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Respect Yourself: Stax Records and the Soul Explosion Hardcover – November 12, 2013


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA; 1ST edition (November 12, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1596915773
  • ISBN-13: 978-1596915770
  • Product Dimensions: 6.6 x 1.5 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #167,095 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. In the late 1950s, Jim Stewart, and his sister, Estelle Axton, moved their little fledgling recording studio into the defunct Capitol Theater in Memphis, Tenn., opening their doors and establishing the record label that gave birth to gritty, funky soul music. A masterful storyteller, music historian Gordon (It Came from Memphis) artfully chronicles the rise and fall of one of America's greatest music studios, situating the story of Stax within the cultural history of the 1960s in the South. Stewart, a fiddle player who knew he'd never make it in the music business himself, one day overheard a friend talking about producing music; he soon gave it a try, and eventually he was supervising the acclaimed producer Chips Moman in the studio as well as creating a business plan for the label; Estelle Axton set up a record shop in the lobby of the theater, selling the latest discs but also spinning music just recorded in the studio and gauging its market appeal. Gordon deftly narrates the stories of the many musicians who called Stax home, from Rufus Thomas, Carla Thomas, and Otis Redding to Isaac Hayes, Sam and Dave, and the Staples Singers, as well as the creative marketing and promotional strategies—the Stax-Volt Revue and Wattstax. By the early 1970s, bad business decisions and mangled personal relationships shuttered the doors of Stax. Today, the Stax sound permeates our lives and, in Gordon's words, became the soundtrack for liberation, the song of triumph, the sound of the path toward freedom. (Nov.)

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Say “Stax Records” and certain names may come to mind: Otis Redding, Sam and Dave, Booker T. and the M.G.’s, Isaac Hayes. Others may think of the guitarist Steve Cropper and bassist Donald “Duck” Dunn or the producer Chips Moman. Stax was the epitome of southern soul. These people and many others are all part of the Stax story as described in music writer and filmmaker Gordon’s wonderful cultural history of not only a record company but also the city of Memphis itself. But it is also the story of America writ large: of racism and segregation, of civil rights and riots in the street, of President Lyndon Johnson and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Stax was founded in 1957 as Satellite Records by white siblings Jim Stewart and Estelle Axton; their combined names gave the company its now historic name, Stax, in 1961. They believed in racial harmony and felt, or at least hoped, that their record company could in some way mend the deep chasm between the races. Gordon tells the Stax story—from its humble beginnings to its heyday, to its bankruptcy, and to its present-day incarnation as the Stax Museum of American Soul Music—with expertise, feeling, and a sure hand. --June Sawyers

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Customer Reviews

Overall, a very worthwhile read if you're interested in music history.
Mark Anderson
His "It Came From Memphis", is a wonderful chronicle of that city's pop/soul music heritage.
Duke Mantee
It is THE definitive history of the Stax label and some of the best music to ever grace the planet.
Cliff Milledge

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

28 of 31 people found the following review helpful By G.I Gurdjieff TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on November 13, 2013
Format: Hardcover
I read an electronic version of this book compliments of NetGalley. The opinions expressed here are mine alone.
From beginning to ending this book is the story of Stax Records. Stax was founded by a brother and sister, Jim Stewart and Estelle Axton, who were interested in music and wanted to promote the funky music that was being created in their home base of Memphis. Financed primarily by a second mortgage on Estelle's home, they worked on a shoe string budget that required day jobs to pay the bills and studio business was transacted in their spare time.
In its entirety this is an interesting story. These were two people with a dream, but not exactly positioned to run a business and have it become hugely successful. Even more improbable, Stewart and Axton were white and most of the people who worked for them and also comprised their talent base were black. While segregation was huge in the south, once inside Stax there was racial equality and an intoxicating sense that the music would bring this diverse group forward both professionally and personally. Unfortunately, Jim's relative lack of expertise as the business grew and Estelle's role of mother hen had them often at odds with one another. Eventually, Jim nudged Estelle out of the company that she co-founded and Jim took on an African American partner who took the company to national prominence. Eventually, Stax became a victim of its own success and crashed and burned only to be revived again for another generation.
Though not exactly heavy reading, I found this book consistently interesting as an equally interesting cast of characters came and went which included Carla Thomas, Booker T and the MG's, Issac Hayes, Sam and Dave, Otis Redding, Donald "Duck" Dunn, Steve Cropper, and the Staple Singers.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Sinohey TOP 1000 REVIEWER on December 14, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
Memphis, in the 1950s, 60s and 70s was segregated, and many think that it still is today." "Everything came down to race....Being treated like an equal human being...was really a phenomenon....The spirit that came from Jim and his sister Estelle Axton allowed all of us, black and white, to . . . come into the doors of Stax, where you had freedom, you had harmony, you had people working together." Al Bell recalled in an interview, reported in Robert Gordon's book.
Gordon is obviously enamored with his hometown, but does not shy from describing the discordant race relations and the dystopia of segregation that prevailed; his main subject is music; and what great music it was and still is.
The book gets its name from the title of a song by the Staple Singers,( Mavis on vocals and Pops on guitar), one of many great R & B artists in the talent stable of Stax Records.

The record company was started in 1957, by bank employee and part-time country fiddle player, James Stewart, and his older sister Estelle Axton. Initially they began their enterprise in Estelle's garage, equipped with a mono tape recorder, and named the company Satellite Records. Two years later, Estelle mortgaged her home so that they could rent the former Capitol Theater in a black (not yet called African-American then) neighborhood. They named the studio Stax (Stewart/Axton) and promoted an open-door attitude. This attracted walk-ins, many that would become future stars, such as 16 year old Carla Thomas and her father Rufus; they recorded some of the studio's original big hits.
A few early successes with black musicians and an alliance with DJ/singer Rufus Thomas led Stax to focus on black music, which grew into the sound we that now call soul.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Trevor Seigler on March 23, 2014
Format: Hardcover
In the early Sixties, the world was primed for a musical explosion heretofore unthinkable, and little ole Stax Records of Memphis, Tennessee, was just one of the record companies that put itself on the map with a distinctive sound. With artists like Otis Redding, Sam and Dave, and Booker T. and the MGs, the company grew. Adversity struck, however, but the company rebounded in the early Seventies. It was undone by elements of hubris on its part (and racism on the part of the surrounding white Memphis establishment), but its legacy is unassailable. Robert Gorden, a native Memphian, brings that whole saga to life with "Respect Yourself: Stax Records and the Soul Explosion."

An integrated company at a time when much of the music business was dominated by whites (as indeed was most of Memphis, its home base), Stax came into being through the efforts of white brother and sister Jim Stewart and Estelle Axton in the late Fifties. Sam Phillips was having success with Sun Records across town (with a roster that included at one time or another Johnny Casg, Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Carl Perkins), and former fiddler-turned-banker Jim Stewart wanted to get back into music and make a profit. He began with what he knew (country music), but the neighborhood he found himself in was predominantly black and full of talented young men and women who came through his front door seeking the opportunity to escape the poverty and misery that was many an African-American's plight in the South. And walk through the door they did, from Booker T. Jones (whose integrated band included Duck Dunn and Steve Cropper, Stax Records stalwarts) to Otis Redding (who first came to Jim's attention as the valet for another artist from Georgia seeking to record at their studio).
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