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Stars of Stax Music

The Mar-Keys (Joe Arnold, Wayne Jackson and Andrew Love) in undated handout photograph. After high school, Jackson joined a band called the Mar-Keys, a group that included future MGs Steve Cropper and Donald 'Duck' Dunn and, on baritone sax, Don Nix. In 1961, the Mar-Keys had one of Stax's first hits with the instrumental 'Last Night'. At the same time Jackson and the Mar-Keys were becoming a key element in the early Stax sound, Love could be found at the Hi Records studio. They were brought together by Al Jackson, drummer for Booker T. and the MGs and a regular session player at both studios. (handout / The Commercial Appeal files)

Photo by handout

The Mar-Keys (Joe Arnold, Wayne Jackson and Andrew Love) in undated handout photograph. After high school, Jackson joined a band called the Mar-Keys, a group that included future MGs Steve Cropper and Donald 'Duck' Dunn and, on baritone sax, Don Nix. In 1961, the Mar-Keys had one of Stax's first hits with the instrumental 'Last Night'. At the same time Jackson and the Mar-Keys were becoming a key element in the early Stax sound, Love could be found at the Hi Records studio. They were brought together by Al Jackson, drummer for Booker T. and the MGs and a regular session player at both studios. (handout / The Commercial Appeal files)

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  • Booker T. & the MGs: The Stax Records mainstays grew out of the Mar-Keys and became known as the greatest house band of all time. They were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1992. Hit tune: Green Onions Booker T. Jones and the MG's (at top from left) Al Jackson, Jr. Steve Cropper and Donald 'Duck' Dunn in a 1968 photograph.
  • Otis Redding: Georgia native Redding was the hired driver for Johnny Jenkins and the Pinetoppers when they recorded at Stax in 1962. He pleaded for a chance to sing and got it. He recorded 30 singles. After successful European tours and an appearance at the Monterrey Pop Festival, Redding was poised for superstardom. He died in a plane crash on Dec. 10, 1967 on his way to Madison, Wisc., from a recording session in Memphis.   
Hit tune: 'Sitting on the Dock of the Bay.'
  • Eddie Floyd
Floyd co-founded the soul group, The Falcons, which Wilson Pickett later joined before going solo. He wrote Pickett's number one R&B hit Ò634-5789 (Soulsville, USA)Ó and stayed with Stax until it closed in 1975.
Hit composition: Knock on Wood, Steve Cropper
  • (Left to Right) Rufus, Carla, Vaneese & Marvell Thomas gathered at the Overton Park Shell to perform before about 5,000 fans at an Arts In The Parks presentation on July 17, 1973.  Rufus Thomas performed his 'Funky Chicken' and other dances that made him famous and Carla sang the songs that made her and STAX Records famous.   Rufus Thomas died Saturday, Dec. 15, 2001 in Memphis, Tenn. He was 84. ( By Richard Gardner / The Commercial Appeal ).  From the files of The Commercial Appeal.
  • Eddie Floyd. Floyd co-founded the soul group, The Falcons, which Wilson Pickett later joined before going solo. He wrote Picketts number one R&B hit '634-5789 (Soulsville, USA)' and stayed with Stax until it closed in 1975. Hit composition: 'Knock on Wood.'
  • Eddie Floyd
Floyd co-founded the soul group, The Falcons, which Wilson Pickett later joined before going solo. He wrote Pickett's number one R&B hit Ò634-5789 (Soulsville, USA)Ó and stayed with Stax until it closed in 1975.
Hit composition: Knock on Wood, Steve Cropper
  • Sam and Dave: Soul duo Sam Moore and Dave Prater  brought the sound of the black church to pop music with their string of call-and-response hits for Stax Records from 1965 to 1968.
Hit tune: 'Soul Man.'
  • The Bar-Kays: Recruited by Otis Redding as his traveling band, all but two of the band members were killed along with Redding in a 1967 plane crash. The survivors regrouped and the Bar-Kays became one of the most innovative bands in the funk era.  Hit tune: Soul Finger
  • Three members of Booker T. and the MGs (left to right) Duck Dunn, Al Jackson and Booker T. Jones at STAX in a photograph dated Jan. 21, 1970. Fourth member, Steve Cropper, was in New York, producing a group, the Dramatics, for Paramount, and was expected back in a day or two. The group was to tape a television show the following Saturday with Creedence Clearwater Revival and leave Feb. 17 for a tour of Europe. (By Barney Sellers/The Commercial Appeal)
  • The Staple Sisters: Roebuck 'Pops' Staples and his children, Cleotha, Pervis, Yvonne and Mavis were one of the hottest bands to come through Stax. After meeting Martin Luther King Jr. in Birmingham, Pops told his family, 'If he can preach it, we can sing it.' In 1999, the group was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Hit tune: 'Respect Yourself.'
  • The Mar-Keys (Joe Arnold, Wayne Jackson and Andrew Love) in undated handout photograph. After high school, Jackson joined a band called the Mar-Keys, a group that included future MGs Steve Cropper and Donald 'Duck' Dunn and, on baritone sax, Don Nix. In 1961, the Mar-Keys had one of Stax's first hits with the instrumental 'Last Night'. At the same time Jackson and the Mar-Keys were becoming a key element in the early Stax sound, Love could be found at the Hi Records studio. They were brought together by Al Jackson, drummer for Booker T. and the MGs and a regular session player at both studios. (handout / The Commercial Appeal files)
  • Soul Children: Norman West (formally of The Del-Rios), John Colbert aka J. Blackfoot, Anita Louis and Shelbra Bennett were brought together by Isaac Hayes and David Porter  to create a dynamic male/female version of  Sam and Dave after Sam and Dave left Stax for Atlantic Records.
Hit tune: 'Tighten Up My Thang.'
  • Rufus Thomas: A comedian with Rabbit Foot Minstrels in the mid-30s and a Deejay on WDIA, Thomas reached his artistic peak in middle age, recording at Sun and Stax and becoming a mentor to many Memphis musicians.
Hit tune:'Do the Funky Chicken.'
  • Dr. Mable John: R&B singer Mable John signed with Stax in 1965. She went into deep depression in 1968 when her brother, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee William 'Little Willie' John died in prison from unknown causes. John returned to music in 1970 and co-wrote 50 songs with Ray Charles.
Hit tune: 'Your Good This (Is About to End).'
  • Mad Lads: Booker T. Washington High School mates, John Gary Williams, William Brown, Julius Green and Harold Thomas were originally The Emeralds, but changed their name at the suggestion of Deanie Parker, then-Stax publicity director, because of their pranking antics.
Hit tune: “Don’t Have to Shop Around,” a Volt hit single.
  • David Porter: The Booker T. Washington High School graduate was hired as Stax Record's first African-American songwriter. He wrote more than 200 songs for Stax alone and was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2005. Hit composition: 'Soul Man.'
  • Little Milton: A veteran of many labels including Sun Records, Little Milton mixed country and western music with gospel and blues. He recorded at Stax from 1971-1975. 
Hit tune: “That's What Love Will Make You Do.”
  • Isaac Hayes
The Manassas High School graduate became the first African-American to win an Academy Award for music. At Stax he worked with songwriter David Porter producing over 200 songs. Known for his outrageous style, Hayes was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2002.
 Hit tune:'Theme from Shaft.'
  • Linda Lyndell: Otis Redding referred Lyndell to Stax Records, but she retreated from the public scene after receiving death threats for singing 'black' music as a white woman. 
Hit tune: 'Bring Your Love Back to Me.'
  • Jean Knight: Born Jean Caliste in New Orleans, she changed her named because she felt it was too hard to pronounce. Stax released her song, 'Mr. Big Stuff,' in 1970 leading to a Grammy nomination.  She was affected by Hurriance Katrina, but her home is now renovated and she tours the United States.
Hit tune: 'Mr. Big Stuff.'
  • The Goodees:
Sandra Jackson, Judy William and Kay Evans grew up in Memphis and began signing together while at Messick High School. They won a local talent show to audition at Stax. They didn't have much success as the time for girl groups faded before they could make it big. But in 2010, U.K.-based Ace Records released a CD collection of every known recording by The Goodees. All three singers still live in or near Memphis.
  • The Emotions: Jeanette, Wanda and Sheila Hutchinson sang with their father ,Joe Hutchinson. They signed with Stax in 1969 and teamed with Isaac Hayes and David Porter on soul hits like 'Show Me How' Hit tune: 'Best of My Love.'
  • David Porter: The Booker T. Washington High School graduate was hired as Stax Recordís first African-American songwriter. He wrote more than 200 songs for Stax alone and was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2005. Hit composition: 'Soul Man.'
  • The Dramatics: Originally formed in 1964 as the Sensations, The Dramatics left Stax in 1974 and moved into disco. Hit tune: 'Whatcha See is Whatcha Get.'
  • Ben Cauley  in photograph dated December 15, 1967. Several days earlier, other members of the Bar-Kays and Otis Redding died when their plane crashed near Madison, Wisconsin. Cauley was the sole survivor of that crash. (By Robert Williams / The Commercial Appeal)
  • Carla Thomas: The 'Queen of Memphis Soul' was, along with her father, Rufus Thomas, first to cut a record at Stax at 926 E. McLemore. She was 17. Thomas composed music for hits like 'The Midnight Hour' and 'Knock On Wood.'
Hit tune:'Cause I Love You.'
  • William Bell: The  Memphis-born singer, songwriter and producer  first recorded as a member of the Del Rios. His compositions have been played by such artists as Otis Redding, Eric Clapton and Billy Idol. Hit tune: 'You Don't Miss Your Water'
  • The Astors: Originally called 'The Duntinos,' Curtis Johnson, Eliehue Stanback, Sam (Byrnes) Jones and Richard Harris grew up in Orange Mound and recorded from 1961-1963. Hit tune: 'What Can It Be'
  • Albert King: The left-handed electric guitar player and blues singer signed with Stax in 1966. Hit tune: 'Breaking Up Somebody's Home.'

Stax Records was a major factor in the creation of the Southern soul and Memphis soul music styles. See some of the stars who contributed to the success of the label.

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