The Story of Soul Music at the Stax Museum in Memphis, Tennessee
American music was born here in the South. We know it, and we’re proud of it. As you may know, Mississippi is our home state, but it is also the home of the blues. From roots in Southern gospel, Mississippi blues, and New Orleans jazz, soul music emerged in the late 1950s.
Stax Records, which began as Satellite Records in Memphis, Tennessee, was one of the main labels for soul music during its heyday. A few artists you may recognize from Stax include Isaac Hayes, Rufus Thomas, and Otis Redding.
The original recording studio was destroyed in 1989, but its legacy lives on in the Stax Museum of American Soul Music. The Stax Museum is a replica of the original theater that housed Stax Records, in the same location, in the same community that is now lovingly called “Soulsville.”
(Though she never recorded at Stax, the house where Aretha Franklin was born is found in this very same community.)
6 Things To See at the Stax Museum:
1. The Century-Old Delta Church
See where soul music got its true beginnings in this genuine, reassembled 1906 church from the Mississippi Delta.
2. Stage Costumes
On display are various costumes, instruments, and memorabilia from soul artists including one of Tina Turner’s dresses, Ike Turner’s guitar, and various items from Rufus Thomas. One of my favorite items is the Rufus Thomas sweatshirt proclaiming him as “The Funniest Man Alive.” As we say here, that man had no sense (and that’s a good thing).
3. The Soul Train Dance Floor
Because the entire tour revolves around soul music, you’ll be itching to show off some of your dance moves. What better place than on the Soul Train dance floor? The disco ball is just waiting for you!
4. Hall of Records
The Hall of Records is a very impressive floor-to-ceiling display of records released by Stax. The slightly overlapping records creates a gorgeous pattern and really illustrates the amount of music and talent that came from Stax Records.
5. Isaac Hayes’ Car
I believe the term we’d use today for this car is “EXTRA.” From fur carpet to a mini-fridge to gold trim, this car is extravagant to the extreme. What else would you expect from Isaac Hayes though?
6. Recording Studio
Of course, the most important part of Stax was the actual recording studio. At the Stax Museum, you can venture into the replica of Studio A, which even has a sloping floor like the original (remember, it was build in a former theater!).
See Related: Touring Legendary Sun Studio in Memphis, Tennessee
Since the original Stax Records building was demolished, this is definitely the next best thing. I highly recommend the Stax Museum because, though it is a replica, it’s replicated the right way, in its original place, in its original community. Stax Records and its legacy is definitely something that Memphis and the South should be proud of.
The Stax campus is also home to the Stax Music Academy and The Soulsville Charter School, which enrich the lives of students with emphasis on music.
What’s the best music-related museum you’ve ever visited? What’s your favorite type of music? Who’s your favorite soul artist? Have you visited Stax before? We’d love to hear from you, so let us know in the comments below!
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Jennifer is the founder of Just Chasing Rabbits travel blog. She lives in Mississippi with husband/travel companion, Mark, and three fur babies. After obtaining a BA degree in studio art and working in the field of photography for years, Jenni has combined her love of travel and photography to form this blog. Mark and Jenni share their experiences in hopes of inspiring others to have wonderful adventures and see the world.
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