NEW YORK, N.Y. -- In 1957, a square, white bank teller who knew nothing about African- American music launched a record label with only a tape recorder in a barn on the outskirts of Memphis, Tennessee. Over the next two decades, the racially-integrated Stax studio which had moved to a theater in South Memphis by 1960 would produce a string of hits that defined the "Memphis Sound": "Soul Man," ", (Sittin’ on) The Dock of the Bay," ", Green Onions," ", Midnight Hour," ", I’ll Take You There," ", Respect Yourself," ", Theme from Shaft,"‘Shaft’, and many more.
"We were so busy working and having fun that we didn’t realize the impact that we were creating at the time," says Stax superstar Isaac Hayes. Stax Records would become one of the largest and most successful black-owned companies in the nation and a virtual soundtrack to the Civil Rights movement before succumbing in 1975 to financial and legal battles.
Now, Stax is back for a 50th anniversary re-launch, and GREAT PERFORMANCES will "take you there" with Respect Yourself: The Stax Records Story, premiering Wednesday, August 1 at 9 p.m. (ET) on PBS (check local listings). The film will detail the story behind the legendary label that launched a who’s-who of soul music greats: Otis Redding, Sam & Dave, the Staple Singers, Isaac Hayes, Eddie Floyd, Carla and Rufus Thomas, Albert King, and Booker T. and the MGs, to name a just a few.
Respect Yourself rejoins reunites producer-directors Robert Gordon and Morgan Neville, whose American MastersAMERICAN MASTERS documentary Muddy Waters: Can’t Be Satisfied was a Grammy nominee. Gordon, the foremost authority on Memphis music, wrote The Road to Memphis (an episode of Martin Scorsese Presents The the Blues) and five books including It Came From Memphis (Simon & Schuster). Neville is a leading music documentary filmmaker whose works include the Emmy-winning American MastersAMERICAN MASTERS Hank Williams: Honky-Tonk Blues as well as the authoritative films about Sam Phillips, The Brill Building, and Lieber & Stoller.
Working closely with the Stax Museum of American Soul Music in Memphis, the filmmakers gained access to an unprecedented wealth of source materials, including never-before-seen home movies by Stax artists; outtakes of footage from the legendary 1972 WattStax concert; and lost performances by Otis Redding, Booker T. and the MGs, Isaac Hayes, and others. All the key players are interviewed in the film: Isaac Hayes, Mavis Staples, Carla Thomas, Sam Moore, Booker T. Jones, members of the MGs, Eddie Floyd, and Jesse Jackson, who, along with Richard Pryor, recorded spoken-word albums for Stax.
In addition, Respect Yourself features the first interview given by Stax founder and co-owner Jim Stewart in 15 years. Other Stax movers-and-shakers also weigh in, from co-owner Al Bell and songwriter David Porter to avowed Stax fans Elvis Costello and Bono..
This GREAT PERFORMANCES program coincides with the label’s celebrates the re-launch in December 2006, of the Stax label. To mark this milestone comeback and the label’s 50th anniversary, special Stax Revue concerts are being mounted across the country, and Concord Records, which acquired the label, has been issuing new albums and re-releasing classics from the original catalogue.
GREAT PERFORMANCES Respect Yourself: The Stax Records Story was produced by Tremolo Productions, Concord Music Group and Thirteen/WNET New York. Bill O’Donnell is director of program development for GREAT PERFORMANCES. John Walker is senior producer for music; David Horn is executive producer of the broadcast.
GREAT PERFORMANCES is funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the National Endowment for the Arts, public television viewers, and PBS. Major corporate funding is provided by UBS, a global leader in wealth management, investment banking and asset management. You & Us. UBS. Additional funding for Respect Yourself: The Stax Records Story is provided by The Irene Diamond Fund and the LuEsther T. Mertz Charitable Trust.
Visit GREAT PERFORMANCES online at www.thirteen.org and www.pbs.org for additional information about this and other GREAT PERFORMANCES programs. The colorful Web companion contains a wide variety of images, in-depth information about the programs, and activities for teachers, including lesson plans, tips and resources.
• • •
Thirteen/WNET New York is one of the key program providers for public television, bringing such acclaimed series as Nature, Great Performances, American Masters, Charlie Rose, Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly, Wide Angle, Secrets of the Dead, NOW With David Brancaccio, and Cyberchase as well as the work of Bill Moyers to audiences nationwide. As the flagship public broadcaster in the New York, New Jersey and Connecticut metro area, Thirteen reaches millions of viewers each week, airing the best of American public television along with its own local productions such as The Ethnic Heritage Specials, The Thirteen Walking Tours, New York Voices, and Reel New York. Thirteen extends the impact of its television productions through educational and community outreach projects including the Celebration of Teaching and Learning as well as Web sites and other digital media platforms. More information can be found at http://www.thirteen.org