The Stax Museum of American Soul Music in Memphis, Tennessee is the first museum to tell the history of American Soul Music and is still the only such museum. Maintained by the Soulsville Foundation, The Stax Museum is in cooperation with the Stax Music Academy and Soulsville Charter School.

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The Stax Museum of American Soul Music is located where Stax Records studio once stood in Memphis Tennessee. This studio recorded the songs of some of America’s most legendary soul singers with a history that began in 1957 with Satellite Records and Jimmy Stewart, a Tennessee radio technician, and his sister Estelle Axton.

The studio produced their first hit single in 1960 “Cause I love You” by Rufus and Carla Thomas which lead to a contract with Atlantic Distribution for record distribution into stores. By 1962, Stax was recording with Otis Redding and Booker T., and the MG’s.

In 1967, the deal with Atlantic Distribution fell apart with the sale of the company to Warner Bros. and the new company had taken control of Sam and David, Stax most successful acts, as well as taken possession of most of the songs the studio had recorded.

In the early 1970’s Stax became a successful independent label and business and less of a community enterprise. Soon, the company started to unravel though with the IRS getting involved and the new distribution deal with CBS failing in 1972 adding to a mountain of debt. In 1975 Stax declared bankruptcy and the building was seized by federal marshals.

In 1981, the vacant lot was sold to a church for $10 and eventually torn down 8 years later. Leaders from the Soulsville Foundation and former employees of Stax Records banned together in the late 1990’s to revitalize the neighborhood and turn it into a music center once again. The Stax Musuem was founded in 2003. The Stax Music Academy and Soulsville Charter School followed.

The Collection

The Stax Museum offers visitors a firsthand look at the beginnings and history of American Soul music and the impact that this music had on the world. There are 5 permanent exhibits that are available for visitors to tour. Group tours are also available.

Humble Beginnings- The first exhibit at the Stax Museum, this authentic wooden church demonstrates the roots of soul music in Southern gospel music. The 1906 Mississippi Delta church was transplanted and reassembled within the museum.

Express Yourself!- Outfitted with a dance floor, colorful lights, and a large video screen that plays clips of some of the most famous artists to record at Stax Studio, this exhibit gives visitors a chance to cut loose, and immerse themselves in the sounds that made the studio famous. Visitors can feel free to dance, sing, and enjoy vintage episodes of Soul Train.

Hallowed Ground- Studio A is where Stax arists recorded their songs and this exhibit provides an exact replica of this space for visitors to explore. The room is filled with recording equipment from the period and the floor is slanted the same way that Stax’s was, which is what contributed to the special acoustics achieved in this studio.

Wall of Sound- In this hall, the walls are papered with records from top to bottom of every album and single that was ever produced by Stax from 1957-1975. The listening statio contains and album chart with a complete catalogue of every selection.

Super Fly- A Cadillac Eldorado that was custom made for Isaac Hayes in 1972 as part of his renegotiated deal with Stax can be seen in this showroom. The car is worth $143,000 and includes a minibar with refrigeration and 24 carat gold trim, fur carpeting and other luxuries.

Renting The Stax

The Stax Museum is available for private rentals whether it be a dinner party in the Cadillac Showroom or a wedding in the vintage church with a soul reception on the Express Yourself Dance Floor. Special event rentals include museum access, photo booth and theater with video screens. Contact forms are available online.

Educational Opportunities

The Stax Museum is maintained by the Soulsville Foundation. The museum hosts live music events, rotates educational special exhibits, hosts community events, panel discussion and lectures, and many other special events. The Soulsville Foundation also developed the Stax Music Academy and Soulsville Charter School. The Music Academy extends the legacy of Stax Records through enhancing the creativity and leadership of young people through academic and cognitive performance utilize musical ability. The Academy primarily serves at risk youth in the Memphis area.

The Soulsville Charter School is a public charter that is tuition free. Also music centered, this school is also academically rigorous and prepares students for transfer to college. The charter school services 1/3 of the public-school children in Soulsville.

926 E McLemore Ave, Memphis, Tennessee, 38106, website, Phone: 901-942-7685

Back to: Memphis, Tennessee

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