While in Memphis in October of 2020, we did a lot of museums related to music such as the Rock n Soul Museum, Sun Studio, as well as seeing Elvis’ Graceland. We ended up buying a Backstage pass pilgrimage with included the three above, as well as the Stax Museum of American Soul Music. I didn’t know much about this museum before we went, but I learned a lot while there and while working on this post
I found out that the museum opened on May 2, 2003, is 17,000-square-feet, and shared stores about how Stax Records helped support the careers of artists such as Otis Redding, Isaac Hayes, the Staple Singers, Sam & Dave, Booker T. & the M.G.’s, Rufus Thomas, Carla Thomas, Wilson Pickett, Albert King, William Bell, Eddie Floyd, Jean Knight, Mable John, and countless others including spoken word and comedy by Rev. Jesse Jackson, Moms Mabley, and Richard Pryor.
The Stax Museum is a replica of the Stax recording studio, the former Capitol Theatre, down to the sloping floor of studio. Today the museum holds many permanent and changing interactive exhibits, videos, films, photographs, original instruments used to record Stax hits, stage costumes, vintage recording gear, and more than 3,000 other items of memorabilia including personal items that belonged to Stax Records stars. They even have an authentic circa-1906 Mississippi Delta church from Mississippi, reconstructed in the museum to help show the gospel roots of soul music; the Soul Train dance floor, Isaac Hayes’ restored 1972 gold-trimmed, peacock-blue Cadillac El Dorado; and a near-exact recreation of the original Stax Records recording Studio A.
When you first walk into the museum you will quickly notice the Century-Old Delta Church. This is a genuine reassembled 1906 church from the Mississippi Delta and is the true birthplace of soul music. It was so interesting to see this old church with it’s pews, alter, and even an organ. I love that they had a picture of the Last Supper. Anyway, it was cool to see, but we made our way into the rest of the museum.
While the Stax Museum is obviously dedicated to Soul music and its artists, it also shares vintage videos on non-Stax artists such as Aretha Franklin, Al Green, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Ann Peebles, The Jackson Five, Patti LaBelle, Parliament-Funkadelic, Sam Cooke, James Brown, Ike & Tina Turner, and others. I thought that was really cool, and I did enjoy the Aretha Franklin exhibit a lot. Then again, they were all cool, lol. The museum also encourages you to dance along with the singers in these videos. It is a fun little area which they call the Express Yourself dance floor.
Another cool area to see was the Wall of Sound. Basically it is a hall of records with the walls lined from floor to ceiling with albums and singles containing all of the album and singles released by Stax from 1957-1975. It was quite impressive and pretty cool to see in person.
An exhibit that Gene really liked was the super fly. It is Isaac Hayes’ glittering custom Cadillac Eldorado, which was purchased as part of his renegotiated deal with Stax in 1972. One interesting thing to note, it is fully equipped with unique amenities like a refrigerated mini-bar, television, 24-carat gold exterior trim and white fur carpeting on the floorboards. Wow, is all I can say about this, lol.
However as I mentioned earlier they have a replica of Studio A, the legendary converted movie theater where Stax artists cut records, down to the gently slanted floor that contributed to Stax’s special sound. Apparently the floor’s slant helped deaden the sound, a way of trying to control the room’s acoustics on the cheap that would ultimately become a signature part of the Stax sound.
We had a great time checking out Stax Museum of American Soul Music while in Memphis. Sadly we didn’t have much time left on the day we visited, but I definitely enjoyed our time a lot and learned quite a bit about soul music. If you have never been, I would highly suggest checking it out if you are in the area. Here is a link to their website with more information and prices, etc.
Stax Museum of American Soul Music Visitor Information
926 E. McLemore Ave, Memphis TN 38106
Tuesday – Sunday 10 AM – 5 PM
Monday – Closed
|$12||Seniors 62+, Active Military, and Students with ID|
|$10||Children (Ages 9-12)|
|Free||Members, Children (8 and under)|
Again, it can be included in the price if you purchase the backstage pass available at the Rock N Soul Museum.
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