The original Bar-Kays consisted of saxophonist Phalon Jones, bassist James Alexander, guitarist Jimmie King, drummer Carl Cunningham, and trumpeter Ben Cauley. They later added keyboardist Ronnie Caldwell, and gigged on weekends during their high school years, before cutting their hit instrumental “Soul Finger” at Stax and then being recruited by Otis Redding as his traveling band. After the 1967 plane crash that killed Otis Redding and all of the Bar-Kays except Alexander and Cauley, those two re-formed the group. Cauley soon left for a solo career but vocalist Larry Dodson joined the group and they went on to become one of the most artistically innovative African-American groups of the funk era, often backing Isaac Hayes and numerous other Stax artists in addition to their solo career. Dodson sang lead on the group’s 1971 hit “Son of Shaft,” which, performed live, was one of the highlights of the 1972 Wattstax concert. The Bar-Kays signed with Mercury Records after the demise of Stax and released some of the greatest hits of their careers.
Today, Dodson and Alexander continue to tour, perform, and record music as the Bar-Kays, as well as producing other artists on other labels and on their own JEA Records. Ben Cauley is a member of the Memphis-based soul band the Bo-Keys, along with "Shaft" wah-wah guitarist Skip Pitts and original Stax house drummer Howard Grimes.