Day Trips: Stax Museum of American Soul Music, Memphis

Memphis' Soulsville lives on


Photos by Gerald E. McLeod

The Stax Museum of American Soul Music in Memphis, Tenn., tells the story of a period of amazing creativity through the short history of a record label that had the world singing and dancing.

Second only to its Detroit counterparts in its R&B production, Stax Records dominated the record charts for a little more than 15 years with musicians like Booker T. Jones, Ike and Tina Turner, and Isaac Hayes.


The Stax Museum is a bit more upscale than the Sun Studios museum, its crosstown rival, but no less historic. The original building was demolished in 1989. In the early 2000s the Soulsville Foundation opened the museum, Stax Music Academy, and Soulsville Charter School on the site of the recording studio in a predominantly African American neighborhood.

Visiting the Stax museum is a walk through a time tunnel of American music and the culture surrounding it. The exhibits tell the backstories with visual aids of a constellation of stars.

Started by Jim Stewart and his sister Estelle Axton, Stax Records built its reputation using local talent. Beginning in 1957, the company released more than 300 albums and 900 singles with 243 certified R&B hits.


It all came crashing down under the weight of its success. Partnerships with international record companies starved Stax of needed cash. The deaths in 1968 of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and in 1967 of Otis Redding, the label's biggest star, put a chill on the creative energy. The hit factory closed in 1975, but the music lives on.

When it's safe to travel again, Memphis is a fun and educational destination. From Elvis to the Peabody Hotel, there's more musical history here than anywhere else.


1,538th in a series. Follow “Day Trips & Beyond,” a travel blog, at austinchronicle.com/daily/travel.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
More Day Trips
Day Trips: Texas Ferry Rides
Day Trips: Texas Ferry Rides
Texas ferries are the best free rides in the state

Gerald E. McLeod, May 20, 2022

Day Trips: Lubbock Tornado Memorial, Lubbock
Day Trips: Lubbock Tornado Memorial, Lubbock
Monument commemorates havoc wreaked by two twisters in 1970

Gerald E. McLeod, May 13, 2022

KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Stax Museum, Memphis, Soulsville, Jim Stewart, Estelle Axton

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Behind the scenes at The Austin Chronicle

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle