Stax records started life as the Satellite label in 1959, it was founded by a white Banker, Jim Stewart. He later went into partnership with his sister Estelle Axton, she owned the Satellite Record Shop, which was located at the front of a theatre, this was later turned into the Stax studio. The name Stax was formed by the first two letters of Stewart and Axton. Stax records was important in Black American music in the mid sixties with it's production of Southern soul music, also it had a mix of both black and white musicians and production staff. The first record on the Stax label was 112 Morning After by the Mar-Keys, who had previously recorded "Last Night" on Satellite 107 in June 1961.
Stax was distributed by Atlantic records who had a first refusal on any Stax recordings. The company issued other labels mainly Volt, which had Otis Redding as the main artist with 17 singles.
Soul Ballads was the first album issued on Volt 411
Other STAX Labels were
H.I.P / SAFICE/ CHALICE/ ENTERPRISE/ JOTIS
JOTIS had only 4 releases, all were soul gems starting with:
J-469 Same Thing All Over Again/Do The Sloopy Billy Young
J-470 I 'm A Lonely Stranger/Where you Lead Me Arthur Conley
J-471 Baby Cakes/I'm Missing You Loretta Williams
J-472 There's A Place For Us/Who's Fooling Who Arthur Conley
These records were produced by Otis Redding and Jim Stewart. On the recording of "Same Thing All Over Again" by Billy Young, Otis can be heard singing towards the end of the record, it also has a haunting trombone solo.
The session musicians were Booker T and The Memphis Group and the brass section supplied by the Mar-Keys. They played on hundreds of sessions over the years and had many a hit tune in the charts.
The session musicians backed many artists whose records were not issued on Stax but put out on Atlantic records. Two such Artists were Wilson Pickett and Don Covey, the soul classic "In The Midnight Hour " was recorded in May 1965. It was written by Pickett and Steve Cropper Later in June Don Covey recorded "See Saw" and "Sookie Sookie" both with the unmistakable Stax sound, what a summer that was !!!
Song writing was strong at Stax, William Bell who had started with the company back in 1961, wrote "You Don't Miss Your Water", which made the pop chart that year. After several singles including "Any Other Way", William formed a writing partnership with organist Booker T. Jones and in 1965 after leaving the army, the single "Crying All By Myself " was issued. "Don't Stop Now" on the flip side remains an unknown brilliant dance record, which was picked up by the all nighters at the time. "Share What You Got" backed by "Marching Off To War" are superb examples of the Stax Memphis Sound. Hits followed with the up tempo "Never Like This Before", the slower "Everybody Loves A Winner" and "Everyday Will Be Like A Holiday". In March 1968 " A Tribute To A King" was released, which was written a few days after Otis Redding's tragic death. It was issued on the B side of "Everyman Ought To Have A Woman" both very fine ballads with a string arrangement.
In May 1968 the contract with Atlantic records ceased and the Stax label changed colour, from blue to yellow, as did the logo but that's another story.
The Stax/Volt singles can be found on a 9 CD Box Set it has nearly all the singles from 1959 until 1968.
Read about the story of Stax records in Soulsville U.S.A. a book by Rob Bowman (published by Schirmer Books)