Thursday, February 01, 2007

Stax Records

This article is fantastic. It's always nice to find out that I don't know every bit of rock and roll trivia.

I hope this special airs on BBC America.

In the six years since former country-fiddle-playing bank clerk Jim Stewart and his sister Estelle Axton had renamed their tiny Memphis-based label, Satellite, Stax had come to epitomise Deep Soul. The tour was thus a defining moment for British fans - young mods, future stars, even the Beatles - turned out to hail the visiting emissaries.Some were surprised to discover that the blend of rolling organ, punchy horns, compulsively danceable bass and drums that defined the Stax sound was created by a mix of black (organist Booker T Jones and drummer Al Jackson) and white (writer, guitarist and A&R man Steve Cropper and bassist Donald "Duck" Dunn) musicians. Augmented by the Memphis Horns duo of Wayne Jackson and Andrew Love, Booker T and the MGs were the beating heart of the Stax studio - a disused cinema on McLemore Avenue, in the heart of Memphis's black ghetto. In the face of Southern supremacists battling civil rights activists, Stax's cross-cultural ethos was revolutionary - black and white musicians united behind an array of black stars.

And I LOVED this passage. Can't you just see it? (for you music non-junkies, Steve Cropper? Guitar player from The Blues Brothers, big white guy with the beard)

The extended Stax family was treated like visiting royalty by the UK press and public in 1967. Cropper was shocked to see crowds awaiting their plane at Heathrow.

The Beatles sent limos to meet them and broke from recording sessions to complete Sergeant Pepper to spend a night on the town with Otis. Upon meeting Cropper, all four
Fabs reportedly stood in line and bowed from the waist in unison.

When I was in London for the History of British Rock and Roll study abroad program (God Bless Iowa State), I purchased a book about the concert tour where The Rolling Stones opened for Little Richard, Bo Diddley and The Ronettes. While I was aware of American music's impact on the British Invasion crew, it was incredible to see The Stones as young pups, clearly in awe of the company they were keeping.

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