar-Kays trumpeter Ben Cauley, the only surviving member aboard the plane that crashed on December 10, 1967, killing Otis Redding and all of the other Bar-Kays except James Alexander, who had taken a commercial flight. The discussion was full of information, anecdotes, insight into what Redding was like as both an entertainer and family man, and there were some very emotional moments as Cauley described the crash and trying to save his drowning friends.

For an objective account of the evening, check out

Thanks to all of you who attended any or all of these events. A good time was had by all and we couldn't do this without the support of not only the Memphis public, but also the national and international community that has such great love for Stax!

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Stax Museum Graces Cover of New AT&T Real White Pages Delivered to 580,000 Area Homes and Businesses

At a press conference this past Friday, May 16th, at the Stax Museum, representatives from the Soulsville Foundation and AT&T unveiled the new 2008-2009 AT&T Real White Pages phone directory with a photo of the museum on the front cover. This is part of a new partnership between the Soulsville Foundation and AT&T, which includes a sponsorship of the museum's changing gallery and other opportunities. AT&T vice president of external affairs Bill Ray said in his comments that he had been in an integrated band in high school and was drawn to the Soulsville Foundation because of the rich Stax legacy of racial harmony, as well as the work the foundation is doing with at-risk children through the Stax Music Academy and The Soulsville Charter School, citing specifically the upcoming SMA Summer Soul Tour Presented By FedEx, which will take 16 students on a concert tour/cultural enrichment trip through Sydney, Melbourne, and Canberra, Australia on June 22, 2008.

We at the museum are very grateful to AT&T for this collaboration and hope that with 580,000 copies of the directory soon delivered in Memphis, Germantown, Bartlett, Collierville, Arlington, Rosemark, West Memphis, and DeSoto County, the museum will get even more exposure and visitors. So the next time you look for a phone number, know that we have it covered!
Cover photo by Terry Sweeney of Sweeney Photography South.

Thursday, May 8, 2008


Come help the Stax Museum of American Soul Music celebrate National Tourism Week and the Stax Museum's Fifth Birthday with our special admission price of just $5 for everyone Sunday, May 11 - Sunday, May 18!! This is for regular museum hours: Monday - Saturday 9 a.m.- 4 p.m. and Sundays 1-4 p.m.

The Stax Museum opened on May 2, 2003. We've come a long way since then and are happy to offer this special admission price to help celebrate!

If you haven't seen our special exhibit in Studio A - "OTIS REDDING: FROM MACON TO MEMPHIS - An Exhibit from the Private Collection of Zelma Redding" - this is the perfect time!

Also see our special exhibit in conjunction with Memphis In May's salute to Turkey, "“Turkish Music Through Musicians – A Photographic Essay,” a collection of large-format color photos by Turkish photograher Atilla Durak.

For more information, please visit

Friday, April 18, 2008


Left to right: Otis Redding III, Demetria Redding, Zelma Redding, Karla Redding-Andrews, & Dexter Redding.


On Saturday and Sunday, May 17 & 18, 2008 the Soulsville Foundation will once again make history when Otis Redding's family will be our special guests and events participants on two very exciting evenings. The family includes Otis Redding's widow, Mrs. Zelma Redding, along with his three children, Otis III and Dexter Redding and Karla Redding-Andrews.

All will be special guests on Saturday, May 17th at the Stax Music Academy SNAP! After School Spring Concert at the University of Memphis' Michael D. Rose Theater. Otis III and Dexter will perform with the students. All ensembles will be featured during the concert - Stax Music Academy Rhythm Section, StreetCorner Harmonies, Premier Percussionists, and the Soulsville Swing Band, as well as The Soulsville Charter School's Soulsville Symphony Orchestra. Also starring as a speical guest is the academy's Artist in Residence, internationally acclaimed saxophonist Kirk Whalum.

The concert is at 7 p.m. and admission is just $5!

On Sunday, May 18th, the entire Redding family will be our guests for our "Conversations With The Reddings" panel discussion/Q&A, along with others who knew Otis Redding well, including Ben Cauley, the only Bar-Kay band member on board the plane to survive the tragic crash on December 10, 1967 near Madison, Wisconsin, which took the life of Redding at the age of 26. This event will take place in the Stax Museum's intimate Studio A. The discussion will not only focus on Otis Redding the phenomenal entertainer, but also Otis Redding the loving father and husband.

"Conversations With the Reddings" will take place from 5 - 7 p.m. $10 general admission and free to Stax Museum members.

This will be Zelma Redding's and Karla Redding-Andrews' first visit to the Stax Museum of American Soul Music.


For more information, please call 901-946-2535 or visit

Wednesday, April 9, 2008


As the Stax Museum celebrates its 5th anniversary in 2008, we are pleased to announce that we now have several Stax Museum-curated exhibits available for lease and travel to other museums, galleries, colleges and univerisities, festivals, and other venues. All are photographic collections that cannot be found anywhere else in the world and all respresesent a unique aspect of American culture that has worldwide influence.

Please note that exhibits can be leased in total or partial collections, and that the photographs are already framed. For more information and pricing details on these exhibits, please contact the Stax Museum's curator Carol Drake 901-946-2535 or

Exhibits Available for Travel:

"THE ART OF STAX: Essential Album Cover Photographs by Stax Photographer Joel Brodsky"

An amazing collection of iconic soul music photography, including original Stax and other soul lablels album cover photos and outtakes from those photo shoots, by one of America's most influential music photographers. This is the only exhibit of Mr. Brodsky's soul music photography. Includes such artists as Isaac Hayes, Eddie Floyd, Rufus Thomas, Johnnie Taylor, Jean Knight, Gladys Knight & The Pips, the Staple Singers, and many others. For more details click here.

"WATTSTAX: I Am Somebody"

This collection of some 60 large-format photographs from the famed 1972 Wattstax Concert and the making of the 1973 "Wattstax: The Living Word" documentary capture the excitement, importance, and magnitude of the famed concert during which 112,000 people filled the Los Angeles Coliseum for an all day concert featuring Stax Records entire roster of artists at the time, along with original press releases and other memorabilia from the second-largest gathering of African-Americans in American history. For more details please click here.

"HOOKS BROTHERS PHOTOGRAPHY: 75 Years of African-American Life in Memphis"

A collection of some 80 black-and-white photographs depicting virtually every aspect of African-American life in Memphis during the 20th century, including weddings, funerals, graduations, portraits, social gatherings, and more. Located for many years on Memphis' historic Beale Street, the Hooks Brothers Photography Studio was operated by the family of former national NAACP President Benjamin Hooks, who worked at the studio as a young man. For more details please click here.

"STAX HERE AND NOW: Current Images of the Stars of Stax Records"

Stax music fans will love this collection of new photographs of Stax icons and some who worked behind the scenes, which depicts them as they are today. The photos are accompanied by detailed text panel information about their days at Stax as well as the path they are on in life now. The collection also contains a few surprises from other legendary Memphis soul music labels. For more details please click here.

"FROM THE SOUL: An Intimate Portrait of Soulsville, USA"

The exhibit consists of some 40 recently taken black-and-white photographs from the community surrounding the Stax Museum at the original site of Stax records, including such landmarks as the former homes of Aretha Franklin, Booker T. Jones (Booker T. & the MGs), Memphis Slim, Memphis Minnie, and others. The exhibit also includes portraits of longtime Soulsville, USA residents along with text panels that share their memories of growing up in the community - from what it was like to learn of Otis Redding’s and members of the Bar Kay’s deaths on the radio in 1967, to the energy in the air when Stax Records was in full swing. For more details please click here.

Friday, March 28, 2008


As Memphis honors the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and commemorates the 40th anniversary of his tragic death here on April 4, 1968, we hope you will visit the National Civil Rights Museum, as well as the Stax Museum of American Soul Music, where the Civil Rights movement is also highlighted because of the integral role Stax Records played in the Movement.

Year round, the Stax Museum and National Civil Rights Museum offer a special MUSIC & THE MOVEMENT ticket package, with admission to both museums for the discounted price of $18 for adults, $16 for seniors and students with proper ID, and $14 for children age 4- 17.
Tickets may be purchased at both museums.

For more information about the National Civil Rights Museum and the many special events it is hosting, please visit

Wednesday, March 26, 2008


WKNO, Memphis’ television station for public programming, was recently honored with two 2008 National Telly Awards for two locally produced documentaries highlighting the Mid-South community. One of those was our own Stax Music Academy: From Soulsville to Italy.

Stax Music Academy, produced by Pierre Kimsey, follows fourteen of our young students from the Academy on tour in Italy in 2006 as they follow in the footsteps of legendary Stax musicians. This was our first ever Summer Soul Tour Presented by FedEx and it was the first time any of the students had traveled abroad and was a life-changing experience for them all. The documentary - which follows the students through Rome, Verona, Peisa, Venice, and Porretta Terme, where they opened the festivitites for the prestigious Porretta Soul Festiva - premiered on Channel 10 in August, 2007 and has aired on many public television stations across the country. WKNO and the Soulsville Foundation also hosted a private screening at the Stax Museum for the students and their families before the documentary aired.

The Telly Awards honor the very best local, regional, and cable television commercials and programs, as well as the finest video and film productions. Since 1978, their mission has been to strengthen the visual arts community by inspiring, promoting, and supporting creativity. The 29th Annual Telly Awards received over 14,000 entries from all 50 states and 5 continents. Fewer than 10% of those entries received honors.

Thursday, March 13, 2008


SoulSchool Spring Break Concert!

Wednesday, March 19th - 7 p.m.

Buckman Performing Arts Center

Featuring Stax Music Academy Students joined by Internationally Renowned Kirk Whalum & Music Directors/Performers from Berklee College of Music

Admission: $5

The Soulsville Foundation is happy to announce that its Stax Music Academy’s SoulSchool Spring Break Concert will be held Wednesday, March 19th, at Buckman Performing Arts Center at 7 p.m. and will feature Stax Music Academy students joined by visiting Music Directors from Berklee College of Music and Internationally Renowned Kirk Whalum.

About SoulSchool Spring Break:

When the Stax Music Academy began programming at Stafford Elementary School in the summer of 2000, before there was a Stax Music Academy building or the Stax Museum of American Soul Music, the people behind the Soulsville project knew they were onto something. Some 225 children spent six weeks at Stafford in the Stax Music Academy SNAP! Summer Music Camp and had their first Grand Finale concert at the University of Memphis on July 14, 2000.

Since that time, of course, the Stax Music Academy and Stax Museum of American Soul Music, along with The Soulsville Charter School – all under the umbrella of the Soulsville Foundation – have opened and have reached thousands of lives of the community’s primarily at-risk young people.

So popular has the academy been among its students, that in 2006, the school had to create a program for them during what was their spring break from their regular schools. When most students were thrilled to have a week out of the classroom, the Stax Music Academy students wanted to do something special during that week instead.

That year, the academy created a program named SoulSchool Spring Break, and opened it up to students from throughout Memphis and Shelby County with a paid tuition fee, but still offered scholarships to those in financial need. The academy conducted an intense three-day workshop for a group of students, and brought in music producer, writer, and performer Philippe Saisse, a graduate of the Berklee College of Music, who had worked with everyone from Tina Turner to Billy Joel, Luther Vandross, Rod Stewart and dozens of other music icons. The students learned all original music in the three-day workshop and performed a concert with Saisse at the Buckman Performing Arts Center. They has Saisse back year for a repeat performance, this time with then-new Stax Artist in Residence Kirk Whalum, the internationally known saxophone player, composer, and performer who is also a one of Memphis’ favorite hometown sons.
Now, in its third year, next week’s Stax Music Academy SoulSchool Spring Break will bring more Berklee alums, as part of a new and active partnership the Stax Music Academy has forged with the prestigious music school in Massachusetts, where, by the way, two Stax Music Academy alums began attending last fall.

Two of the Berklee Music Directors who will conduct the workshop are Nichelle Mungo and Winston Maccow. Mungo is a voice instructor who has worked with Natalie Cole, Andrae Crouch, Patti LaBelle, and host of other famous singers. She is a three time winner of Showtime at the Apollo and is an accomplished singer, choral director, performer, and certified music instructor. Maccow is an assistant ensemble professor who has appeared with Nancy Wilson, Urban Renewal, Flying Elephants, and many others, and is s guest speaker and clinician at two conservatories in Denmark.

As part of the Stax Music Academy’s mission of mentoring students through music education and unique performance opportunities, both Mungo and Maccow will teach the students about more than just music.

According to Maccow, “What I try to get out my class is leaders. Everyone’s supposed to lead,
Everyone. I put people on the spot just to see how they’re paying attention to things. I’ll say, 'Okay, next week, I want you to lead.' Or I don’t even say that. I just say, 'You’re going to lead today.' In my class, you’re always on your toes. It’s the only way to develop leadership. You’ve got to be on yourtoes in the real world.”

For more information, please visit or call 901-946-2535.

Thursday, February 28, 2008


Dr. Mable John may be famous for being the first solo female artist signed to Motown, for being a revered Stax Records artist, for being the leader singer of Ray Charles' Raelettes singers, and for her million-selling Stax hit "Your Good Thing (Is About to End), but it doesn't look like Mable's good thing is about to end any time soon!

In addition to publishing two novels with Random House in the past couple of years, giving a more than stellar performance at the Stax Records 50th Anniversary Concert in Memphis in June last year, and continuing to feed, clothe, and minister to thousands of homeless people in Los Angeles, she is now on the silver screen in John Sayles' new film Honeydripper, which opens in Memphis tomorrow, Friday, February 29, in an exclusive engagement at Malco's Ridgeway Theater. The film has already garnered two awards: The NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Independent or Foreign Film and the San Sebastian International Film Festival Award for Best Screenplay.

Here is IMDB's synopsis of the film:

1950. Rural Alabama. Cotton harvest. It's a make-or-break weekend for the Honeydripper Lounge and its owner, piano player Tyrone "Pine Top" Purvis. Deep in debt to the liquor man, the chicken man, and the landlord, Tyrone is desperate to lure the young cotton pickers and local Army base recruits into his juke joint, away from Touissants, the rival joint across the way.After laying off his regular talent, blues singer Bertha Mae, Tyrone announces to his sidekick Maceo that he has hired the famous electric guitar player, Guitar Sam, for a special one night only gig: pack em in and save the club. On the day of the show, the train arrives and Guitar Sam is no where to be found. Tyrone is forced to take drastic action. He makes a deal with Sheriff Pugh to release Sonny, the kid who hopped off a freight car here in Harmony, and turned up in the club claiming he could play the guitar as well as any Guitar Sam.Tyrone cleans Sonny up and launches a last ditch scheme to pass off the young guitar picker as Guitar Sam just long enough to cut the lights and run off with cash box. When Sonny takes the stage and launches into his first scalding electric licks, Tyrone will learn if its lights out for the Honeydripper or if his luck has changed: he might just be another man saved by rock n' roll.Honeydripper features an all-star cast including Danny Glover, Charles S. Dutton, Lisa Gay Hamilton, Stacy Keach, Mary Steenburgen,Yaya DaCosta and Sean Patrick Thomas; as well as such notable musicians as Keb Mo and Dr. Mable John. It also introduces a major new talent, Gary Clark Jr. who makes his electrifying film debut as Sonny.


If you're a Memphis Midtowner or just someone who likes to read good blogs about the Bluff City, you might be familiar with Ryan Jones' My Midtown Memphis blog. Ryan recently posted a great piece about his visit to the Stax Museum campus, deftly pointing out that it is just four minutes (!) from the Cooper-Young entertainment district, and that much more goes on here than just the museum.

Read his comments at and enjoy!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008


If you're a true soul music fan, which I assume you are if you're reading this blog, you need to get with it and get on board the soul train at This site is the brainchild and labor of love of Bob Davis, soul music expert based in New Jersey and an outstanding supporter of the Soulsville Foundation/Stax Museum. You'll see more about that if you keep scrolling down.

Bob is THE MAN when it comes to soul music - classic, neo, nu, funk, you name it. He constantly reviews albums and concerts, conducts interviews with hundreds of soul music folks and posts them on line, and works tirelessly on his newsletter, which is read by thousands of people around the world. He has an online radio show, online LP compilations, and is one of the most respected people in the world of soul music. If the man ever sleeps, your guess is as good as mine as to when that would be!

So go to his site, sign up for the newsletter, and enjoy!

As for his thoughts on the Soulsville Foundation and Stax Museum, here are some words from his newsletter today:

As you may or may not know, the Soulsville Foundation is the name of the non-profit organization that operates the Stax Museum of American Soul Music, the Stax Music Academy, and The Soulsville Charter School. They have a mission of celebrating soul music's rich legacy and mentoring the at-risk youth in our community.

As music fans we often complain about this that or the other. We complain about EVIL record labels, EVIL radio networks, EVIL technology companies and all other EVIL doers that we think are out to destroy our culture in exchange for EVIL corporate profits. Well here is something that you can personally become involved with that isn't EVIL. It's certainly Black music based. It's directly connected to our musical legacy. It aims to correct EVIL in our society( and you don't even have to leave the comfort of your own home in order to do so.....)

And even if you are a completely self centered person and don't care about correcting EVIL. Think about it this way...(it will make YOU a better person....)

Thanks in advance...--Bob Davis

Thursday, February 21, 2008


Well, the word is getting out that Boscos Squared has done a great thing for the Stax Music Academy. Well, not exactly for the kids, but for a fund-raiser that will take place on Friday, March 7th at the Stax Museum. The party is called Staxtacular and in honor of this great event, Boscos has created a special beer - SHAFT ON DRAFT! You can get it now through early March, or you can certainly get it at the Staxtacular party, the Soulsville Foundation's largest fund-raiser of the year for the Stax Music Academy.

Tickets are still on sale for $150 each and you can purchase them on line at, where you can also learn much more about the event, including auction item. If you've never seen J. Blackfoot of the Soul Children and his Street Gang Band with Queen Ann Hines, you are in for the show of your life.

Thanks much to Ryan Jones of My Midtown Memphis and Paul Ryburn of Paul Ryburn's Journal for helping spread the word!

By the way, that photo of Isaac Hayes is from the 2006 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition photo shoot at the Stax Museum. Some people just have to work so hard!!!

Thursday, February 14, 2008


Back in the late summer of 2007, four members of the early Stax group the Mar-Keys came to the Stax Museum to be photographed for our exhibit (which is still up!), "STAX HERE AND NOW: Current Images of the Stars of Stax Records. The crew included Ronnie Stoots, Terry Williams (who now co-owns Fino's From the Hill with his wife!), Memphis Horns legend Wayne Jackson, and Jerry Lee "Smoochy" Smith.

It was the Mar-Keys' million-selling hit "Last Night," recorded on Jim Stewart and Estelle Axton's Satellite Records, that brought to their attention the fact that there was already a Satellite Records in California, which caused them to change the name of the company to a portmanteau of their last names, combing ST from Stewart and AX from Axton to form STAX.

Before the photo shoot, however, the Mar-Key members paid a visit to the Stax Music Academy, where they got a great dose of what goes on there by way of an impromtu jam session of "Last Night" with the Stax Music Academy Rhythm Section in what would prove to be a historic meeting of the Stax legends and the students carrying the label's legacy into the future.

See this video and enjoy seeing Smoochy Smith bang out the song on the keyboard just as he did back in 1961!!!

AND, while the Mar-Keys in the room are not shown in this video, please see the Stax Music Academy Rhythm Section performing the Averate White Band's "Pick Up The Pieces" for them!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008


On August 20, 1972, something happened in Los Angeles that remains unmatched in American history. More than 112,000 people – almost all African-Americans – gathered in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum for a seven-hour concert hosted by Stax Records. The Memphis-based label took its entire roster of artists at the time for the event, which was designed to a peaceful, astounding, and vivid celebration of self-expression and empowerment for the Watts community. It was also a for the benefit of the Watts Summer Festival, established some years earlier to raise money for community improvement projects in the wake of the 1965 Watts rebellion, during which much of the Los Angeles community was destroyed. At the time, it was the second largest gathering of African-Americans in history, second only to Dr. Martin Luther King’s march on Washington in 1963. The name of the concert was Wattstax, and for many it became known as the “Black Woodstock.”

Among the artists on hand were the Staple Singers, the Bar-Kays, Albert King, Rufus and Carla Thomas, The Rance Allen Group, The Soul Children, The Dramatics, The Emotions, Johnnie Taylor, Little Milton, Luther Ingram, Kim Weston, Isaac Hayes, Rev. Jesse Jackson, and others. Admission to the festival was just $1.00, assuring that anyone who wanted to attend could be there. Proceeds benefited the many community programs supported by the Watts Summer Festival, Martin Luther King Hospital, the Sickle Cell Anemia Foundation, and the Watts Labor Community Action Committee. The artists performed free of charge and Schlitz beer sponsored the event to offset some of the production costs. Stax Records paid all other incurred costs.

Now, Rhodes College is bringing the memory of Wattstax to life with a special exhibit on loan from the Stax Museum of American Soul Music, “WATTSTAX: I Am Somebody,” which features more than 50 large-format color and black-and-white photos of the concert, the crowd, and the making of the documentary that was released the following year, Wattstax: The Living Word. Free and open to the public, the exhibit will be on display in the Paul Barret, Jr. Library February 2 – 28, 2008 in Barrett 051. Times are: Thursdays, 5 p.m. – 9 p.m.; Saturdays, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.; and Sundays 1 p.m. – 5 p.m.

The exhibit – which returned to Memphis in January from a four-month showing at the California African American Museum in Los Angeles, where it received rave reviews and was extended because of its popularity – was first shown at the Stax Museum in fall 2004 to coincide with the release of a newly restored Wattstax: The Living Word on home DVD from Warner Home Video.

At a February 5th opening reception at Rhodes, former Stax Records owner and Wattstax creator Al Bell gave the following speech:

February 5, 2008
“Believing and Achieving the American Dream”
Presented by Al Bell

To: Dr. Anita Davis, Dr. William E. Troutt, Dr. Russell Wigginton, Dr. Luther Ivory, Faculty members, Students, Business and community leaders, those of my business colleagues and business associates present here this evening, my family members that are present and my friends.

Please let me humbly say “Thank You” to Dr. Anita Davis for inviting me here today to speak to and fellowship with the Rhodes family. I am both humbled and honored.

I am so appreciative and thank Dr. Davis for choosing to display The WATTSTAX photographic exhibit during Rhodes College’s Black History Month Celebration. The Exhibit highlights some of the most poignant moments captured during the filming of the cultural-music film classic.

The photos reveal the enthusiasm of the participating audience; the seriousness of the event; the emotion of the performing Stax artists and lastly -- and perhaps most importantly -- the mood of a colorful collection of oppressed people peaceably expressing their determination to keep hope alive.

In my judgment, the fact that Rhodes College is choosing to highlight the WATTSTAX exhibit during it’s Black History Month Celebration serves to add additional value, credibility, legitimacy and contemporary importance to what WATTSTAX represents currently as a cultural and social "work of art" that was created 30+ years ago. Thank You!

I also want to wish Rhodes College a Happy Anniversary on your 160th year of giving service to humanity since 1848. Happy Anniversary!!!

As I began preparing for our discussion today here at Rhodes College, my mind went back to 1968 and why and how WATTSTAX came into being. What we were trying to offer that audience in that stadium overflowing with men…women… and children in Los Angeles was HOPE in the American Dream….helping them to believe that whatever they dreamed of achieving would and could be fulfilled!

What is the American Dream?

In the United States’ Declaration of Independence, our founding fathers: "…held certain truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness." Might this sentiment be considered the foundation of the American Dream?

Some say, that the American Dream has become the pursuit of material prosperity - that people work more hours to get bigger cars, fancier homes, the fruits of prosperity for their families - but have less time to enjoy their prosperity. Others say that the American Dream is beyond the grasp of the working poor who must work two jobs to insure their family’s survival. Yet others look toward a new American Dream with less focus on financial gain and more emphasis on living a simple, fulfilling life.

Thomas Wolfe said, "…to every man, regardless of his birth, his shining, golden opportunity (the American Dream is) ….the right to live, to work, to be himself, and to become whatever thing his manhood and his vision can combine to make him." Is this your American Dream?

The term,The American Dream, was first used in James Truslow Adams’ book “The Epic of America”, he writes: "The American Dream is "that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement. It is a difficult dream for the European upper classes to interpret adequately, and too many of us ourselves have grown weary and mistrustful of it. It is not a dream of motor cars and high wages merely, but a dream of social order in which each man and each woman shall be able to attain to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable, and be recognized by others for what they are, regardless of the fortuitous circumstances of birth or position." (p.214-215)

Dreams of hope, equality, prosperity, recognition, and acceptance have long been the dreams of our forefathers….

In 1848, what is now named Rhodes College was founded by men and grown by men of “good will” born out of the John Calvin and Martin Luther ideals. Rhodes’ founding fathers and builders believed in something they could not see with their eyes.

Rhodes founders believed in the “fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man.” Rhodes founding fathers basic ideals are that all persons are the children of one God, that all persons are related to each other, and that the best way to worship God is to be of service to people.

Born before this 1848 period Scott Joplin an African American Composer and Pianist created and became the father of Ragtime Music. He sought both legitimacy and recognition for ragtime as an art form but Joplin was doubly cursed by his dream. As a black, he lived at a time when the legal system not only left so many people of color without civil liberty, but also denigrated every aspect of our culture.
In 1938 Irving Berlin wrote the words and music to a song that says:

"While the storm clouds gather far across the sea, Let us swear allegiance to a land that's free, Let us all be grateful for a land so fair, As we raise our voices in a solemn prayer.” God Bless America, Land that I love. Stand beside her, and guide her Thru the night with a light from above. From the mountains, to the prairies, To the oceans, white with foam God bless America, My home sweet home.

Those words of Irving Berlin have become the mantra for many Americans. It speaks of each of us striving in our individual ways to live in a land of peace and equality.

Twenty years before WATTSTAX, Jackie Robinson had broken the Major League Baseball color barrier (1948) when he became the first black baseball player in the U.S. major leagues during the 20th century. As an infielder and outfielder for the Brooklyn Dodgers of the National League he hit a league-leading .342, drove in 124 runs, and was voted the Most Valuable Player in the National League.
In 1948 President Harry S. Truman confounded all predictions that “he could not do it” and won re-election as President of the United States of America. In 1948 he used executive orders to begin desegregation of the U.S. armed forces.
In 1948 Mahatma Gahndi made his transformation from this three dimenesional world.

Mahatma Gahndi was a major political and spiritual leader of India and the Indian independence movement. He was the pioneer of a simple, but profound philosophy that is largely concerned with truth and 'resistance to evil through active, non-violent resistance'—which led India to independence and inspired movements for civil rights and freedom across the world. It was Mahatma Gahndi’s philosophy and spiritual beliefs that had the greatest influence on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr..

In 1948 I was alive. In my life and times I lived facing the painful and almost unbearable sting of segration, Jim Crow, racism and all other forms of social injustice while seeking equal rights and to be liberated.

In 1948 Big Band and Jazz Music grew popular in America and began to influence music generally.

Twenty years later after we had marched and fought for equal rights, In 1968 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the “Drum Major” for freedom, justice, equality and peace, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, was assassinated.

In 1968 President Lyndon Baines Johnson who was vice President under President John Fitzgerald Kennedy became President after President Kennedy was assassinated. President Johnson pushed through congress the civil rights legislation that President Kennedy wanted to pass, as a result of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Equal Rights Movement. President Johnson refused to run for re-election and it created unbelievable disruption in the Democrat party. I remember him saying “This old country boy is going home.”

Robert Kennedy who was the Attorney General under his brother President John Fitzgerald Kennedy decided to run for President so that he could fulfill his brothers’ dream. In 1968 he was assassinated in Los Angeles, CA.

In 1968 the “spirit” that gave rise to the creation of WATTSTAX, the attitude of Respect Yourself and I Am Somebody “was being born.”

“Believing and Fulfilling the American Dream!”

Over 30 years ago “in pursuit of the American Dream”, two men who worked with me at STAX, Larry Shaw and Forrest Hamilton, and I had the vision of taking the roster of STAX’S African American recording artist to Los Angeles, CA, - put on a concert at the Los Angeles Coliseum, - record it, - film it, - produce a documentary film titled WATTSTAX: The Living Word, - and contribute a substantial portion of the net

proceeds to an annual Los Angeles, CA African American cultural event - the Watts Summer Festival, and to varied other African American social, humanitarian and Civil Rights organizations.

We dared, or had the audacity to do this for numerous reasons. I choose, on this occasion, to highlight only ‘one reason’ because from a social, cultural and historical point of view, in my judgment, it is the most significant and the most important reason.

We believed that WATTSTAX would demonstrate the positive attributes of black pride and the unique substance found in the lives, living and lifestyle of the African American working class and middle class (this “socioeconomic group”) while revealing some insight into their internal thoughts during a time when we were still struggling to be recognized, respected, accepted as human beings and to be granted “equal rights” as enjoyed by every other ethnic group, that was a part of the larger segment of American society.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. took the position that his passive resistance “equal rights” movement would provide the forum for the rest of the world to realize firstly, that we even existed in America as a people and secondly, that the reaction to his passive resistance “equal rights” movement, by the larger segment of society, as shown via television, would allow for the rest of the world to see how America was treating us, as a people.

The documentary WATTSTAX allows for you to see and hear through words and music, how some African Americans in this “socioeconomic group” were dealing with and still reacting to that mistreatment just 4 years after Dr. King’s death.

We believed that WATTSTAX would provide somewhat of a “mirror” for us to see ourselves, and an opportunity for other Americans to peer through a small “window of our existence” and gain a better insight into the kind of caring, and sensitive, family oriented people that we really are!!!

There were 112,000 people at the WATTSTAX Concert in the Los Angeles Coliseum on a very, very, hot day and night. They were there for over 10 hours. They came from every segment of our African American society - from Ozzie Davis and Ruby Dee, the Soul Train folks and entire families to the “Bloods” and the “Crips” (so called gangs). There was not one single disturbance. No policemen were there. We had our own security, headed and managed by Melvin Van Peebles and no one had a gun. There was not one single disturbance. It was a day of Celebration. The WATTSTAX concert was an African American family affair. WATTSTAX was a Celebration!!!

This was a time when African Americans dreamed of, and desired, to merely be granted, “equal rights” thereby becoming “equal partners and equal participants” in the American Dream.

A time when we, although being disrespected and mistreated by many, possessed deep down within us a burning desire to be treated equally so that we could proudly stand among the masses with “hands up” rather than being continually suppressed, oppressed, reduced to sub-human standards and forced into the disrespectful position of “hands out.”

WATTSTAX graphically demonstrates how a people, living in the land of plenty, possessing so little, found refuge in the “spirit of celebration.”

WATTSTAX: The Living Word -------- “A CELEBRATION!!!”

When you get an opportunity to view the film we ask you to color in your mind every participant as being white, or European American, give the guitars a smooth steel sound, give the speech a twangy sound and the vocals a slight yodel sound and then perhaps, paradoxically, you will recognize that WATTSTAX is really a reflection of what was going on in the lives, living and lifestyles of the largest “socioeconomic group” of people in America, - white and black.

It is very important to realize and note that two white people, Jim Stewart and Estelle Axton, founded STAX. They did not emphasize a difference in the races, thus STAX was an integrated environment, at a time when segregation permeated American society.

It is very important to realize and note that WATTSTAX: The Living Word was financed by white and black money (and not by Hollywood) for at that time STAX Records and STAX Films were owned fifty percent by Jim Stewart (a white man) and fifty percent by Al Bell (a black man).

It is very important to realize and note that WATTSTAX: The Living Word’s Executive Producers were Al Bell (black) and David Wolper (white) of Wolper Film Productons. The number one documentary film production company in Hollywood.

It is very important to realize and note that WATTSTAX: The Living Word’s Producers were Larry Shaw (black) with STAX and Mel Stuart (white) with Wolper Film Productions..

It is very important to realize and note that WATTSTAX: The Living Word’s Director was Mel Stuart a white man whose directing, editing and finished product was guided and co-directed by a black man Larry Shaw.

As a result, the perspective of this movie was one of “truth!” Bold – sincere – undiluted!!! A unique voice captured also by black film crews, many of them shooting their first time in a big budget film. The result of this “truth” - WATTSTAX: The Living Word is a Cannes celebrated, Golden Globe nominated, and thirty years later a Sundance awarded movie.

The insight gleaned from WATTSTAX: The Living Word inspired David Wolper to later film and produce Alex Haley’s Roots.

The inspiration continued, as recent reports revealed that the noted comedian David Chappelle looked to WATTSTAX: The Living Word as a “blue print” for his contemporary hip hop WATTSTAX “event and experience” in New York City.

STAX Records and WATTSTAX personified how white and black people working side by side could make music for black people, and a documentary about how the music reflected what was going on in black lives, living and life styles, without compromising in any manner the authenticity of the presentation.

Was this a miracle, or is this merely an example of what we whites and blacks can achieve in America by working together, respecting each other, and accepting each other as we really are???

It is my prayer that WATTSTAX: The Living Word will trigger thought processes that in some small way will aid us collectively in understanding how to eliminate any gulfs or perceived dichotomy that exist between us as human beings.

It is my prayer that we, people, can collectively site that part of the Declaration of Independence that states, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

It is my prayer that we, people, can stand together, embrace our collective freedom and speak together in unison the “Pledge of Allegiance” with passionate emphasis on “one nation, under God, indivisible with liberty and Justice for all.”

“Believing and Fulfilling the American Dream!”

God Bless Americans!!!

We have come a mighty long way in America – but we still have a little further to go!!! Change!!!

Believing and Fulfilling the American Dream!

So here we are TODAY 2008 in “A Brand New World!!!”

I come to you today as an American Citizen of African Ancestry.

From 1680 to June of 2007 (400 years after America’s beginning) historical records clearly reflect – the many incidents, laws, and changing of laws, including an amendment to the Constitution – that people of African Ancestry have earned the right to be an American Citizen. I am proud to be an American citizen.

So here we are TODAY 2008 in “A Brand New World!!!”

Today, we have a woman of European Ancestry Hillary Clinton and a man of African ancestry Barack Obama, leading the Democratic race for the next President of the United States of America.

Today, we see basketball and football team uniforms and not the players color.

Today, men and a woman of African ancestry head over 56 countries in the world.

Today, the largest democracy in the world is India and it is headed by a woman. The current President of India is Pratibha Patil, the first woman to serve in the office. She was sworn in on July 25, 2007.

The world is moving on this “gender issue” and we had better start changing.

Today, women now head up governments in South America, Africa, Asia and Europe.

Today, the world’s largest and tallest building is in Dubai. It is no longer the Sears’ Tower in Chicago.

Today, we (America) are no longer the “Financial Sun” in the Universe. We are just a planet.

Today the largest private airplane is not flown by the President of the United States it is owned and flown by His Royal Highness Prince Al Waleed. Prince Al Waleed is CEO of Saudi Arabia’s Kingdom Holding Company in Dubai.

We have come a mighty long way in America – but we still have a little further to go!!!

Let not your hearts be troubled though CHANGE is in the air and the winds of change are blowing!!!

We have come a mighty long way in America – but we still have a little further to go!!! Change!!!

Believing and Achieving the American Dream.

In closing, I wish to share with you one of my favorite poems written by Edgar A. Guest and titled “It Couldn’t Be Done”. Hopefully, as it has always done for me, it will serve to inspire and motivate you to say “Yes We Can.” Then we must start working together to bring about a CHANGE!

Somebody said it couldn’t be done,
but he with a chuckle replied
that “maybe it couldn’t,” but he would be one
who wouldn’t say so till he’d tried.
So he buckled right in with the trace of a grin
on his face. If he worried he hid it.
He started to sing as he tackled the thing
that couldn’t be done, and he did it.

Somebody scoffed: “Oh, you’ll never do that;
at least no one ever has done it”;
but he took off his coat and he took off his hat,
and the first thing we knew he’d begun it.
With the lift of his chin and a bit of a grin,
without any doubting or quiddit,
he started to sing as he tackled the thing
that couldn’t be done, and he did it.

There are thousands to tell you it cannot be done,
there are thousands to prophesy failure;
there are thousands to point out to you, one by one,
the dangers that wait to assail you.
But just buckle in with a bit of a grin,
just take off your coat and go to it;
just start to sing as you tackle the thing
that “cannot be done,” and you’ll do it.

On this day I thank God for continuing to bless America!