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Stax Records: Never Can Say Goodbye

Stax legends reunited: (L-R) Steve Cropper, Deane Parker, William Bell and Eddie Floyd
Soulive (L-R): Alan Evans, Eric Krasno, Toussaint and Neal Evans

Forget the freshly minted buzz bands: One of the biggest draws at this year’s South by Southwest music conference in Austin was a jam-packed tribute to a record label that shuttered its doors in 1975. But when Booker T. & the MG’s, Isaac Hayes, Eddie Floyd and William Bell reunited at the storied Antone’s nightclub in March, it wasn’t just to show the young’uns what real soul music was all about. The R&B legends were there to celebrate both the 50th anniversary and the reactivation of Stax Records, the Memphis-based institution that released their biggest hits and made stars out of Otis Redding, Sam & Dave, Rufus and Carla Thomas, Johnnie Taylor, Albert King and other powerhouses of ’60s and ’70s black music.

The Stax trademark was acquired by the Concord Music Group in 2004 as part of its purchase of Fantasy Records. Concord, known primarily as a jazz label, inherited all Stax music recorded between June 1968 and the label’s demise. The earlier sides, originally distributed by Atlantic, are now controlled by Rhino, but for its maiden release, Concord cross-licensed the key pre-Fantasy tracks and issued the two-disc, 50-track Stax 50th Anniversary Celebration, a hits collection that presents a concise but far-reaching overview of Stax’s entire history.

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