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Respect Yourself: Stax Records and the Soul Explosion Hardcover – November 12, 2013
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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.)
*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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But the highlight has to be the guitar player who came in with his chauffeur/gofer who begged to sing one song even after the band left. But once he started singing, WOW! They quickly reconvened and a SUPERSTAR WAS BORN! Read this to find out who it was.
And how did Issac Hayes start and how did he become a singer and what was his relevance to the Stax history? And of course, the horrible plane crash that changed the face of music. Interested on the business side? Two buyouts, unread contracts that come back to harm you and other business stories are all here.
If you are a music historian or love Memphis or R&B music, BUY AND READ! The first half of the book literally jumps off the page.
Gordon argues that Stax essentially grew faster than its leaders, namely Al Bell, could manage. Bell's vision of making Stax a major multimedia force drove the company to it heights, but his lack of control over the millions Stax made sank the enterprise even more quickly than it grew. Less than a decade after Redding's landmark performance at the Monterey Pop Festival, Stax had issued its last single and fell into bankruptcy, leaving in its wake the broken lives of dozens of employees as well as one hell of a musical legacy.
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