Many of us who remember Stax records, still retain a serious appreiciation for the talent that came out of Stax. Luminaries such as:

Booker T. & the MGs.   Sam and Dave  Wilson Pickett’s  Carla Thomas

Johnnie Taylor  Isaac Hayes  Frederick Knight   the Staples Singers

the Soul Children  Shirley Brown, where part of the glory of Stax records and have added to the lore of this groundbreaking music making factory.

On 12th January 1976 Stax Records was closed down on the order of the bankruptcy court judge. Its McLemore Ave. headquarters was not sold until 1981, when United Planters deeded it to the Southside Church of God in Christ for ten dollars. After a decade of neglect, the Southside Church of God in Christ tore down the original Stax studio in 1989. Ten years on and the Stax Museum of American Soul Music, was constructed at the site and opened in 2003.

Fantasy Records continued to release product under the Stax banner after the label folded, releasing box set after box set of older material into the new Millennium. Concord Records purchased the Fantasy Label Group in 2004, and in December 2006 announced the reactivation of the Stax label. The formal relaunch transipred in 2007. The first acts signed to the new Stax include the late Isaac Hayes and

Angie Stone
Lalah Hathaway

Yet apart from Isaac Hayes there was one artist that is automatically associated with Stax, that may have done more in the early years getting Stax noticed with the big boys than any one else. That artist was the late great Otis Redding. So many of us have bopped to Aretha Franklin hit “Respect” but how many of us really knew that none other than Otis had the writing credits as well as the original singer. Another hit “Hard to Handle”, a track that was on constant radio rotation made lily-white by The Black Crowes, was also an Otis original. 

At a time when Sam Cooke was loved by so many (and rightfully so) except for the die hard supporters, it seems that Otis Redding never got the same kind of broad love.  A recent documentary; Dreams to Remember: The Legacy of Otis Redding. Attempts to portray the life of Otis Redding, through interviews and footage that at least visually and auditory is nourishment for the “soul of black folks” and other lovers of real music. The live footage on Dreams to Remember: The Legacy of Otis Redding though not all are necessarily “never before seen”, makes you remember why so many of those love songs he wrote have remained classics.  Rather than pushing technical and conceptual boundaries like the great Jimi Hendrix, Otis decided to attacked simple love songs with furious soulful sincerity that makes you want to give witness. 

Otis Redding is and was one of the most influential soul singers of the 1960s, He exemplified to many listeners the power of Southern “deep soul” — hoarse, gritty vocals, brassy arrangements, and an emotional way with both party tunes and aching ballads. He was also the most consistent exponent of the Stax sound, cutting his records at the Memphis label/studios that did much to update R&B into modern soul. His death at the age of 26 was tragic not just because he seemed on the verge of breaking through to a wide pop audience (which he would indeed do with his posthumous number one single “[Sittin’ On] The Dock of the Bay”). It was also unfortunate because, as “Dock of the Bay” demonstrated, he was also at a point of artistic breakthrough in terms of the expression and sophistication of his songwriting and singing.

Although Redding at his peak was viewed as a consummate, versatile showman, he began his recording career in the early ’60s working in the band of guitarist Johnny Jenkins in 1962 and took advantage of an opportunity to record the ballad “These Arms of Mine” at a Jenkins session. When it became an R&B hit, Redding’s solo career was truly on its way, though the hits didn’t really start to fly until 1965 and 1966, when “Mr. Pitiful,” “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long,” “I Can’t Turn You Loose,” a cover of the Rolling Stones’ “Satisfaction,” and “Respect” (later turned into a huge hit by Aretha Franklin) were all big sellers.

Redding wrote much of his own material, sometimes with the assistance of Booker T. & the MG’s guitarist Steve Cropper. Yet at the time, Redding’s success was primarily confined to the soul market; his singles charted only mildly on the pop listings. He was nonetheless tremendously respected by many white groups, particularly the Rolling Stones, who covered Redding’s “That’s How Strong My Love Is” and “Pain in My Heart.”

One of Redding’s biggest hits was a duet with fellow Stax star Carla Thomas, “Tramp,” in 1967. That was the same year he began to show signs of making major inroads into the white audience, particularly with a well-received performance at the Monterey Pop Festival. Redding’s biggest triumph, however, came just days before his death, when he recorded the “Sittin’ On The Dock of the Bay,” which represented a significant leap as far as examination of more intensely personal emotions.

In 1967, Soul legend, Otis Redding died in a plane crash in Wisconsin on December 10, , in an accident that also took the lives of four members from his backup band, the Bar-Kays. A few other singles became posthumous hits, and a good amount of other unreleased material was issued in the wake of his death. These releases weren’t purely exploitative in nature, in fact containing some pretty interesting music, and little that could be considered embarrassing. What Redding might have achieved, or what directions he might have explored, are among the countless tantalizing “what if” questions in rock & roll history. As it is, he did record a considerable wealth of music at Stax, which is now available on thoughtfully archived reissues.

Below is some of Otis Redding’s music for a Sunday afternoon:

I first remembered this on a Sunday morning as a little tyke in Jamaica. Even back then the government was afraid to play the local music. But this was a good alternative.

These arms of mine

I’ve been loving you too long

Pain in my heart

Glory of Love

Dreams to remember

That’s how strong my love is

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