From the desk of Contributing Editor, Eli M. Getson–

Stax Records began as a small regional record label in Memphis in 1957 by brother and sister team, Jim Stewart and Estelle Axton, with the simple intent of selling records by taking advantage of the immense talent of the African American singers the South had to offer.  By the time the label went defunct in the mid ’70s it had provided the soundtrack for the Civil Rights movement and had rocked the music world. Artists Black and White alike would be profoundly influenced by the sometimes smooth, sometimes rough, but always hardworking soul singers like Al Green, Sam and Dave, Joe Tex, Carla Thomas, Arthur Conley, Eddie Floyd, Wilson Pickett, and the big man– Otis Redding.   There is nothing better than a funky, greasy, soul song and nothing was more soulful then the legendary Stax Records tour of Europe in 1967.  In my humble opinion this is when Soul music took over the world.

Stax Records headquarters in Memphis, Tennessee — Image by Bill Carrier © API photographers inc

The European Tour was to open these markets to the Stax sound and take advantage of the growing interest in Black American music, especially in the UK. By the time the tour was finished music would not be the same.  Stax management knew they had to tear it up every night if they were going to realize the commercial gains they wanted for themselves and their artists.  So they stacked the tour with an all star team– Sam and Dave, Eddie Floyd, and Arthur Conley were backed by the legendary Stax house band Booker T. and the MG’s and there equally epic horn section The Mar-keys.  This epic line up along with a good spirited competition to top each other made the show a raging success.

Pictured — Estelle Axton and Jim Stewart, siblings and co–founders of the legendary Stax Records (“ST” ewart + “AX” ton = Stax) — Image by Bill Carrier, © API photographers inc

Yet no one launched their star into orbit more the legendary big man from Macon, Georgia– Otis Redding. With vocals that combined the delicate phrasing of a balladeer with the shouts of a deacon in church, Redding destroyed it in the UK.  People still talk about Otis and his legendary performance in London–taking the Stones’ “Satisfaction” and giving it the Stax treatment along with his classics like “Try a Little Tenderness” and “These Arms of Mine”.  This along with his now legendary performance at The Monterrey Pop Festival that same year made him an enormous international star.

Otis Redding (at the Olympia Theatre, Paris), one of the legendary soul singers featured in Sweet Soul: Stax/Volt Revue — Live in Norway, 1967 — Image by © Jean Pierre Leloir, courtesy of Stax Records

The musicians, initially, viewed “Hit the Road Stax” with some trepidation, viewing themselves as a small, regional record label done good versus a global brand.  Some were even concerned that the European audiences wouldn’t like the music of a small, racially integrated label from the South.   That was until they got to England-everyone and I mean everyone of any import from the London music scene was scrambling to get tickets to see these shows.  Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Brian Jones, Eric Burdon, John Mayall, Roger Daltrey, Pete Townsend, and The Beatles were all angling to see the London shows and hang out with the Stax artists.  In a now classic footnote of music history, The Beatles sent limos to pick up the Stax crew each night after the shows and, in a story no-one can verify, Paul McCartney supposedly kissed the great Booker T. and the MG’s guitarist Steve Cropper’s ring because he viewed him as the greatest guitar player he had ever heard.

Guitarist Steve Cropper (third from left), a founding member of Booker T. and the MG’s and The Mar–Keys, shares his memories of the historic Stax/Volt Revue concert on April 6, 1967 in Sweet Soul: Stax/Volt Revue — Live in Norway 1967. Booker T. and the MG’s also perform a scorching rendition of their classic instrumental “Green Onions.” Pictured (l to r): Donald “Duck” Dunn (bass), Booker T. Jones (organ, seated), Steve Cropper (guitar), and Al Jackson (drums). — Image by Bill Carrier © API photographers inc

The tour ended and soul music and Stax Records was ascendant.  A few short months later Otis Redding would pass away in a plane crash.  Stax would continue to produce timeless hits and would last into the mid seventies before bad business decisions and changing musical tastes would cause it to go under. When you look back Stax cast a long shadow.  For a musician to have his or her music called “soulful” was the highest compliment.  The singing, the dancing– literally performances that left it all on the stage– formed a connection between these artists and the audience that would set the gold standard.

For a beautiful and brief moment time back in 1967– Soul ruled the world.

–Eli M. Getson

Otis Redding — Image by © Jean Pierre Leloir

Best known as “Double Dynamite” duo Sam and Dave, Samuel David Moore and David Prater, are one of the legendary acts featured in Sweet Soul: Stax/Volt Revue — Live in Norway 1967 — Image by Bill Carrier © API photographers inc

Otis Redding, one of the legendary soul singers featured in Sweet Soul: Stax/Volt Revue — Live in Norway 1967 — Image courtesy of Stax Records

Otis Redding, Monterey, CA 1967 — one of the legendary soul singers featured in Sweet Soul: Stax/Volt Revue — Live in Norway 1967 — Image © Jim Marshall Photography LLC  via

(L. to R.) Andrew Love (tenor saxophone), Wayne Jackson (trumpet) and Packy Axton (tenor saxophone) are The Mar–Keys, the original Stax Records house band, and one of the groups featured in Sweet Soul: Stax/Volt Revue — Live in Norway 1967 — Image by Bill Carrier © API photographers inc

Eddie Floyd, one of the legendary soul singers featured in Sweet Soul: Stax/Volt Revue — Live in Norway 1967 — Image by Bill Carrier © API photographers inc

Best known as “Double Dynamite” duo Sam and Dave, David Prater and Samuel David Moore, are one of the legendary acts featured in Sweet Soul: Stax/Volt Revue — Live in Norway 1967 — Image by Bill Carrier © API photographers inc

Check out the epic live performances — Sweet Soul: Stax/Volt Revue – Live in Norway 1967


  1. A wonderful post, with wonderful photographs. But one point needs correcting: the European Tour was most definitely not the brainchild of Jim Stewart and Estelle Axton. The Stax/Volt Revue was conceived and promoted by Otis Redding’s manager Phil Walden, with the help and encouragement of his mentor Joe Galkin and the management of Atlantic Records, Jerry Wexler and Ahmet Ertegun, whose label distributed and promoted the records that Stax released. The truth is, Stax played remarkably little role in the promotion of its artists during the first five years (1962-1967) of the its commercial success. (The increasing role of Al Bell from 1967 onward changed that, for better or worse.) In addition, Sam & Dave were not signed to the label; they recorded for Atlantic, as did Wilson Pickett. The genius of Stax owed to the instrumental brilliance of Booker T & The MGs, the songwriting talent of Steve Cropper, David Porter, and Issac Hayes, and the collaborative working environment there. Certainly not the vision, which was almost nonexistent, of the label’s ownership.

    None of this is intended to diminish what the label accomplished, merely to give credit where it was due. And the performances in Norway are astonishing!

    • There was some disagreement with the Stax founders and Atlantic about who did what and later who owned the master recordings-hence when there was there the exhaustive re-release of the Stax catalog on CD sometime in the 1990’s artists like Wilson Pickett were absent-even though the average listener associated this style with the label. In terms of vision did Stewart/Axton have it-not sure. They had enough vision to follow the template Sam Phillips set a crosstown Sun and have an integrated label at a time when it was commercially difficult to do so. Booker T and the MG’s definitely provided the backbone and set the sound down. Your knowledge of soul is impressive.

  2. Booker T and the MGs were fabulous. Green Onions was their signature hit, but they developed a fantastic range of sounds over the years. Trivia note – Steve Cropper and Duck Dunn appeared in the movie The Blues Brothers, and performed in John Belushi’s rendition of Soul Man.

  3. Very nice homepage, man, I came to it searching on Stevie Ray Vaughan, and was amazed by the contents here, I’ve just watched Two Lane Black Top for the first time, this last weekend , so when it comes to Stax…, all in the same place, there’s a beautiful version,I’ve discovered recently, of Eleanor Rigby played by Booker T and the MG’s, one of my favourite of all times, it worth listening, very very beatiful. Thanx and Greetings from Brazil.

  4. Great article! I’m a big soul head and this was fantastic to read. I love how this soul music was rediscovered in the north of england in the 1970s, giving way to the Northern Soul movement. Ever thought about writing about Northern Soul? Fantastic culture that keeps kicking in some levels today.

    I host a weekly radio show and play tons of soul every week, so great to see other people loving it as much as I do.

  5. Brilliant – loved that music!
    I remember the Stax Volt tour coming to the Birmingham (UK) Odeon in 67 – really wish I’d got to see it now.

  6. I was around for this great era of music…and die laughing when I see the charts that say Soul or R & B….and every song is by some idiot rapper or rap group who talk over backtrack garbage….what BS!! Soul/R & B is these cats….like Otis singing his heart out at Monterey….with the awesome Booker T. & The MGs laying down a backbeat to die for….Indeed. Thnks for the memories. Also, a big shout to Jon Gould, the first commentor for remembering that David Porter and Issac Hayes were important songwriters….and Ike plays some great organ and piano behind so many of these greats. Rappers are not worthy to be classified as Soul or R n B; get real caouse these cats are and always will be the real music….not that hyped up fake no talent stuff!!…especially compared to these cats!!! JMO

    • I was born late 70s, so even though I don’t have the context for that time, I still say the 60s-early 70s was the best time for music overall. The sounds from that era still heavily influence music of today, even though most modern stuff pales in comparison.

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