Jim Stewart, Stax Records co-founder, dead at 92

The businessman, producer, and engineer was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2002.

Jim Stewart, the co-founder of the Stax Records music label, has died. He was 92.

The Stax Museum of American Soul Music confirmed Stewart’s death in a statement on Tuesday (Dec. 5). “We are deeply saddened to announce the death of Stax Records founder Jim Stewart,” the statement read. “Mr. Stewart passed away peacefully earlier today, surrounded by his family.”

⁠The cause of Stewart’s death is unknown at this time.

(L to R) Stax Records co-founder Jim Stewart and two Stax Music Academy instructors during an April 29, 2013, tour of the Stax Museum of American Soul Music in Memphis, Tennessee. Stewart died on Dec. 5, 2022, at the age of 92. (AP Photos/Adrian Sainz)

Stewart founded Stax Records with his sister, Estelle Axton, in 1957, in Memphis, Tennessee. It was initially called Satellite Records, according to NPR. In 1961, the name was changed to Stax— a combination of the first two letters of the siblings’ last names — after they discovered that a California record label already carried the Satellite moniker.

Stax Records was responsible for creating much of the transformative American soul music throughout the 1960s and 1970s. It was the home of several legendary artists, including Otis Redding, Isaac Hayes, Wilson Pickett, Sam & Dave and the Staple Singers, spawning timeless songs like “Sitting on the Dock of the Bay,” “Theme to Shaft,” “In the Midnight Hour” and “Soul Man.”

The interracial Stax house band, Booker T. & the MGs, recorded many of the hits. Featuring musicians like organist Booker T. Jones, guitarist Steve Cropper, bassist Donald “Duck” Dunn and drummer Al Jackson Jr., the MGs made hits in its own right like the classic, “Green Onions.”

Combining the fierceness of blues and rock with the emotion of Black gospel, Stax defined the “Memphis Sound,” which influenced a generation of musicians and contributed to the soundtrack of the civil rights and Black power movements.

“While his impact on soul music is immeasurable,” the Stax Museum statement continued, “the ‘Memphis Sound’ he fostered throughout the 1960s and 70s as a savvy record executive and visionary producer can still be heard and felt in the music of today.”

For Stewart’s part in co-founding Stax as well as producing and engineering many records, he was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2002 as a recipient of the Ahmet Ertegun Award. Longtime Stax artist Hayes was inducted the same year.

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