STAX Records "Instant Reload" 1968

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by d.r.cook, Jan 20, 2014.

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  1. d.r.cook

    d.r.cook Forum Resident Thread Starter

    i'd be interested in 2 thing--

    first, a broad discussion of the time (around '68, I think) when, by way of a "hidden clause" in their agreement with Atlantic and Jerry Wexler, STAX Records in Memphis lost control/ownership of ALL their master recordings (save for a small portion that predated the Atlantic distribution deal) . . .

    as a result, Jim Stewart and Al Bell set about to "reload" the Stax catalog with a huge push to sign new artists and create new material with the existing team of writers and artists.

    I'M PRETTY SURE I've read that they released 29 LPs on the SAME DAY, as well as quite a few singles; and among these were Delaney & Bonnie's first LP, "Home," as well as the "800 lb gorilla" in the room, Isaac Hayes' runaway hit, HOT BUTTERED SOUL.

    I'M very much interested in getting an accurate list of those LPs and singles, same day and/or general period during which this push was made. (I have searched here, and also looked at several stax discographies online, but can't quite make sense of it for an answer . . . I've read and own the Stax book by Bowman, but can't lay my hands on it at the moment.)

    Any help and/or discussion WELCOME!

    BadJack likes this.
  2. shutdown66

    shutdown66 Forum Resident

    Athens, Greece
  3. notesfrom

    notesfrom Forum Resident

    NC USA
    Did all those repossessed Stax masters get destroyed in the 1978 warehouse fire along with the Atlantic stuff?
  4. zphage

    zphage inappropriately touching the out of touch

  5. kwadguy

    kwadguy Senior Member

    Cambridge, MA
    I thought the warehouse only destroyed multitracks and other unreleased elements, not masters for released albums.
  6. leshafunk

    leshafunk Forum Resident

    Moscow, Russia
    The book says 30 singles accompanied by 28 albums recorded in 8 months, but does not give the list.
  7. d.r.cook

    d.r.cook Forum Resident Thread Starter


    yeah, that's pretty much the numbers i'd seen in a couple of places . . . i think there was one that was scheduled, then pulled, accounting for the 28 vs. 29. and if memory serves, stax had released something like 43 LPs during the entire 7-8 yrs leading up to that crossroads.

    and i know at least one of those 28 was a comp of covers with a lot of in-house crossover, much like motown did a lot. STILL, given the unusual nature of this strategy, you'd think that exact list would be easier to track down.
  8. leshafunk

    leshafunk Forum Resident

    Moscow, Russia
    Considering that they had other labels (Volt, Enterprise etc., Gospel Truth and KoKo appeared later, what else?) it's not that easy - as you have to put together a combined list :)
  9. john hp

    john hp Forum Resident

    Warwickshire, UK
    Rob Bowman has the month as May, 1969 - "every major artist at Stax recorded a new album" plus "three "Rare Stamps" LPs (Eddie Floyd, Johnnie Taylor, & split J.J. Barnes & Steve Mancha); John Lee Hooker (licensed from Henry Stone); first solo albums by Steve Cropper & Mavis Staples; "Jammed Together"; "Boy Meets Girl". The total is given as 27.
  10. Tommyboy

    Tommyboy Senior Member

    New York
    I have a new book on Stax by Robert Gordon. He reports 28 albums (about 280 songs) from autumn of 1968 to May 1969.
  11. StaxFax

    StaxFax New Member

    I've also been wondering about this for some time and, after extensive trolling online and checking both Robert and Rob's invaluable Stax bibles, I've come up with the following release info and (possibly), a list of the elusive 28 album instant back-catalogue that was issued in May, 1969.

    The first records Stax issued after severing ties with Atlantic came out in October, 1968, complete with the new finger-snapping logo.

    October, 1968

    Soul Limbo - Booker T. & The MG's (STS 2001)
    I've Never Found A Girl - Eddie Floyd (STS 2002)
    Live Wire/Blues Power - Albert King (STS 2003)
    Soul Folk in Action - Staple Singers (STS 2004)
    Who's Making Love - Johnnie Taylor (STS 2005)

    December, 1968

    Uptight - Booker T. & The MG's

    Early 1969, possibly February

    Soul Explosion - Various (STS 2007)
    Raw Blues - Johnnie Taylor (STS 2008)

    In early 1969, Al Bell decided that the solution to losing their pre-1968 recordings to Atlantic was to release an instant back-catalogue of 28 albums that spring (a mammoth undertaking which Steve Cropper, who produced many of these sessions, admits was completely exhausting). Working around the clock in the early months of 1969, practically every Stax artist was given the opportunity to cut a record (including Cropper himself, along with some newly signed artists, B-side and concept albums, plus, of course, the surprise "experiment," Isaac Hayes' Hot Buttered Soul). Here (again, possibly), are those releases.

    (In truth, only 27 albums were issued, as Rufus Thomas' entry was never released).

    May, 1969 - "The Big 28"

    1 The Booker T. Set - Booker T. & The MG's (STS 2009)
    2 Years Gone By - Albert King (STS 2010)
    3 Rare Stamps - Eddie Floyd (STS 2011)
    4 Rare Stamps - Johnnie Taylor (STS 2012)
    5 That's Where It's At - John Lee Hooker (STS 2013)
    6 Bound To Happen - William Bell (STS 2014)
    7 King Does The King's Thing - Albert King (STS 2015)
    8 We'll Get Over - Staple Singers (STS 2016)
    9 You've Got To Have Eddie - Eddie Floyd (STS 2017)
    10 Soul Children - Soul Children (STS 2018)
    11 Memphis Queen - Carla Thomas (STS 2019)
    12 Jammed Together - Albert King, Steve Cropper & Pops Staples (STS 2020)
    13 Ollie & The Nightingales - Ollie & The Nightingales (STS 2021)
    14 May I Have Your Ticket, Please? - Rufus Thomas (unreleased STS 2022)
    15 The Johnnie Taylor Philosophy Continues - Johnnie Taylor (STS 2023)
    16 Boy Meets Girl - Various (STS 2-2024)
    17 Damnifiknow! - The Mar-Keys (STS 2025)
    18 Home - Delaney & Bonnie (STS 2026)
    19 Rare Stamps - J.J. Barnes/Steve Mancha (Volt 6001)
    20 Here To Stay - Darrell Banks (Volt 6002)
    21 Something Special - Jimmy Hughes (Volt 6003) Feb. 4, 1969
    22 Gotta Groove - The Bar-Kays (Volt 6004)
    23 Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad Lads - Mad Lads (Volt 6005)
    24 With A Little Help From My Friends - Steve Cropper (Volt 6006)
    25 Mavis Staples - Mavis Staples (Volt 6007)
    26 So I Can Love You - Emotions (Volt 6008)
    27 Hot Buttered Soul - Isaac Hayes (ENS 1001)
    28 Ridin' High - Maynard Ferguson - Enterprise (S 13-101)

    The following releases may or may not have been part of the May 1969 releases. I was not able to find any information on their dates of release.

    Molach - Molach (ENS 1002)
    Portrait - Sid Selvidge (ENS 1003)

    An interesting insider's view of the extravagant May 1969 release party can be found here at Phillip Rauls' blog:

    As far as I can determine, the next release by Stax after this 27 album opus was in June, 1969, with Otis Redding's posthumous Love Man. With Otis' talent and commercial draw, it's surprising they didn't release this in May as well. I suspect a weary Cropper needed another month to finish mixing and it wasn't ready in time. Love Man was actually released under the Atco label (SD 33-289). The next finger-snapping Stax proper release seems not to have occurred until April, 1970, with Booker T. & The MG's excellent McLemore Avenue (STS 2027). Eleven months after the Big 27! I guess they had a lot of songs to peddle in the meantime. And, no doubt, people were exhausted. Though, it can be assumed that a good many singles were recorded and released in the interim (Eddie Floyd in particular seems to have recorded many tracks in 1969/'70).

    Whether or not Al Bell's gamble was truly a success or not is up for debate. There's no doubt his goal of an instant back-catalogue was spectacularly achieved and the public and record retailers were assured that Stax was still going strong and wasn't going anywhere (for now at least). On the flip side, studio musicians and recording engineers must have been burnt out. And, due to the fact that so many albums were issued at once, many of these records were overlooked and didn't get the marketing push they deserved. For my money, these releases represent the last gasps of the classic Memphis Sound. By 1970, strings were overtaking the horns, and thicker (but not necessarily better) arrangements had replaced those deceptively simple, yet rich, arrangements which were the label's signature sound through the mid-late sixties. Some of these releases are better than others, certainly, but they do all share, to one degree or another, that classic Memphis Sound. For better or worse, by the '70s that sound was the exception and had become a thing of the past. For fans of the classic Stax sound, that makes these recordings well worth seeking out.
  12. leshafunk

    leshafunk Forum Resident

    Moscow, Russia
    It was a big surpise for me to learn that Hot Buttered Soul was actually recorded outside of Stax studios...
  13. McLover

    McLover Forum Resident

    East TN
    d.r. cook,

    A very gutsy move trying to get Stax back on it's feet. And Stax proper along with Hi were the last gasp of the Memphis Sound. There is material for a few books and several movies in this era. I admired their guts with this release program and emphatized with them as we were both trying to get back on our feet in this era. And I also lost a lot of respect for Atlantic's business practices with this era.
    d.r.cook likes this.
  14. d.r.cook

    d.r.cook Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Awesome post. Thanks
  15. leshafunk

    leshafunk Forum Resident

    Moscow, Russia
    Very un-Stax-ish record, usually listed as 1966. The first track is truly sophisicated jazz piece, but starting from track 3 it finally gets to rhythm & blues.
  16. d.r.cook

    d.r.cook Forum Resident Thread Starter

    true, but i think that can be a little misleading for those not steeped in STAX history; Ardent was often used for various pieces of projects, especially in the years after MLK's assassination. I get the impression that most at Stax viewed Ardent almost like an extension of Stax/Volt . . . and the fact that Ardent didn't have an in-house label to speak of made the relationship that much easier, as opposed to going to Royal where Hi ruled the roost.

    Seems also that Isaac probably felt that using Ardent would make it that much easier for him to maintain complete control and do things his way--a must have coming out of his last LP recorded at Stax. Certainly, the difference in the size of the rooms (Stax was huge, with unusually high ceilings) is significant, but with Issac at the piano and the basic backing provided by the Bar-Kays, the key ingredients were Stax through and through.

    Al Bell, of course, took the Staples to Muscle Shoals and used mostly the house band there (w/o Pops on guitar, mostly, if not always, I think), so a much stronger case could be made that their Stax albums are much less purely Stax product.

    as we all know, and has been discussed, the classic Stax sound was disappearing anyway.

    leshafunk likes this.
  17. coniferouspine

    coniferouspine Forum Resident

    This thread is awesome, great information. I've always wondered about this period and these particular albums as well. This stuff would make a really cool box set, on its own.

    14 May I Have Your Ticket, Please? - Rufus Thomas (unreleased STS 2022)

    I wonder what the gag on the cover art for this was going to be? Rufus as an usher in a movie theater? Rufus with a stewardess blocking his way, as he's getting on a plane?
  18. d.r.cook

    d.r.cook Forum Resident Thread Starter

    have never seen anything related, BUT makes me wonder if they maybe didn't have plans to reissue his '67 single, MEMPHIS TRAIN, put it with some other "quickie" train/travel songs, with him appearing as some sort of train station ticket agent.

    dunno. just a theory . . . but i was kind of shocked to notice that "memphis train" didn't even chart in the top 100 R&B--it's a great single!

    coniferouspine likes this.
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