AP reports that Jim Stewart, who co-founded the iconic Stax Records, has died at the age of 92.
In a press release, the Stax Museum of American Soul Music confirmed that Stewart passed away on Monday, December 5. “Mr. Stewart died peacefully surrounded by his family, and will be missed by millions of music fans around the world as one of the great pioneers of soul music and an architect of the Memphis Sound.”
Born and raised in Middleton, TN, Stewart co-founded the Satellite label in 1957 with his sister, Estelle Axiom. However, after finding out about a similarly named label based in California, the two combined the first two letters of their last names to form a new title for their label: STAX. They would move their studios from a relative’s garage to an old movie theater in Memphis, on the corner of McLemore and College streets, where the Stax Museum now stands.
From 1959 to 1975, Stax released over 300 albums and 800 singles from some of the biggest names in Soul music. Among their roster are Booker T and the M.G.s, Otis Redding, Isaac Hayes, The Staple Singers, Wilson Pickett, and many others. Stax, with its interracial roster of musicians, songwriters, and singers, provided a safe haven in a city where racial tension was heating up.
“There was so much talent here, under circumstances that were almost considered impossible in Memphis, Tennessee, in 1960, with the racial situation here,” Stewart told The Associated Press during an interview in May 2013 — his first interview in at least 15 years. “It was a sanctuary for all of us to get away from the outside world.”
After Stax went bankrupt in 1975, Stewart mostly stayed out of the public eye, even as he was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2002. He only made a few appearances following the opening of the Stax Museum. During a tour with the Stax Academy in 2013, Stewart reflected on the legacy of the label.
“The music is still alive and that’s what’s great about it,” Stewart said. “I’m very proud of what they have done. It’s amazing to me.”
Jim Stewart is survived by three children and two grandchildren.