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Film ID  ACE286
Article  The
Title  Soul of Stax
Date  1994
Director  Philip Priestley
Production Company  Les Film Grain de Sable/La Sept/ARTE/L’Institut National de l’Audiovisuel
Synopsis  A film documenting the history and output of the Stax record company, responsible for promoting the careers of musicians such as Isaac Hayes (b.1942) and Otis Redding (1941-1967), and the contribution of these performers to the Civil Rights movement.
Minutes  61 min
Full synopsis  ACE286.2 (00:00:00 - 00:10:10)
Caption: “Los Angeles 1972.” Isaac Hayes comes on stage at Wattstax, is greeted by Jesse Jackson, and takes a bow. Jim Stewart, founder with his sister Estelle Axton, of Stax records, in his car. Commentary says that he started recording in his garage. Stewart in Brunswick, the Memphis, Tennessee, suburb where they then set up a studio; Stewart talking about the early days when they had to stop recording when trains passed because of lack of insulation. Axton and Stewart describe how they finally moved to Memphis proper, with a studio built in the disused Capitol Theater cinema. Photograph of Rufus Thomas outside Stax studios. Thomas in interview at Radio WDIA, Memphis. Singing the Bread and Gravy song. Sings along to the recording of himself and daughter, Carla, performing ’Cause I Love You (1959). Photographs of Carla. Rufus Thomas. Stewart talks about ’Cause I Love You being an instant hit; Jerry Wexler, Atlantic Records, and Stewart talking about the agreement between Stax’s forerunner, Satellite, and Atlantic to press and distribute it. Photograph of Carla Thomas (Gee Whiz (1961) in background), and of William Bell outside the studio. Bell describes his early connections with Stax and the Thomas family. He performs You Don’t Miss Your Water, his hit from 1961, accompanied by Rufus’s son, Marvell, who played on the original.

ACE286.3 (00:10:10 - 00:21:09)
Bell says that though Stax itself was very integrated, segregation affected the company’s success; photographs from Memphis in the 1960s. Stewart says that Axton set up a record shop in the lobby of the former cinema; photograph. Axton describes how people would meet there and discuss their music. Wexler talking about the studio band, Booker T. & the MG’s (photographs), Steve Cropper, Donald “Duck” Dunn, Al Jackson, and Booker T. Jones. Original footage of Booker T. & The MG’s playing Green Onions (1962) with young people dancing. Jones, Cropper and Dunn talking about their music, and about the Stax studio. Stewart notes that Otis Redding came to the studio in 1962. Cropper describes how amazed he was on first hearing Redding sing. Photographs of Redding; his 1963 recording These Arms of Mine over. Photograph of The Memphis Horns; Andrew Love and Wayne Jackson talk about the radical nature of the racial mixture at the Memphis studio musicians. It’s a Long Walk to D.C. But I Got My Walking Shoes On sung by Mavis Staples over shot of man on country road and original footage of people arriving at Washington DC in 1963; the March on Washington with Martin Luther King and others. Isaac Hayes talking about working at Stax where so much of the music was arranged on the spot. Love and Jackson playing, and talking about Otis Redding’s songs “[happening] in the studio”. Cropper relates an anecdote about the genesis of Mr Pitiful (1964); Love and Jackson play introduction; recording over dramatisation of anecdote with car travelling through suburban streets towards the former studio site.

ACE286.4 (00:21:09 - 00:29:02)
Memorial plaque. Cropper and Jones pointing out where the different parts of the studios were. Photographs of Cropper in studio. Covers for Eddie Floyd’s Knock on Wood (1966), William Bell The Soul of a Bell (1967), Rufus Thomas Walking the Dog (1963), Carla Thomas Memphis Queen (1969), Otis Blue: Otis Redding Sings Soul (1966), Otis Redding and Carla Thomas King & Queen (1967), Booker T. & The MG’s Green Onions (1962); Wood’s Knock on Wood played over. Hayes talking about the Stax “family”. Photographs of Hayes with David Porter circa 1964. Hayes plays and sings the gospel tune, You Don't Know Like I Know What the Lord Has Done for Me. The same tune sung in church. Hayes talks about the 1996 Sam Moore and Dave Prater recording, You Don’t Know Like I Know; original footage of Sam & Dave in performance with Booker T. & The MG’s and the Memphis Horns. Photograph of Malcolm X circa 1965; commentary talks of the 1965 riots in America, noting that a Stax revue played in concert (Wattstax) in Watts, Los Angeles, during this period. Cropper describes how the audience began to shout the “Burn, baby, burn” slogan. Original footage from Watts showing some of the fires, police, soldiers, etc; Booker T. & The MG’s Groovin’ (1967) plays over.

ACE286.5 (00:29:02 - 00:41:01)
William Bell talking about Stax then needing “a strong black individual … more focused on the black community and on black music” and commentary notes that Al Bell (photograph) was put in charge of promotions in 1965. Al Bell talks about the company’s belief that Stax music could become “the music of the world”. Photograph of the performers who went on the 1967 European tour (the Stax/Volt revue), including Jones, Redding, Floyd, and Sam and Dave. Love and Jackson explain how the tour made them realise that they were all stars. Original footage of Redding singing Try a Little Tenderness (1967). Love and Cropper talk about the Monterey festival. Original footage of visitors, Hell’s Angels, etc. Dunn on Redding’s performance and original footage of “Can you do that just one more time”. Newspaper report of Redding’s death in plane clash, part of I’ve Been Loving You Too Long (1966) over. Stewart talks about this event and how it affected the company. Photographs of Redding with (Sitting on) The Dock of the Bay (1968) over. The Lorraine Motel. Al Bell says he learned about the assassination of Martin Luther King (1968) while he was recording Shirley Walton’s Send Peace and Harmony Home. Photograph from the Motel on April 4th 1968; recording over. Bell talks about the split this event caused between black and white Stax employees. Wexler says that “the spirit seemed to have gone out … of rhythm and blues music”. Street scenes with Albert King’s Born Under a Bad Sign (1967) over. Hayes says he agitated for more black employees at managerial levels, and talks about his song Soul Man (1967); heard over footage of troops in threes and black people being arrested.

ACE286.6 (00:41:01 - 00:51:03)
Photograph of Stewart circa 1968; commentary says that when Stax broke with Atlantic he discovered that Atlantic owned the rights to all his master tapes; the company was sold to Gulf & Western. Al Bell talks about realising that he needed to produce a catalogue. Hayes talks about his album Hot Buttered Soul (1969); photograph of him receiving a gold disc; Bell describes it as the first gold and platinum album recorded by a black artist. Hayes performs Never Can Say Goodbye. Bell talks about changes at the new Stax, including the fact that the increased volume meant that they started recording in many different locations. Photograph of Don Davis. Cropper lamenting the “slipping away” of what they had built up because over-expansion meant that albums were “farmed out”; he left. Photograph of Jim Stewart; commentary says he and Al Bell re-acquired the company as equal co-owners. Photograph of Jesse Jackson with Hayes and Bell. Jesse Jackson on his “Operation Bread Basket” campaign against chain stores that would not stock black goods, employ black managers, or allow black advertising, etc. Original footage of Jackson leading a church congregation in reciting his poem, I Am Somebody. Johnnie Taylor’s song I Am Somebody (1969) over photographs of Stax artists including Taylor, Hayes, Carla Thomas, King, the Emotions, the Dramatics, etc., along with Jesse Jackson and Stokely Carmichael at political events. Al Bell says that Jackson once reprimanded him for not spending enough time with the Staples Singers. Mavis Staples explains how they would open proceedings at Operation Bread Basket events. Jackson on the Staples family; photographs. Staples talks about “moving out of ‘protest’ songs and into … ‘message’ songs”. The Staples Singers singing at an open-air meeting with Beatitude: Respect Yourself (1972) playing over.

ACE286.7 (00:51:03 - 01:00:48)
Hayes describes how he was engaged to write the score for Shaft (1971). Hayes performing the title song at Wattstax. Stills of Hayes. Wayne Jackson talking about the security staff employed to guard Hayes at the studio (photograph of Johnny Baylor and. Dino Woodard) whose “strong-arm tactics” Jackson believes changed the previously warm atmosphere. Photographs of Hayes; he talks about the changing image of black men. Al Bell on the Wattstax event. Aerial view of the stadium. Crowds, etc. Jesse Jackson introducing the event and talking about “shifting from ‘burn, baby, burn’, to ‘learn, baby, learn’”. Hayes describing the event. Rufus Thomas performing Do the Funky Chicken; audience jumping barriers and dancing in the arena. Al Bell says that Stax music was finally “being heard all across America” and that the company wanted to expand its album sales (covers for Wattstax: The Living Word (1973), Rufus Thomas Crown Prince of Dance (1972), Isaac Hayes Live at the Sahara Tahoe (1973), The Bar-Kays Cold Blooded (1974), Albert King, Chico Hamilton, Little Milton, from the Montreux Blues and Jazz Festival, 1974, The Staples Singers Be What You Are (1973)). They eventually brought an anti-trust suit against CBS through whom they were distributing. Stewart talks about going bankrupt and trying, unsuccessfully, to regain financial backing after the case. Caption: “Stax was closed down on January 19th 1975. The studio building was demolished in 1989.” Jones and Cropper walking over the site. Credits, with Booker T. & The MG’s Time is Tight (1969) over.

Full credits  Un film de Philip Priestley. Image Hugues De Haeck; Assisté de Thierry Ducom; Prise de Son André Siekierski; Assisté de Francisco Camino; Montage Stéphane Huter; Assistant de Réalisation et Interviews Rob Bowman; Post-Production Emmanuel Le Floch; Régie Numérique Stéphanie Mee; Etalonnage Bruno Lopez; Mixage Pascal Rousselle, Francisco Camino; Commentaire Patrick Deval; Chargé de Programmes INA Gérald Collas; Atelier de Production INA Monique Pascual-Dumas, Sylvie Ronchail; Direction de Production Fitouri Belhiba; Secrétariat de Production Annie Lemaire; Avec Jim Stewart, Estelle Axton, Rufus Thomas, Jerry Wexler, William Bell, Marvell Thomas, Booker T. Jones, Steve Cropper, Donald “Duck” Dunn, Andrew Love, Wayne Jackson, Isaac Hayes Reggie, Willie Gordon et The Pattersonaires, Al Bell, Rev. Jesse Jackson, Mavis Staples. Archives Musicales INA: Green Onions, Booker T & The MG’s; Surprise Partie, réal. Guy Job 1968; You Don’t Know Like I Know, Sam & Dave; Try a Little Tenderness, Otis Redding; Boutons Rouges, réal. Michel Taittinger 1967; Autres: Theme from Shaft, Isaac Hayes; Do the funky chicken, Rufus Thomas; Wattstax, réal. Mel Stuart 1972, avec l’aimable autorisation de Warner Television/Stax (Fantasy) Records; I’ve been loving you, Otis Redding; Monterey Pop, réal. D. A. Pennebaker Associates 1967; Respect Yourself, Staples Singers, réal. Scott Craig, Scott Craig Productions 1971; Theme from Shaft, Isaac Hayes; Gala du Midem 1973, réal. E Buricke. Archives Socio-Politiques: Universal Newsreel 1963/1965/1967, avec l’aimable autorisation du National Archives and Records Administration, College Park, Maryland; I am somebody, Rev. Jesse Jackson; Urban Black America, réal. Regis D. Bobonis Jnr., 1968. Archives Photographiques: Archives de Fantasy Inc., Don Paulsen Photos, Associated Press, Library of Congress, Academy of Motion Pictures and Sciences. Droits musicaux aimablement cédé par Fantasy Inc., Atlantic Recording Corp. (WEA Intl/Rhino Records); Theme from Shaft, Isaac Hayes, (Hayes) Rondor France; ’Cause I Love You, Rufus and Carla Thomas, (Thomas) Rondor France; Gee Whiz, Carla Thomas, (Thomas) Warner Chappell; You Don’t Miss Your Water, William Bell (Bell) Rondor France; Green Onions, Booker T. & The MG’s, [Jones, Cropper, Steinberg, Jackson) Warner Chappell; These Arms of Mine, Otis Redding, (Redding) Essex; Long Walk to D.C., Staples Singers, (Banks) Rondor France; Mr Pitiful, Otis Redding, (Redding, Cropper) Essex; Knock on Wood, Eddie Floyd, (Floyd, Cropper) Warner Chappell; You Don’t Know Like I Know, Sam & Dave, (Hayes, Porter) Warner Chappell; Boot Leg, Booker T. & The MG’s, (Brigati) Warner Chappell; Try a Little Tenderness, Otis Redding, (Connelly, Woods, Campbell) Campbell, Connelly; Groovin’, Booker T. & The MG’s, (Brigati) Warner Chappell; I’ve Been Loving You, Otis Redding, (Redding, Butler) Essex; Sitting on the Dock of the Bay, Otis Redding, (Redding, Cropper) Warner Chappell; Send Peace and Harmony Home, Shirley Walton, (Jones, Floyd, Bell) Rondor France; Born Under a Bad Sign, Albert King, (Bell, Jones) Rondor France; Soul Man, Sam & Dave, (Hayes, Porter) Warner Chappell; Never Can Say Goodbye, Isaac Hayes, (Davis) EMI Music; I Am Somebody, Johnnie Taylor, (Snyder) Global Music; Respect Yourself, Staples Singers, (Ingram, Rice) Rondor France; Do the Funky Chicken, Rufus Thomas, (Thomas) Rondor France; Time is Tight, Booker T. & The MG’s, (Cropper, Dunn, Jones) Rondor France. Ce film a été realisé avec l’aimable participation de : Bill Belmont (Fantasy Inc.). Remerciements à Radisson Hotels: Los Angeles, Atlanta, Memphis, Chicago, Washington, Detroit, The General Store, Brunswick, Radio WDIA, Memphis, Rum Boogie Café, Memphis, B. B. King’s Club, Memphis, Ardent Studios, Memphis, The Lorraine Motel, Memphis, The Berean MB Church, Memphis, Gladys’ Luncheonette, Chicago, Gary R. Belz (pour sa maison); Ainsi qu’à Agnes Azuelos, Celine Bekaldi, Gilles Clabaut, Stacey Landers, Hafit Uman, Jean-Noel Ogouze, John Hedigan. Merci aux amis pour leur soutien moral Moyens Techniques, tournage, montage, post-production, Les Films Grain de Sable, INA; Avec la participation de la PROCIREP, Centre National de la Cinématographie. Producteur Délégué Les Films Grain de Sable Production : Marie-Claude Reverdin; Une Coproduction Les Film Grain de Sable, La Sept / ARTE, L’Institut National de l’Audiovisuel, Direction des Programmes de Création et de Recherche, Claude Guisard; En association avec The Arts Council of England; Unité de programme spectacle Gabrielle Babin Gugenheim; Chargée de programme Isabelle Mestre; Un film écrit et réalisé par Philip Priestley. Ce film est dédié à Dorothy Priestley. © copyright: Les Films Grain de Sable – La Sept / ARTE – l’INA, France, 1994.
Watch segments  ACE286.2 (00:00:00 - 00:10:10)
ACE286.3 (00:10:10 - 00:21:09)
ACE286.4 (00:21:09 - 00:29:02)
ACE286.5 (00:29:02 - 00:41:01)
ACE286.6 (00:41:01 - 00:51:03)
ACE286.7 (00:51:03 - 01:00:48)
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