SXSW Panel: Memphis Means Music

Did you know the Greeks founded Stax?

Imagine growing up in South Memphis and only knowing Stax Records as a vacant, bottle-strewn lot with a lonely state historical marker in front. “How could something so huge be wiped off the map for future generations?” asked Memphis hip-hop kingpin Al Kapone. “Why wasn’t it passed on to us?”

Photo by Gary Miller

Moderated by Take Me to the River director Mark Shore, Friday’s nine-man Memphis music panel examined the city’s rich musical history and tentative-yet-hopeful future in both pragmatic and soulful terms. Many of the panel’s elder statesmen reflected on community.

“The music lived in the people even though I don’t think they were consciously aware of it,” said former Stax Records president Al Bell.

Stax house keyboardist Booker T. Jones likened the energy of mid-century Memphis to classical Athens and fondly recalled firm mentorship from Hi Records producer and MGs drummer Al Jackson Jr. William Bell (“Be Thankful For What You’ve Got”) echoed this.

“It was tough love,” Bell said, “but they wanted to teach us correctly so we would get a good foundation for what we were doing.”

Al Bell became visibly emotional while discussing Stax’s demise. “I’d park across the street where the building once stood and cry,” he said. Now the site houses a museum and musically oriented charter school, a sign of belated reverence for homegrown cultural riches.

“I don’t think the people downtown realized that what we were doing was important,” mused Jones. “And they lost out.”

More by Greg Beets
10 Freaks and Geeks to Redefine Austin Music
10 Freaks and Geeks to Redefine Austin Music
Local passion projects with singular visions

Sept. 2, 2016

Quin Galavis Turns Darkness Into His Magnum Opus
Quin Galavis Turns Darkness Into His Magnum Opus
Obfuscating the narrative between fiction and lived experience on My Life in Steel and Concrete

Aug. 26, 2016


SXSW Music 2014, Booker T Jones, Al Kapone, Al Bell, Mark Shore, Al Jackson, Jr., William Bell, Cody Dickinson

AC Daily, Events and Promotions, Luvdoc Answers

Breaking news, recommended events, and more

Official Chronicle events, promotions, and giveaways

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)