Reverend C. L. Franklin was no stranger to the recording business.  In fact, he was a pioneer in using broadcast and recorded media to expand the reach of his pulpit out into the world. His daughter, Aretha, was also no stranger to the business of recording as she grew up.  Born in Memphis, she followed as her father’s gifts and calling moved the family from New Salem Baptist Church, first to Friendship Baptist in Buffalo, New York, then to New Bethel Baptist in Detroit.

More than 50 years after a small recording company moved into a rundown movie theater on East McLemore Avenue and took the name Stax Records, a partnership with the Memphis Symphony Orchestra is attempting to revitalize the neighborhood around Stax using what the area is best known for—music.

Isaac Singleton

Bar-Kays’ trumpet player Ben Cauley celebrated his 65th birthday this year, and he has much to celebrate. Cauley was the sole survivor of the plane crash that claimed the lives of Otis Redding and four band members of the Bar-Kays outside of Madison, Wisconsin, on December 10, 1967. With resilience and an undeniable exuberance for music, Cauley continued his career, in spite of a number of hurdles, including a massive stroke. 

Giving Otis His Propers

Jul 11, 2012

Coming off of the biggest chart success of his career to date, “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long,“ Otis Redding reeled off two 1965 singles which included songs destined to become iconic tunes, not for Otis, but for the acts which covered them later.

Isaac, David and Samuel are familiar names to biblical scholars, and not at all unfamiliar to faithful fans of the funky sound that emanated from the Stax studio on McLemore.

Sam and Dave came to Stax in an arrangement with Atlantic Records. The duo viewed it as punishment, but it would be the best thing that ever happened to their careers.

When Atlantic Records took an interest in what was happening in Memphis at Stax, an intriguing comparison of the greenness of grasses took place. When it came to making records, there was a New York way, and there was a Memphis way.

You could probably fill the Mid-South Coliseum with the folks who say they saw Jimi Hendrix play the Ellis Auditorium in April, 1969. The spectacle of the left-handed guitarist who played an upside-down right-handed guitar did not disappoint the folks who plunked down their 3, 4, 5, or 6 dollars for a seat in one of the two

Flush with the success of their first top-ten single, “Gee Whiz” by Carla Thomas, the focus of Jim Stewart and the folks at Satellite Records was on cashing in with a follow-up album. Carla was off attending Tennessee State, so there was much back-and-forth between Memphis and Nashville as Carla learned to juggle Freshman English 1010 with a non-credit hands-on lab in applied pop star studies. In the background of this flurry of activity lurked the single which would not only set the direction of the emerging label’s sound, but also force it to change its name.

In 1960, after three years of trying, Satellite Records finally launched a release that hit the charts, the single “Cause I Love You.“ Everyone was giddy with success. The world’s oldest teenager, Rufus Thomas, was back on the charts again, wailing the smash tune as a duet with his daughter Carla. Satellite owner Jim Stewart’s wild idea of running a recording studio and starting a record label seemed to be paying off. Jim’s sister, Estelle Axton, was happy because there was cash to make those second-mortgage payments for the loan she took out to put her bank-teller brother in business.