History

1957 First Tennessee banker Jim Stewart begins recording country music in his wife's uncle's garage in North Memphis. Satellite Records is launched.

1958 Stewart moves his "recording studio" to Brunswick, Tennessee. Stewart's sister Estelle Axton, then employed by Union Planters Bank, mortgages her home to pay for recording equipment for the company.

1959 Stewart and Axton move to the old Capitol Theater, currently abandoned on McLemore Ave.

1960 WDIA disc jockey Rufus Thomas hustles over to the studio with his daughter Carla and together they cut Satellite's first hit, "Cause I Love You."

1961 Local high school R&B band the Mar-Keys cut the instrumental hit "Last Night" that sends Satellite Records soaring. Stewart takes the first two letters from his last name (ST) and adds the first two letters of his sister's last name (AX) to form the new label name - STAX RECORDS. For the next 14 years, the hits from the corner of McLemore and College cannot be stopped.

1962 The Mar-Keys evolve into Booker T. and the MGs - forming the house band for the next 8 years of Stax hits, beginning with a b-side, "Green Onions." Georgia crooner Otis Redding comes to the studio and begins a career that shoots straight to the top of the R&B charts and eventually into crosses overi into the pop world. William Bell hits with "You Don't Miss Your Water."

1963 Rufus Thomas begins his dance-craze hit parade with "The Dog," "Walking the Dog," and "Can Your Monkey Do the Dog?"

1965 Sam & Dave come on the Stax scene. Immediately local musicians and Stax writers Isaac Hayes and David Porter take them under their wing and crank out a streak of hits including "I Take What I Want," "Soul Man," "You Don't Know Like I Know," "Said I Wasn't Gonna Tell Nobody," "I Thank You," and "Hold On, I'm Coming." Well-known DJ Al Bell joins Stax Records as its first promotions man.

1966 Eddie Floyd "Knocks on Wood," Carla Thomas hits on "B-A-B-Y," Albert King cuts the "Crosscut Saw," and Sam & Dave hit again with "You Got Me Hummin.'" Otis Redding performs in Europe for the first time on the popular television show Ready, Steady, Go!

1967 Stax takes its show on the road to Europe - shaking the whole continent with Booker T. & the MGs, Carla Thomas, the Mar-Keys Horns, Sam & Dave, and then wiping the audience out with Otis Redding. Redding slays the hippies at the Monterrey Pop Festival in California. The Bar-Kays score with "Soul Finger." The year ends on a sour note as Otis Redding's plane goes down into Lake Monono, Wisconsin, killing Redding and most of the Bar-Kays who were touring with him. Stax loses all of its master tapes to Atlantic Records due to a fine-print clause in a contract.

1968 "(Sittin' on) the Dock of the Bay," released posthumously, goes to number 1 on both the pop and R&B charts. Martin Luther King is assassinated in Memphis in April. Film company Gulf & Western buys Stax from Jim Stewart, Estelle Axton, & Al Bell in exchange for stock.

1969 In an effort to create a new catalog, Al Bell launches an aggressive release campaign - releasing 27 albums and 30 singles in one month. Stax hits hard with "Time is Tight" by Booker T. & the MGs as well as "Who's Making Love" by Johnnie Taylor. Isaac Hayes unleashes Hot Buttered Soul, his first of a string of million selling long-form albums.

1970 Stewart and Bell re-purchase Stax from Gulf & Western, expanding the label into jazz, comedy, country, spoken word, gospel, and rock.

1971 Isaac Hayes becomes a mega-superstar with the release of the soundtrack to Shaft, which eventually wins Grammys and an Oscar.

1972 The Staple Singers come on board with "I'll Take You There" and "Respect Yourself." Luther Ingram scores with "(If Loving You is Wrong) I Don't Want to be Right." Bell negotiates a lucrative deal for CBS to distribute Stax. Stax takes almost its entire current roster of artists to Los Angeles and puts on the Wattstax concert to raise money for Watts charities, and films a documentary not only of the concert, but also of everyday life for African-Americans at the time.

1973 CBS begins ordering large quantities of records, paying large advances, then warehousing them. Unusual music business practices at Stax are investigated. IRS begins investigating Stax about another employee found carrying $100,000 in cash through an airport.

1974 Stax experiences extreme cash flow problems and cannot pay its bills or high overhead, including salaries for over 200 local employees. Stax becomes involved in a string of lawsuits and counter-suits involving Union Planters Bank, CBS, and Stax Records.

1975 A record pressing company sues Stax and Stax cannot meet payroll. Stax owes millions to Union Planters and loses most of its artists. Al Bell is indicted by a federal grand jury for bank fraud and is acquitted on all charges. Isaac Hayes sues Stax. Al Jackson is murdered. Union Planters forecloses on the publishing arm of Stax. Three small creditors - encouraged by Union Planters - force Stax into involuntary bankruptcy December 19, 1975.

1977 Stax's master tapes are sold at bankruptcy auction for a fraction of their value - $1.3 million. Fantasy Records in California buys the Stax catalog from Nassi & Assoc.

1981 Union Planters Bank deeds the Stax Records building to Southside Church of God in Christ for $10.

1998 After years of discussions and various unrelated efforts at bringing Stax back, Memphis civic leaders form the nonprofit Ewarton Foundation (using the rest of the letters after ST in Jim Stewart’s last name and AX in Axton) to rebuild the Capitol Theatre and create the Stax Museum of American Soul Music to serve as the anchor for a broader neighborhood revitalization. The vision is expanded to include the Stax Music Academy as a vehicle to mentor at-risk youth and honor the Stax legacy.

1998 – With $5 Million in seed money from anonymous donors, Ewarton receives a $3 million challenge grant from the Plough Foundation that is matched with $2.5 million grants each from the City of Memphis, Shelby County, and the United States Federal Government. 

In addition to raising additional necessary capital, Ewarton acquires the original Stax Records site and roughly five acres of land from various owners, demolishes multiple neglected and/or abandoned buildings, obtains the critical intellectual rights necessary for using the Stax Museum and Stax Records names, builds neighborhood and community goodwill and effectively promotes “Soulsville” as the appropriate neighborhood designator, designs and entitles the multi-building campus, including the Museum galleries; collects and acquires key memorabilia, oversees construction and exhibit installation, and begins building a world-class museum and music academy.

1999 Ewarton purchases a single-family home at the corner of McLemore & Neptune, refurbishes it, adds a Memphis Police Community Action Unit, and makes it the first headquarters building for the project.

2000 On February 8th, Ewarton holds a press conference at nearby LeMoyne-Owen College to announce that the Stax Museum of American Soul Music & Stax Music Academy will be built at the original site of Stax Records and shares information on what has been, up to that point, a relatively low profile but highly effective development effort.

2000 On June 1st, the Stax Music Academy begins programming with 125 primarily at-risk children at nearby Stafford Elementary School in the cafeteria.

2001 On April 20th, Ewarton hosts a “Ground Shakin’ Ground Breakin’” ceremony at the site of the planned museum and thousands, including Rufus Thomas, who was the first to arrive at 5 a.m., attend it.

2002 On July 24th, the ribbon is cut during the grand opening ceremonies for the newly constructed Stax Music Academy.

2003 On May 2nd, the Stax Museum opens its doors to the public to great international fanfare. In the previous days, other grand opening celebrations take place throughout the city, including Soul Comes Home at the Orpheum Theater, a Stax reunion concert featuring Booker T. & the MGs, Mavis Staples, the Rance Allen Group, Jean Knight, Eddie Floyd, William Bell, Carla Thomas, Ann Peebles, Al Green, Jimmie Vaughan and others. There is also a concert at Gibson Lounge featuring Mable John, Big Star, and Linda Lyndell. The Orpheum Theater concert is recorded and filmed and made available on CD and DVD.

2004 Stax Museum/Soulsville is featured on CBS News Sunday Morning in an 11-minute segment.

2004 In January, Stax Museum kicks off a concert series, “Last Mondays in Studio A,” which takes place on the last Monday evening of each month through December 2007 and featured live music by the likes of Eddie Floyd, William Bell, Sir Mack Rice, the Temprees, the Mad Lads, Wayne Jackson of the Memphis Horns with the Stax Music Academy; Linda Lyndell, Mable John, Ann Peebles and the 35th reunion of the Hi Rhythm Section, and dozens of other singers and musicians.

2005 Ewarton starts The Soulsville Charter School in the Stax Music Academy building with 60 sixth graders with plans to add a class each year until serving grades six through twelve. Ewarton changes its name to Soulsville Foundation.

2006 Stax Music Academy embarks on its first ever Summer Soul Tour Presented by FedEx, opening the festivities at the prestigious Porretta Soul Festival in Poretta, Italy, and touring the country with visits to Rome, Florence, and other cities.

2007 Marks the 50th anniversary of the founding of Stax Records, and the year is celebrated with a kick off press conference in New York City, a Stax 50 concert at the Orpheum Theater hosted by the Concord Music Group, which purchased the label in 2004 and this year begins signing new artists to it for the first time in 30 years.

2007 Stax Music Academy embarks on domestic Summer Soul Tour Presented by FedEx performing at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Kennedy Center in Washington, D. C., and other venues in Pittsburg and Philadelphia.

2008 Time magazine names Stax Museum “The most authentic American experience in Tennessee.”

2008 Stax Music Academy Summer Soul Tour Presented by FedEx takes students to Melbourne, Canberra, and Sydney, Australia, including public and private concerts, workshops with other students, and tea at the residence of then United States Ambassador to Australia Robert McCallum.

2008 All high school seniors enrolled in the Stax Music Academy are accepted to college, many with full scholarships to schools such as the Berklee College of Music in Boston, with whom the Stax Music Academy shares an ongoing partnership.

2009 SMA students opened for B.B. King at his annual B.B. King Homecoming Festival and Concert in his hometown of Indianola, Mississippi. All high school seniors enrolled in the Stax Music Academy are accepted to college.

2010 Ground is broken for The Soulsville Charter School classroom building, a 50,000 square foot building that sits adjacent to the Stax Music Academy building.

2010 SMA students were invited to perform at the national AARP convention in Orlando, Florida with Stax legend William Bell. Other entertainers include Gladys Knight, Los Lobos, Gloria Gaynor, Judy Collins, and B.B. King. All high school seniors enrolled in the Stax Music Academy are accepted to college.

2011 The Soulsville Charter School building is completed and opens in August. The school includes classrooms, science labs, a media center, library, and college-counseling center.

2011 In January, Stax Music Academy students were featured artists at the nationally televised 19th Annual Trumpet Awards in Atlanta, Georgia. In June, Stax Music Academy performs for five days to a collective audience over 1 million people at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. during its first-ever salute to R&B music. Students also perform at Kennedy Center.

2011 July Summer Soul Tour includes a performance at Lincoln Center in New York City. All high school seniors enrolled in the Stax Music Academy are accepted to college.

2011 Stax Museum adds new interactive exhibits, including listening stations with more than 300 Stax songs by some 85 Stax artists.

2011 Stax Music Academy, Stax Museum, and The Soulsville Charter School are featured on NBC's Today show, the most-watched news program in the world, with Jenna Bush Hager.

2011 Former First Lady Laura Bush visits Soulsville. Other visitors have included Bono, Elvis Costello, Lenny Kravitz, Bonnie Raitt, Huey Lewis, Robert Plant, Stevie Wonder, Steve Jobs, Angela Bassett, George Clinton, Soledad O’Brien, Jesse Jackson, and many others.

2012 In May, The Soulsville Charter School, now serving approximately 550 students in grades six through 12, holds its first graduation. All 51 high school seniors are accepted to college with combined scholarships and grants totaling more than $3.8 million.  Graduation is covered on MSNBC’s Morning Joe with ESPN analyst Digger Phelps.

2012 Stax Museum is awarded a Museum of Excellence Award from Tripadvisor.com and is listed as number 4 out of 85 attractions in Memphis, surpassing Graceland and Beale Street.

2012 Stax Museum opens special Watttax 40th Anniversary Exhibit and hosts panel discussion with those who performed at, planned, and attended the famed concert. Other special exhibits Stax Museum has hosted since opening include photographic exhibits by Earnest Withers and Dick Waterman, photographic exhibits highlighting Bob Dylan, the Beatles, Rolling Stones, Blaxploitation film posters, Hooks Brothers Photography, exhibit about the surrounding neighborhood known as Soulsville, USA; exhibits honoring blues, hip hop, jazz, and gospel artists, two special Otis Redding exhibits, and many others.

2012 Stax Music Academy performs two concerts in Berlin, Germany during the opening of “Memphis Exhibition Berlin” and performs for United States Ambassador Philip D. Murphy, his wife and staff, media, and the general public. The exhibition features many artifacts on loan from the Stax Museum. Summer Soul Tour includes performances at Berklee College of Music in Boston and Levitt Pavilion in Westport, Connecticut. All high school seniors enrolled in the Stax Music Academy are accepted to college.

2012 The Soulsville Charter School is only school in the United States invited to attend the vice presidential debate in Kentucky.

2012 National Geographic names Memphis one of the “Best of 2013” Top 20 Cities to Visit in the World and cites Stax Museum, Stax Music Academy, and The Soulsville Charter School as being “at the forefront” of the reasons to visit the city.

2013 Stax Museum holds 10th anniversary press conference on January 11th. Memphis City Mayor A C Wharton and Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell issue joint proclamation proclaiming 2013 as “The Year of the Stax Museum.” Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam proclaims May 2, 2013 as Stax Museum Day throughout the State of Tennessee. Congressman Steve Cohen issues resolution in honor of the Stax Museum.

2013 PBS airs In Performance at the White House: Memphis Soul on April 16th featuring a 8-minute introduction by President Barack Obama about the importance of Memphis soul music, particularly that of the integrated Stax Records.

2013 The Soulsville Charter School holds its second graduation. All 37 seniors graduate and are accpeted to college with more than $9.2 million in scholarships and grants.