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(february 25th, 2000)

rbowman.jpg (7359 octets)

Though nominated, our own Rob Bowman did not have a Grammy Award this year, though he already won a 1996 Grammy Award in the best-album-notes category for his work on the Complete Stax/Volt Singles: Volume 3 package. This just proves that the Grammies are just a commercial affair as he is really the best. Let's give him a permanent Stax Grammy Award!

Click on his picture to learn all about Rob, his life and his works and don't forget to buy the Stax bible, Soulsville, USA.

(february 20th, 2000)

curtissite.jpg (7431 octets)

Curtis "Candy" Johnson has created a new site, dedicated to the latest news about the Stax Museum Of American Soul Music project. Very cleverly done, tasty and informative. Watch regularly for photos and news. See the pics shot during the last press conference (some on this site's STAX TODAY page too, thanks to friend Curtis). Go to or click on the image below.

(february 20th, 2000)

From the Commercial Appeal, Memphis:


Artistic gateways swing wide with plans for Stax museum

Ewarton Museum Inc. unveiled a plan of revitalization and beautification last week that would remind the world what it received from a South Memphis neighborhood - and to remind Memphis of its asset. But now, what Memphis has is a desolate space at College and McLemore marked by a state historical sign where Stax Records used to be.
Ewarton Museum Inc., with its board of seven directors, said it wants to put the $17.1 million Stax Museum of American Soul Music, Music Academy and Performing Arts Center there.
City and private officials hope the project will create artistic gateways to the neighborhood. Partnering with the UrbanArt Commission in the Soulsville Gateways Project, Ewarton, the Memphis Black Arts Alliance and LeMoyne-Owen College Community Development Corporation are seeking an artist to oversee a public art gateway project for the area.
Sherman Willmott, Ewarton's vice president and museum curator, said the art at the gateways could include images of Otis Redding and other artists. The pieces would be placed and lighted on the trestles where the CSX railroad intersects with Bellevue near the Firehouse Community Arts Center, and on Mississippi near Booker T. Washington High School. They also would be on the interstate overpass at Walker near LeMoyne-Owen College.
That project would complement beautification plans by the city's Office of Planning and Development. Dexter Muller, head of Planning and Development, said Self Tucker Architects Inc. has been hired to design a landscape and streetscape project for McLemore between Mississippi and Neptune, at the Stax project site.
Muller's project would include adding trees, street furniture, new sidewalk pavement. Construction would begin in about a year, he said, and timed with Ewarton's project.
Ewarton officials said they're also seeking Stax and Memphis soul music memorabilia to stock the museum.
They also want the Soulsville project to complement surrounding revitalization efforts including the LeMoyne-Gardens HOPE 6 redevelopment and the Commercial Revitalization Plan to bring business into the area.
They want it to stand with other local landmarks such as Historic Elmwood Cemetery and LeMoyne-Owen College, both of which have been improving their sites.
"And what really is just the catalyst is the Stax project," Muller said. "It's like an anchor tenant in a mall. It's just a really important part of revitalizing that commercial strip. Obviously, if you bring in tourists and bring in people ... they're going to be shopping in that area. "It's a really great thing, aside from capturing the musical history."
Ewarton officials want tourists and fans of the Memphis Sound to see something besides desolation when they visit College and McLemore, where Stax was torn down in 1989.
Its officials said the museum should be part of a system of Memphis music attractions. Ewarton also sees the revitalized Soulsville USA complementing Memphis's other musical attractions such as Graceland, Beale Street, the Rock `N Soul Exhibit and Sun Studios. "We're going to cross-promote," said board member and former Stax publicist Deanie Parker. "It's the only way we can ensure all roads will lead to Memphis."

By Pamela Perkins


From Rolling Stone:

Stax Records to Be Immortalized by Music

Legendary soul label will get second life with museum and performing art center

The site of Stax Records has looked more like a tombstone than a cornerstone for over two decades; a historical marker is the sole remnant in the empty lot that once housed the legendary musical institution that defined and redefined soul and R&B music. But a proposal released yesterday by Ewarton Museum, Inc. in Memphis looks to rebuild the seminal Capitol Theater as the "Stax Museum of American Soul Music."
In conjunction with the City of Memphis and LeMoyne-Owen College, Ewarton announced plans to build a replica of the Capitol Theater for the museum, which, according to a statement, will include "memorabilia, interactive exhibits and other features which will tell the story of Stax records and soul music." The multi-million-dollar project also includes the creation of a music academy, a 500-seat performing arts center and a musical arts program for neighborhood youth in the neighborhood.
"I feel good because I know the legacy is not going to die," says Deanie Parker, a Stax veteran as Deanie Parker and the Valadors as well as the Stax Director of Publicity from 1966 to 1976. "We're going to be able to provide a place where children can come and learn about people who they hear on the radio. They can recognize that the rap song they're listening to has thirty seconds of a song in it that was created right here in Memphis."
Established in the late 1950s by siblings Jim Stewart ("St") and Estelle Axton ("ax"), Stax landed its first major hit with Carla Thomas' "Gee Wiz" in 1960. What followed was the creation of an institution impressive not only for its run of hits over the next two decades by the likes of Otis Redding, Rufus and Carla Thomas, Booker T. & the MG's, Isaac Hayes, and Sam and Dave, but also due to its status as that rare creation: a successfully integrated business during racially volatile years.
"What this [museum] will become is more than just a place where tourists and people interested in sharing the music created at Stax records can come," Parker says. "It becomes more like Stax was when I was there, and that's a real anchor of the community. We were a business with an open-door policy, where you weren't questioned because of the color of your skin or your gender, or because you had ideas that sounded bizarre. We wanted to know, do you have a song? Can you play an instrument? What's your thing?"
"It was a family atmosphere," fellow Stax recording artist William Bell says of the label's magic. "The changing times within American society, the freshness of the creativity and the blending of musical styles; it was a combination of all that."
While the well of musical creativity never really dried, a series of bad business transactions doomed the label; on January 12, 1976, Stax closed its doors permanently. "It was like getting a orce," says Bell, who left shortly before the end.
An apartment complex filled the lot until two months ago, when it was leveled. Last year, Ewarton purchased the site, as well as
intellectual property and licensing rights for the Stax name. Fantasy Records, who owns the rights to all Stax recordings, has joined as a working partner in the deal. An architectural team has already been contracted, and their plans are slated for delivery at the end of this year.
Parker is hesitant to offer a date for the museum's opening, but optimistically suggests that it could be as close as two years away. As for the Academy, it should launch in the immediate future, as it is based on the nearby LeMoyne-Owen College campus.
"We can invite back performers and engineers and producers and others to share their experience and knowledge," Parker says of the Academy. "We all became successes on somebody else's shoulders. And so we must become the shoulders of the future so
we can pass this tradition on."

(February 9, 2000)

(february 12th, 2000)

From Bonnie Kalmback:

Fred (of Fred's Diner on WDIA, Memphis) reported on Lorene Thomas' funeral. He said there were many celebrities, including Benjamin Hooks and J. Blackfoot, in attendance. Fred said you could see the strength in Rufus' face despite the strain of the ordeal and that Carla and the family were looking good. He said they were married 59 years.

From THE COMMERCIAL APPEAL, February 9, 2000, thanks to Bonnie Kalmbach too:

As her family thrived in the entertainment limelight, Lorene Thomas quietly worked for decades behind the scenes to keep the local civil rights movement on track. Mrs. Thomas, wife of Memphis music legend Rufus Thomas, died of heart failure Monday at Baptist Memorial Hospital. She was 80. In addition to her husband, she leaves her son, Marvell Thomas, and daughters, Carla Thomas and Vaneese Warnceke, all of whom followed in their father's musical footsteps.

"So many know the family . . . better because they're in the limelight. I know Lorene as the driving force behind all their success," said longtime friend Maxine Smith, former executive secretary of the Memphis Branch NAACP.
"She was such a strong and supportive mother and wife. She made many sacrifices to make sure that all of those who were in the limelight in her family looked good," Smith said.
In 1997, Mrs. Thomas, a retired nurse, was honored by the local NAACP branch for 40 years of faithful membership.
Mrs. Thomas served as correspondence secretary of the local NAACP for more
than 25 years. She was particularly successful in membership drives, bringing in more new members during that time than anyone else in Memphis.
Smith said Mrs. Thomas was active in every phase of the civil rights movement: picket lines, voter registration and membership drives and fund-raisers. "Anything, everywhere, Lorene was there," she said. "She was as close to sainthood as anybody I know. She gave so much of herself to so many people without ever expecting any kind of return. She gave it because of her greatest asset: her love for people."
Mrs. Thomas was on the NAACP board when retired Criminal Court Judge H.T. Lockard was president in the 1950s. He remembers her as a tireless worker. "She was just on top of everything. She was such an advocate of what the branch stood for . . . and of course everybody listened when she got up to speak."
Mrs. Thomas, a member of New Salem Baptist Church, also leaves one grandchild. All of her children live in Memphis, except Warnceke, who lives in New York City.

(february 9th, 2000)

Curtisnow.jpg (9543 octets)

More details from Curtis Johnson (lead singer of the Chips and the Astors):

About the Press Conference today, it was a great day. I was there, along with Sam Jones of the Astors. Estelle Axton was there.  She was on the front row about 2 seats from Al Bell (red hair). She stated that Jim Stewart had a recent injury, the reason he did not attend.
Others that were there: Memphis Mayor Dr. Willie Herenton, James Alexander, Larry Dodson (Bar-Kays), Ben Cauley (the original Bar-Kays), Norman West (Soul Children), John Gary Williams (Mad-Lads), James Cross and others from the old Stax family. Isaac Hayes could not make it, but he faxed a very touching, and supportive letter. It has been okayed by Deanie Parker for me to post information and updates to a site I'm developing on the news and progress of the Stax Museum of American Soul Music as it goes on. It will be a link from

(february 8th, 2000)

Standing (l - r): Marvell Thomas and Mrs., Vaneese Thomas.
Seated (l - r): Carla Thomas, Mrs.
Lorene Thomas and Rufus.

It is such a pain to report that Lorene, the wife of Rufus Thomas and mother of Carla, Marvell and Vaneese, passed away this morning just after midnight.  Funeral arrangements have not yet been made.  Please keep this family in your prayers.

You can send your condolences at Rufus' WDIA e-mail: . Rufus and his family must know that they have millions of faithful friends all around the world.

(february 8th, 2000)


I just watched, an hour ago, comfortably sitting in my office over here in France, the press conference for the launching of the STAX MUSEUM.

The Memphis mayor, Estelle Axton, Deanie Parker, Al Bell, Otis Redding III, Sherman Willmott of course and many others (David Porter, Bill Belmont from Fantasy Records...) were here to attend this event. Deanie did a fine historical presentation of Stax.

Fantasy records were kind enough to allow the foundation to use the hand snapping Stax logo, which was all over the room.

The Stax Museum will first take place into the LeMoyne-Owen College, near the McLemore site, while the old Stax building is being  reconstructed. The foundation owns the site now. Some plans were shown as well as a poster but I couldn't see what was on it because of the credit card size of the Real Player (tm) screen!

It was a great day. So moving to see Deanie Parker along with Al Bell after such a long time. Unfortunately, Jim Stewart was not there.

Remember that february 8th, 2000 will now be the day of the rebirth of Stax.

Much more details on the official web site which is now on line.



(february 5th, 2000)


A major announcement about the Stax Museum project will be made next tuesday at 10 a.m. (Memphis time). The official web site will be accessible at from tuesday too. More details soon.

(february 2nd, 2000)

The place will be the Peabody Hotel in Memphis.


(january 29th, 2000)

wpe1.jpg (8519 octets)
The South Memphis Horns. Photo by Sandra Lowery

An OTIS REDDING Memorial will take place in Memphis on Feb 19,2000. Harvey Scales is singing, backed up by THE BARKAYS. It'll be televised.

More to come from our special reporter Sandra Lowery!


(january 24th, 2000)

This very web site has been shown on the Memphis TV last week to illustrate that people around the world are still into the Stax sound. It's not a joke! That's fame and glory for you and me!

Project would build on vital Memphis asset
(january 21st, 2000)

Another article, thanks to Cherrie Holden at High Stacks Records:

Few assets are as valuable to Memphis as its music heritage. That makes a proposal to build a Stax Museum-Music Academy on the site of the demolished Stax recording studio in South Memphis so exciting.
Few details have emerged, but the basic idea is appealing. The "Memphis Sound" emerged from that South Memphis site, created by a group of inspired black and white musicians who blended everything from funk to gospel to blues.
Unlike the abandoned proposal for a Grammy Exposition and Music Heritage Hall of Fame at The Pyramid, the Stax project is promoted by Memphians with connections to the Stax legacy, experience in marketing and ties to museum administration.
Howard Robertson, the spokesman for the project as a member of the board of directors of Ewarton Museum Inc., is principal and founder of Trust Marketing & Communications. He's the husband of Beverly Robertson, executive director of the National Civil Rights Museum. Also involved is Deanie Parker, a publicist and songwriter with Stax in the record company's heyday.
Their proposal, backed by Mayor Willie Herenton, envisions a partnership among private donors, various branches of government and LeMoyne-Owen College. The partners would spend $7 million to $8 million on a music museum, a music academy for school-age children, a 500-seat performing arts center and development of retail space.
The museum and commercial developments would fill the block on McLemore between College and Neptune. Herenton wants the city to commit $2.5 million to the project. Other money would come from undisclosed private sources; Herenton hinted at a surprise when that information is released.
The project would capitalize on the cultural importance of Stax, which operated in Memphis from the late 1950s until 1979. It is reminiscent of a variety of neighborhood redevelopment efforts with cultural anchors in other cities.
The Stax plan most closely resembles the American Jazz Museum in the 18th and Vine Historic District of Kansas City, which, like the Stax site, is predominantly black and economically depressed.
African American Museum Association President Juanita Moore, former director of the National Civil Rights Museum here, said the Kansas City museum, which opened in 1997, draws some 370,000 visitors a year. Most of them take advantage of an arrangement with the adjacent Negro Leagues Baseball Museum that allows visitors into both facilities for $8.
The jazz museum includes interactive exhibits, artifacts and a 150-seat performing space with live music four nights a week. It's around the corner from Arthur Bryant's legendary barbecue shop and the austere Mutual Musicians Foundation. The latter is a union hall that for decades has drawn black and white Kansas Citians and tourists to sleep-depriving sessions that begin when some of the city's best musicians drift into the room after their nightclub gigs to jam with their friends.
Across the street is the 500-seat Gem Theater, which also features live performances. The Jazz District Redevelopment Corp. broke ground last fall on the second phase of the project, aimed at drawing shops and restaurants to the neighborhood.
This could be the kind of project South Memphis needs. Of course, it wouldn't bring back Stax, where seminal work was done by Otis Redding, Carla Thomas, Booker T. and the MG's, the Memphis Horns and other musicians who turned out to be so influential in the development of American music.
But it could help keep alive the spirit of the Stax studio and label. It also could help shore up a sagging neighborhood: That's what Herenton's third term is supposed to be all about.



(january 19th, 2000)

By Pamela Perkins
The Commercial Appeal

Mayor Willie Herenton asked the City Council Tuesday to financially support the development of the multimillion-dollar Stax Museum/Music Academy.
Tying the project in with his initiative to revitalize the city's blighted areas, Herenton said he wants the city to commit $2.5 million to the "$7 million to $8 million project."
Other funding would come from county, state, nonprofit sources. Corporations already have committed to the project, the mayor said without naming the companies.
He said the Stax project is "as significant as any musical heritage project that any of us have had the privilege to announce."
The project would involve a partnership between private donors, "various branches of government" and LeMoyne-Owen College, Herenton said.
Ewarton Museum Inc., was formed last year to develop the museum and academy at the old Stax recording studio site at McLemore and College.
The plan, designed to spark commercial redevelopment in that neighborhood, calls for a museum, music academy for school-age children and a 500-seat performing-arts center. Commercial development would include a restaurant and stores.
The museum and "related developments" would fill the block on McLemore between College and Neptune, said Howard Robertson, an Ewarton board member who wasn't present when Herenton talked to the council.
The mayor said details of the plan will be announced Feb. 8.
Robertson said the Ewarton board plans to review design proposals for the project today.
"It's really probably going to be in two phases. The initial phase will be the museum. The academy and the performing arts venue will be the second part of that in terms of (what will be) built," Robertson said.
The site from which poured music known as the Memphis sound has been desolate since 1989.
It sports broken concrete and a state historical marker naming soul artists who helped create the sound: Isaac Hayes, Otis Redding, the Staple Singers, Rufus and Carla Thomas.
Herenton's briefing was the first official announcement of Ewarton's plan.
"We're going to usher in a citywide renaissance, what we call the Decade of the Neighborhood."
He said the Stax project is "one of a number of excellent announcements we will bring in the next 45 days in this regard."
City crews began tearing down a vacant 66-unit apartment building at McLemore and Neptune last week to make room for the museum.
Herenton's proposal evoked support from council members, including TaJuan Stout Mitchell, who said developers "are taking the natural strength of the neighborhood and developing the neighborhood around its own rich heritage."
Other supporters include Council Chairman Barbara Swearengen-Holt, Rickey Peete and Joe Brown.
Councilman Brent Taylor, however, had concerns over where the city's share in funding would come from and whether it would involve raising taxes.
"Although I want to move forward, it would be very difficult for me to move forward if it involves a tax increase," he said.

Billions of thanks to Cherrie Holden for sending the news.


(january 9th, 2000)

The next Grammy Awards will take place on february 3rd, 2000. Rob Bowman author of Soulsville, USA, the history of Stax Records is a nominee as album notes writer for the Malaco box set "The Last Soul Company".
Good luck, Rob.


(january 9th, 2000)

From Heikki Suosalo: Billy Young passed away already on 8/18/99 and was 59 years old. He had a stroke about 10 years ago and had fully recovered but died of a heart attack. The last few years he was involved in programs to help the children and community improvement projects.

All our sympathy to his wife Patricia.


(january 6th, 2000)

Another Stax singer, Billy Young died from a heart attack a couple of weeks ago. He just had a good single on Stax/Jotis, produced by Otis Redding. According to Finish friend Heikki Suosalo, he was living in Macon, Georgia and doing community work - helping children etc. - but hadn't been involved in music for a long time.

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