Jim Stewart, the founder of the legendary Memphis label Stax Records, has died at the age of 92.
Originally known as Satellite, the company was founded by Stewart in 1952 and co-owned by his sister Estelle Exton. His current name – a combination of the first two letters of the brothers’ surnames – was introduced in 1961.
Stax Records was “synonymous with Southern soul music” and launched the careers of artists such as Otis Redding, Rufus and Carla Thomas, Sam and Dave, Booker T. and the MGs, and more. official website.
A statement released on Stax Records’ official Twitter account yesterday (December 5) said Stewart “passed away peacefully surrounded by his family”. The company said it was “deeply saddened” by the news.
“While his influence on soul music is immeasurable, the ‘Memphis Sound’ that he cultivated as a gifted performer and visionary producer in the 1960s and ’70s can still be heard and felt in today’s music,” Stax continued in a statement.
“Under Stewart’s direction, Stax launched the careers of legendary artists such as Otis Redding, Isaac Hayes, Carla Thomas, Sam and Dave, The Staple Singers and more. Our hearts go out to his family and friends.”
Michelle Smith, vice president of estate and legacy brand management at Craft Recordings and Stax Records (via Billboard): “Today we lost an important piece of American music history.”
Smith added that Stewart’s legacy “lives on through the Stax Records label he founded and the artists, musicians and fans who love Stax music around the world.”
“I’m not sure if he ever realized the huge impact he had on soul music around the world and he will be sorely missed. Our condolences go out to his friends and family, especially his children and grandchildren,” he continued.
Jim Stewart was born in Middleton, Tennessee in 1930 and later moved to Memphis. Before starting his career in music, he served two years in the armed forces.
His family has asked for donations Stax Music Academywhich aims to “inspire young people and enhance their academic, cognitive, performance and leadership skills”.
As The Guardian notes that Stax Records was located in Tennessee during segregation. The label was a rarity because it had a mixed-race workforce and tried to promote its black employees as well as its white employees.