Stax Museum taps legendary Booker T. Jones for 2023 20th anniversary announcement

Stax Records

Booker T. Jones plays piano at the Petaluma Wine, Jazz, and Blues Festival, August 2009. Photo by Pax Ahimsa Gethen, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license

MEMPHIS, Tenn. – During a special event held today, September 14, 2022, at the Stax Museum of American Soul Music, Soulsville Foundation officials, former Stax artists, and others announced plans for the museum’s 20th anniversary to be celebrated throughout 2023.

Booker T. Jones, keyboardist for Stax house band Booker T. and the MGs performs in Stax’s historic Studio A

On hand for the announcement was special guest and Stax legend Booker T. Jones, keyboardist for Stax house band Booker T. & the MGs. Jones wowed the crowd with a medley of Stax classics on a Hammond B3 organ, accompanied by a rhythm section made up of Stax Music Academy alumni who he helped prepare for their 2017 European Tour to celebrate the famed 1967 Stax/Volt Tour he was a part of. He was also interviewed on stage in the museum’s Studio A by WYXR DJ Jared Boyd about Stax in general and this year’s 60th anniversary of the release of Booker T and the MGs’ 1962 smash hit, Green Onions. On the evening of September 15, Jones is being inducted into the Memphis Music Hall of Fame with label mate Mavis Staples at the Cannon Center.

With the events for 2023 introduced in a special video, Soulsville Foundation President & CEO Pat Mitchell Worley also announced the formation of a special group of 2023 ambassadors for the 20th Anniversary year of events. The group consists of onetime Stax Records artists and executives who’ll be available to advise the museum, attend events, conduct interviews, and raise awareness of the Stax legacy during the year. Included in the group are past Stax Records executive and owner Al Bell; famed Stax songwriter and recording artist David Porter; Booker T. & the MGs guitarist Steve Cropper; singer/songwriter and Stax legend William Bell; Bar-Kays lead singer Larry Dodson; Bar-Kays founder and lone survivor of the original group, bassist James Alexander; singer/songwriter Eddie Floyd; guitarist/producer Bobby Manuel; keyboardist/producer Lester Snell; and others to be announced.

“With the Stax Museum celebrating its 20th Anniversary in 2023 and HBO to air the Stax Records documentary series during the same year, there will be much attention given to soul music art form we created at College and McLemore,” said Al Bell, who was unable to attend the museum’s event because he was conducting a Wattstax 50th anniversary panel discussion at the Americana Music Association’s conference in Nashville, and receiving one of the association’s Lifetime Achievement Awards. “Our rare artists and writers and the formidable marketing strategy we implemented at Stax gave rise to the successful career development of our artists’ and it allowed us to accomplish remarkable things at the label. It’s a very complicated story filled with the kinds of highs and lows that came with being a predominantly Black record company trying to thrive in the music industry of the 1960s and 1970s.”

Stax Records

Tennessee Historical Commission marker at the original location of Stax Records, Memphis, Tennessee. Photo by Nuttish, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license

“Working at Stax was like giving a daily sermon to the world, of being open with loving emotions to others regardless of who they were or looked like,” said David Porter. “Showing the love of community was a given because the community earned that by the support it gave back to us.”

“We’ve very carefully planned the Stax Museum’s 20th Anniversary so the community and the public can join us in 2023 for a very special year of events to celebrate the legacy of Stax Records,” said Stax Museum Executive Director Jeff Kollath. “Stax Records and the Stax Museum is a Memphis story that started here and became known around the world. We want to celebrate not only the past 20 years, but also look forward to the museum’s next 20 years and what we can accomplish as we continue to interpret the Stax story.”

Soulsville Foundation President & CEO Pat Mitchell Worley added, “Celebrating the 20th Anniversary in 2023 will be a milestone for the Stax family. We are tremendously proud to continue the legacy of Stax with a year-long calendar of exciting events slated to celebrate the past, present, future of the Stax Museum.”

Stax RecordsAmong the Stax Museum 20th Anniversary events, highlights include:

• A year of free field trips for school students to familiarize more young people with the history of Stax Records;
• An April 23 “Night Train” steampunk-themed Gala event – a walk through the history of black music, reminiscent of when people traveled by rail;
• The May activation of a Stax Soul Mobile Pop-Up vehicle that will begin taking Stax music, merchandise, contests, parties, and more around the country to locations like Austin’s SXSW, Nashville’s Americana Fest, and New Orleans’ Essence Festival;
• A July “Live In Studio A” concert series featuring intimate performances by nationally touring acts;
• A monthly series of free and open-to-the-public events to give more fans and community residents more access to celebrating the Stax Museum’s 20th Anniversary.

The series, called The Soul Sessions, will include:

• January – Grand reopening of the Stax Museum’s newly renovated lobby and gift shop;
• February – A premier of the Stax Museum and Stax Music Academy’s Black History Month 2023 Virtual Film celebrating the 20t anniversary;

Film Screening event for the 50th anniversary of the 1973 Golden Globe Award-nominated documentary Wattstax, chronicling the famed 1972 Los Angeles concert hosted by Stax Records as well as on-the-street interviews and commentary by a young Richard Pryor

• March – Lecture and book signing for Black Country Music: Listening for Revolutions – Francesca Royster, first Black author to write a book about country music and racism;
• April – A Spoken Word event during which multigenerational spoken word artists will discuss and perform pieces about Stax and Soulsville;
• May – A Birthday Party to celebrate the official 20th Anniversary of the Stax Museum
• June – A Black Music Month live-streamed Panel Discussion in which current Memphis artists and industry leaders will the future of Memphis music: labels, studios, audiences, venues, consumers, and more

• July – Wax & Wine. First-of-its-kind event in Memphis pairing wines selected by a local sommelier with appetizers and a soundtrack featuring rare soul recordings from the Stax Museum’s Bob Abrahamian Collection. Ticketed event, limited seating.

• August- The Whole Damn World Is Going Crazy: A celebration of the song’s author John Gary Williams of the Mad Lads, plus a film screening of the 2016 documentary The Invaders about a Memphis 1960s Black Power youth group of which Williams was a member, plus a sneak peek at John Hubbell’s upcoming film about Williams’ life;

• September – Soldiers for the Lord: The Gospel Impulse in Memphis and Beyond: A celebration of the Black gospel music recorded at Stax plus gospel artists and producers from Memphis and beyond discussing and performing soon-to-be classics of the genre;

Southwest of Memphis: A Celebration of Chicano Soul: Celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month with the Stax Museum’s first examination of the Chicano Soul Movement;

• October – Back to School: From Professor W.T. McDaniel to Jimmie Lunceford, the teachers who taught the basics of blues and improvisation of jazz were the true inspiration behind the Memphis music sound. Todays’ music educators discuss teaching a new generation of Memphis musicians;

• November – Wax and Wine: Wine tastings paired with appetizers and listening party with the Stax Museum’s Bob Abrahamian Collection. Ticketed event.

• December – In the Christmas Spirit annual Stax Museum holiday bash with food, cocktails, live music by Booker T. & the MGs cover band The MDs, and more.

ABOUT THE SOULSVILLE FOUNDATION

The Soulsville Foundation operates three distinct but related entities at the original site of Stax Records in the heart of the Memphis, Tennessee, community known as Soulsville USA: The Stax Museum of American Soul Music, Stax Music Academy, and The Soulsville Charter School. Through these three programs, the Soulsville Foundation perpetuates the soul of Stax Records by preserving its rich cultural legacy, educating youth to be prepared for life success, and inspiring future artists to achieve their dreams.

# # #