By Paul Russell
4/29/2003 12:40:22 AM
Tags and topics realted to this article include Chuck D.
Chuck D. has joined the ranks of performers who will celebrate the grand opening of the Stax Museum of American Soul.
Al Green, Percy Sledge, Michael McDonald, Wilson Pickett, Mavis Staples, Isaac Hayes and others will perform on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday to pay homage to the only R&B label that rivaled Motown.
The legendary label was founded by Jimmy Stewart and Marge Axton. They took the first two letters of their last names to come up with the name, "Stax."
After recording a minor hit with Rufus Thomas, the label inked a deal with Atlantic and had a national hit with 17 year-old Carla Thomas' "Gee Whiz." The record went to #5 on the Billboard charts.
Stax records grew to prominence in the mid 60's, rivaled only by Motown. In 15 years Stax placed over 167 hit songs in the top 100 on the pop charts and an astounding 243 hits in the top 100 R & B charts.
The label launched the careers of Isaac Hayes, The Mad Lads, The Dramatics, Booker T. and The M.G.'s, Carla Thomas, Wilson Pickett, Sam & Dave, Otis Redding.
Even Richard Pryor got his start with the label. His album "That Nigger's Crazy," dropped on Partee, the comedy subsidiary of Stax.
In 1972, the label was in financial difficulties. The company's national sales director, Al Bell, purchased the company from owner Jim Stewart.
Troubles started in 1973. Bell signed a "handshake deal" with President of Columbia Records, Clive Davis. Davis was fired and Columbia reneged on their deal and the IRS came down on the label, after an employee was found carrying $100,000 in cash through an airport.
These event eventually drove Stax into bankruptcy. A judge ordered it's closing on January 12, 1976.
Al Bell was overcome with joy as he toured the museum last week.
"There's another feeling I can't explain. I'm so happy and proud . . . the facility is here," Bell told Memphis newspaper The Commercial Appeal.
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