The legacy of Stax Records is a unique one that spans more than half a century. 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, Isaac Hayes, Sam & Dave, Rufus & Carla Thomas, Booker T, & the MGs, and numerous others. Among the many artists who recorded on the various Stax Records labels were the Staple Singers, Luther Ingram, Wilson Pickett, Albert King, Big Star, Jesse Jackson, Bill Cosby, Richard Pryor, the Rance Allen Group, and Moms Mabley.
But Stax Records was more than just a label. It was a culture. While segregation was fervently supported in the South during Stax's formative years in the 1960s, Stax was one of the most successfully integrated companies in the country - from top management and administration to its artists. With more than 200 employees, it was the fifth-largest African-American owned business in the United States during its time, and was the most successful record label ever to come out of Memphis, Tennessee.
While Stax Records was an oasis of racial harmony, and the color of one's skin was not an issue, Stax gave back to its African-American music-buying public in many ways. It utilized its marketing budget to help keep publications like Jet and Black Enterprise operating. Stax financed free benefit concerts with its artists, helped raise money for the needy during the holidays, participated in and helped publicize the federal government "Stay in School" program.
Stax Records became one of the first record labels in the country to evolve into a multi-media company. It invested in and produced movies, such as the acclaimed Wattstax documentary, filmed during the time of the Wattstax concert it produced in Los Angeles in 1972 to raise funds for charities in the Watts community in the wake of the Watts rebellion. The film was the 1973 opener at the Canne Film Festival, was nominated for a Golden Globe Award, and is now in the Sundance Film Festival Collection. Stax was also involved with Broadway plays and soundtrack albums, and was a major force in opening the doors to minorities in Hollywood.
Musically, the influence of Stax Records is still vivid today in R&B, soul, rock, pop, jazz, hip-hop, and gospel music. Stax songs have been covered by the likes of Aerosmith, Aretha Franklin, the Rolling Stones, the Black Crowes, the Fabulous Thunderbirds, the Blues Brothers, Salt 'N Peppa, En Vogue, R. Kelly, D'Angelo, Willie Nelson, Cream, and numerous other bands and artists.
Having released more than 800 single 45s and nearly 300 LPs during its 15-year run - picking up eight Grammys and an Oscar along the way - Stax created music that has reverberated throughout the world in many ways, and continues to play a major role in the music industry. It helped usher in a genre that the world came to love, and had a major impact on generations of music fans and artists. At the core of the Stax Museum of American Soul Music's mission is to be sure it continues to impact future generations forever.
Stax Records is now owned by the Concord Music Group in Beverly Hills, California. Concord revived the label in 2007 and began signing new artists to it for the first time in 30 years.