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Stax! Featuring Steve Cropper, Duck Dunn & Eddie Floyd
Founded by Jim Stewart (the “ST”) in 1957, and co-owned by Estelle Axton (the “AX”), Stax’s contribution to popular music, both sonically and socially, continues to be felt to this day. Stax, a racially integrated label in a then notoriously segregated city, released hit after hit from such seminal soul artists as Otis Redding, Booker T & the MGs, the Bar-Kays, Isaac Hayes, Sam & Dave, the Staple Singers, Rufus and Carla Thomas, Eddie Floyd, Johnnie Taylor, and William Bell amongst many, many others. The Stax studio, in a cavernous former theatre with a sloping floor, featured an atypical layout with no directly parallel surfaces where soundwaves would “ping pong” around the room, resulting in a very live, reverberant sound. The Stax studio sonics– combined with the prominent use of horns, a heavy gospel influence, uniquely emotional vocal deliveries, and a delayed backbeat– resulted in what came to be recognized as the “Stax Sound.”
Steve Cropper was there quite at the beginning of Satellite/Stax and was the protégé of Jim Stewart. He was one of the first to get the keys of the studio and to be allowed to sit at the control board instead of Jim Stewart. Born in Dora, Missouri, in 1941 he came to Memphis at 10. Grown up in Memphis with school fellow Donald Dunn, he was already playing with the Mar-Keys when Last Night was recorded. He did quite everything at Stax from selling records at the Satellite Record Shop, developping his skills about recording techniques, playing the guitar and sometimes piano on most Stax records and composing the music for innumerable hits such as In The Midnight Hour, Knock On Wood, The Dock Of The Bay, Soul Man and so on.
Looking for more Stax! information including sound and video clips? Go "beyond the bio" with The Artistic Director's Guide to Jazz.