For more than a decade, a vacant, overgrown lot greeted anyone looking for the original site of Stax Records.
A single State of Tennessee historic marker on the sidewalk delivered a message to visitors from around the world. Yes, this was once home to the label that launched the careers of such soul music luminaries as Otis Redding, Isaac Hayes, Booker T. & the MGs, Rufus and Carla Thomas, Johnnie Taylor, Sam & Dave, the Staple Singers and dozens of other artists who changed music and popular culture forever.
On May 2, 2003, the future officially arrived when the Stax Museum of American Soul Music opened its doors at the original site of Stax Records.
On Friday, Jan. 11, the Stax Museum – one of the Soulsville Foundation’s three programs, along with the Stax Music Academy and The Soulsville Charter School – will be the venue as the museum’s 10-year anniversary is noted.
Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr. and Shelby County Mayor Mark H. Luttrell Jr. will jointly proclaim 2013 “Year of the Stax Museum” for the City of Memphis and Shelby County. A representative from Gov. Bill Haslam’s office will proclaim May 2, 2013 “Stax Museum Day” throughout the State of Tennessee. Congressman Steve Cohen and other special guests are expected.
After Stax Records was forced into involuntary bankruptcy in 1975, the original building was sold to Southside Church of God in Christ for $10. In 1989, despite many efforts to save the structure, the church demolished the building with plans to build a community center on the site. That plan never came to fruition, however, and the lot remained vacant.
On February 8, 2000, plans were announced to build the Stax Museum of American Soul Music and adjacent Stax Music Academy. Academy programming began in June of that year in the lunchroom at nearby Stafford Elementary School. Doors to that building opened on July 24, 2002.
In 2005, the Soulsville Foundation started The Soulsville Charter School in the Stax Music Academy building with 60 sixth graders. In August 2011, the ribbon was cut on a new 50,000 square foot classroom building, which now serves approximately 550 students in grade six through twelve.
Since 2008, all high school seniors enrolled in the Stax Music Academy and The Soulsville Charter School have been accepted with combined scholarships totaling more than $5 million.
Over the past ten years, the Stax Museum has received some 500,000 visitors from around the world, including celebrities such as Stevie Wonder, Bono, Lenny Kravitz, Laura Bush, Jenna Bush Hager, Steve Jobs, Angela Bassett, Cindi Lauper, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Bonnie Raitt and Huey Lewis.
Among the announcements museum officials will announce Friday are:
A Feb. 5th Black History Month musical production with the Stax Music Academy and Stax legend and gospel icons the Rance Allen Group at the Cannon Center;
A March 18th Homecoming Concert with native Memphian jazz great Charles Lloyd;
An April 27th all-day, free, outdoor Stax to the Max music and arts festival;
Upcoming exhibits in the museum;
And partnerships for 2013 festivities, with Thomas & Betts, ArtsMemphis, and its hotel of choice for the year, The Peabody Hotel, which will have some very famous ducks on hand to make their first march through the Stax Museum of American Soul Music.