(Est. 1959, includes Volt Records) Stax Records is synonymous with Southern soul music. Originally known as Satellite, the Memphis company was founded in 1959 by Jim Stewart and his sister, Estelle Axton, and took its new name in 1961 from the first two letters of their last names. Among the many artists who scored hits on Stax and its Volt subsidiary during the Sixties were Rufus and Carla Thomas, Booker T. & the MGs (an interracial instrumental quartet that also served as the company’s rhythm section), Sam and Dave, Johnnie Taylor, Albert King, and Otis Redding. Redding’s death in 1967 signaled the end of the first Stax era (to which Atlantic retains distribution rights). Subsequently the company spawned a new crop of hit-makers, among them Isaac Hayes, the Staple Singers, and the Dramatics. In June 1977, a year-and-a-half after Stax went bankrupt, the company’s masters were purchased by Fantasy, Inc., which revived the Stax and Volt logos for new recordings, in addition to reissuing older material.
Stax Records is critical in American music history as it’s one of the most popular soul music record labels of all time – second only to Motown in sales and influence, but first in gritty, raw, stripped-down soul music. In 15 years, Stax placed more than 167 hit songs in the Top 100 on the pop charts, and a staggering 243 hits in the Top 100 R&B charts. It launched the careers of such legendary artists as Otis Redding, Sam & Dave, Rufus & Carla Thomas, Booker T, & the MGs, and numerous others. Current Stax recording artists include Ben Harper, Booker T. Jones, and others.