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(October 18, 2007)

Isaac Hayes in his Stax office

Memphis photographer Ernest C. Withers spent more than 60 years documenting history from the blues music of Beale Street to the civil rights movement and iconic images from travels with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He died on october 15 at 85. He did some beautiful  photos at Stax and of Stax artists such as the one above.

(October 12, 2007)

Charles Okle (right) with Eddie Braddock in Eddie's office
(c) Charlie Okle), 1966

Along with my friend René Wu, we got in touch with Charles Okle. This guy, along with Tom Payton, wrote a little Stax gem for Jeanne & The Darlings which appeared on the B side of Volt 256, issued in 1967: "What's Gonna Happen To Me" (listen to a short except by clicking on the photo legend). It has not been reissued until then though it is a very moody song, backed as usually by Booker T. & The MG's and the Mar-Keys horns in a very "churchy" style.

The original Volt 156 single (B side)

Volt 156B audio excerpt

Here is what Charlie told us about Stax: "It was me and "Rock Robbins" of KAAY Little Rock who are credited for Jeanne & The Darlings '"What's Gonna Happen To Me". Rock Robbins' real name was Tom Riggs  or Tommy sometimes.  He also worked as a radio DJ as Tom Payton, hence the usage on the record label.  Tom and I had an agreement such as Lennon and McCartney... we shared credits even though one or the other created that particular song. He totally wrote that one. My participation was because of our sharing. Memory fuzzy about session date. Only learnt of it happening at a later time. Neither one of us was present, as per recollection.  Perhaps mid or late summer of 67. Song was never specifically written for any artist that I know of. Tom had that one in mind when I met him in early '60's... Tom, being around North Little Rock for his teen years and sporadically thereafter, could have met Jeanne & The Darlings anytime during mid 60's...  I really don't know. Most likely while working at KAAY as "Rock Robbins" in 66 or so. Neither one of us was present during the session. Tommy Riggs died in July 2000.

Tommy Riggs (Tom Payton) +, 1965

Right after High School, I went to work as a trainee at a radio station here in Pine Bluff and met Eddie Braddock who had just been hired from Memphis as a DJ at KPBA radio station. He took me to Memphis in the summer of 1962 when Green Onions was a huge hit and introduced me to his friends at Stax and also Sam Phillips Studios. He was shortly after fired from the station and Tom took his place. I resented Tom at first, but quickly was impressed by his sense of humor and musical talent.  I had always wanted to write songs and Tom was willing to collaborate. I did mostly words, him the music. We had about a dozen or more recorded as demos and I took them to Memphis and had the folks at Phillips and Stax listen to them. I shot a picture of Steve Cropper while he was listening to my tape in the control room (see and hear it underneath).
Tom had recorded the demos in my recording studio here in Pine Bluff that I opened in late 1963...Tom played piano and when the chorus came, Tom leaned back from the microphone and I did the second voice that's heard. Then he leaned back in close to the microphone to do the lead again. 

I never visited Stax again in the late sixties. However in the early seventies, I went back to visit Eddie Braddock and he took me by the new facilities in another part of town and also the TMI studio. I had great interest in the art of recording and was in awe of Stax and all the studios I visited in Memphis and Nashville.

I was actually aware that Stax was a magical place from my first visit in 1962 on...  I was so amazed by the sound coming from the place!  I remember meeting Jim Stewart and Estelle Axton in the beginning inside the Satellite Record Shop. I do believe I remember meeting Deanie Parker in the summer of 1966 when I photographed the exterior of the building and Steve and the studio inside.

For the december 1966 Christmas party, Stax flew Tom and I by commercial flight from Little Rock to Memphis where they had a limousine waiting for us to go to the Stax Studios!  We really felt like big stars...  After the party, the limo delivered us back to the airport for the flight back. As I was leaving the party, Jim Stewart gave me an unopened fifth of Inver House Scotch Whisky. What wonderful memories!

By the way, Charlie is selling a very interesting CD with pictures from the Stax Christmas party in 1966. Also included are pictures shot in the summer of 1966 during his visit to show Steve Cropper some demos. This CD is recommended if you want to see how the control room and the studio looked like in 1966.Two of those pictures were used in the Stax DVD called Respect Yourself. You can contact Charlie Okle direct at

See a reduced sample underneath (Steve Cropper listening to Charlie Okle's tape in the Stax control room), july 66, and click on the photo's legend to listen with Steve to Charlie and Tom's original demo [(c) Charlie Okle)].

Steve Cropper at Stax listening to the song demo
(c) Charlie Okle, july 1966

original song demo audio clip


(October 9, 2007)

Samuel L. Jackson and Bernie Mac will play in the comedy film, Soul Men. The comedy is about two former backup soul singers who are part of a famed group, based about Sam & Dave. The producers are negotiating for access to the Stax Records catalog. The movie will begin production Jan. 15.


(August 24, 2007)

Two new CD's, due january 2008, including some previously unreleased or unreissued tracks:

STAX SINGS THE BEATLES - David Porter: Help / Booker T & The MG's: Eleanor Rigby / Steve Cropper: With A Little Help From My Friends / Isaac Hayes: Something / Otis Redding: Day Tripper (take 4, previously unreleased) / The Mar-Keys: Let It Be (previously unreleased) / Booker T & The MG's: Michelle / Carla Thomas: Yesterday (live at the Bohemian Caverns) / Booker T & The MG's: You Can't Do That / Booker T & The MG's: Day Tripper / The Bar-Kays: Yesterday / Reggie Milner: And I Love Her (unreleased on CD) / Booker T & The MG's: Lady Madonna / The Bar-Kays: With A Little Help From My Friends (take 1, previously unreleased) / Booker T. & The MG's: Got To Get You Into My Life (previously unreleased) / Booker T & The MG's: Something (single edit) / The Bar-Kays: Hey Jude / John Gary Williams: My Sweet Lord.

STAX SINGS MOTOWN Vol. 1 - Margie Joseph: Stop! In The Name Of Love (single version) / David Porter: I Don't Know Why I Love You / Calvin Scott: Can I Get A Witness / The Mar-Keys: Reach Out (I'll Be There) / Isaac Hayes: Never Can Say Goodbye / Billy Eckstine: My Cherie Amour / Barbara Lewis: Oh, Be My Love / Booker T. & The MG's: I Hear A Symphony / The Staple Singers: You've Got To Earn It / Mavis Staples: Chained (alternate longer take, previously unreleased) / John Gary Williams: Ask The Lonely (unreleased on CD) / The Soul Children: Signed, Sealed & Delivered / Frederick Knight: Someday We'll Be Together / Danny Bryan: My Girl (unreleased on CD) / O.B. McClinton: I Wish It Would Rain (unreleased on CD) / Booker T. & The MG's: I Was Made To Love Her / The Mar-Keys: Cloud Nine / The Bar-Kays: I Heard It Through The Grapevine (previously unreleased).

(August 24, 2007)

Disc one:

Dale Warren & the Wattstax '72 Orchestra: "Salvation Symphony" / Rev. Jesse Jackson: "Introduction" / Kim Weston: "Lift Every Voice and Sing" / The Staple Singers: "Heavy Makes You Happy (Sha-Na-Boom-Boom)" / The Staple Singers: "Are You Sure?" / The Staple Singers: "I Like the Things About Me" / The Staple Singers: "Respect Yourself" / The Staple Singers: "I'll Take You There" / Deborah Manning: "Precious Lord, Take My Hand" / Louise McCord: "Better Get a Move On / Lee Sain: "Them Hot Pants" / Little Sonny: "Wade in the Water" / William Bell: "I Forgot to Be Your Lover" / The Temprees: "Explain it to Her Mama" / Frederick Knight: "I've Been Lonely (For So Long)" / The Newcommers; "Pin the Tail on the Donkey" / Eddie Floyd: "Knock on Wood"

Disc two:

The Emotions: "Peace Be Still" / The Golden 13: "Old Time Religion" / The Rance Allen Group: "Lying on the Truth" / The Rance Allen Group: "Up Above My Head" / The Bar-Kays: "Son of Shaft/Feel It" / The Bar-Kays: "In the Hole" / The Bar-Kays: "I Can't Turn You Loose" / The David Porter Show: "Introduction" / David Porter: "Ain't That Loving You (For More Reasons Than One) / David Porter: "Can't See You When I Want To" / David Porter: "Reach Out and Touch (Somebody's Hand)" / Richard Pryor: "Niggas" / Richard Pryor: "Arrest/Lineup" / The Emotions: "So I Can Love You" / The Emotions: "Group Introduction / Show Me How"

Disc three:

Little Milton: "Open the Door to Your Heart" / Mel & Tim: "Backfield in Motion" / Jonnie Taylor: "Steal Away" / Albert King: "Killing Floor" / Carla Thomas: "Pick Up the Pieces" / Carla Thomas: "I Like What You're Doing (To Me)" / Carla Thomas: "B-A-B-Y" / Carla Thomas: "Gee Whiz (Look at His Eyes) / Carla Thomas: "I Have a God Who Loves" / Rufus Thomas: "The Breakdown" / Rufus Thomas: "Do the Funky Chicken" / Rufus Thomas: "Do the Funky Penguin" / The Soul Children: "I Don't Know What This World Is Coming To" / The Soul Children: "Hearsay" / Isaac Hayes: "Theme From Shaft"