Memphis, TN: In an old movie theater, funk was born
In the 1960s and '70s, as American music set the tone for what the world was listening to, Motown may have had the sweet, but Stax had the funk.
The company was originally located in nearby Brunswick, Tennessee and called Satellite Records, but it wasn't until it moved into an old Memphis movie theater in 1960 and changed its name to Stax that things really started cooking.
When you visit the company's Museum of American Soul Music, it's hard not to feel like you're on hallowed ground. Otis Redding, Rufus and Carla Thomas, Booker T. & the MGs, Sam & Dave and Isaac Hayes are just a few of those whose careers were made when they slipped into a recording booth in this spot nearly 50 years ago. And in a time and place of high racial tension, Stax HQ was a genuine anomaly: A place where black and white artists hung out and jammed together.
These days the museum is one of Memphis' coolest music venues—'70s gospel king Rance Allen recently stopped by to perform, and the annual Staxtacular fest raises money for music programs—but the real draw is the history.
If the structure itself has been rebuilt (to the exact specs of the original, right down to the marquee), special exhibits (Wattstax, Blaxploitation) and the thousands of artifacts you'll peruse in here are the real deal.
Like Hayes' original 1972 peacock-blue Cadillac with gold trim, television, and refrigerator. Because that—literally—is how Shaft rolled.