Tag Archives: Stax

Sittin’ on The Dock of Bay

Dock of the Bay

(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay was released this week in 1968. Soul singer Otis Redding recorded the basic tracks at Stax Studios three days before his death in a plane crash on December 10, 1967 at Lake Monona, near Madison, Wisconsin. The song was completed by co-writer and guitarist Steve Cropper, and released posthumously in January, 1968.


The tune came about in August, 1967 when Redding was sitting in a rented houseboat in Sausalito, California and started writing lyrics to the first verse of the song. While touring to back up his album “King & Queen” with Carla Thomas, he scribbled more lines for the song on napkins and hotel stationery. When Redding returned to Memphis, Steve Cropper helped finish the song in the studio with the Stax house band, Booker T. & the M.G.’s. The distinctive whistling at the end fade was recorded after Redding’s death by Sam “Bluzman” Taylor, his bandleader. It is considered the most famous whistling in any song.

Initially, there were concerns the song had too much of a pop feel for Redding but “Dock of the Bay” went on to sell more than four million copies and brought Otis the greatest success of his career. The single went on to win two Grammy Awards: Best R & B Song and Best Male R & B Vocal Performance and became a classic song. We can only imagine how many more hits Redding would have had in the next phase of his career if had lived!


Happy Birthday, Mavis Staples


photo by wfuv, Flickr
photo by wfuv, Flickr

Legendary soul and gospel singer Mavis Staples turns 75 today and she is truly an inspiration. She began her career in 1950 with her father, Pops Staples, and her siblings Cleotha, Yvonne, and Pervis in the Staple Singers. Called “God’s Greatest Hitmakers,” the group was very popular with gospel audiences and became more high-profile as their songs became the soundtrack to the Civil Rights Movement with “Long Walk to D.C.” and “When Will We Be Paid?” Mavis often tells first-hand stories about her father’s friendship with Martin Luther King, Jr. and choosing the right songs to precede his inspiring speeches. In 1968, The Staple Singers signed with Stax and their spiritual-based music was backed by Booker T. & the M.G.s to create many top-selling singles like “Let’s Do It Again” and ” I’ll Take You There.”

In recent years, Mavis released a series of well-received solo albums and collaborated with producers such as Ry Cooder and Jeff Tweedy. Between tours with her live band, she has found time to record with a variety of artists like John Scofield, Patty Griffin, Win Butler and her friend Bob Dylan. (He once proposed to her!) Gospel great Mahalia Jackson was a close family friend and you can hear her influence in Mavis’ music.


In April, 2003, Staples performed in Memphis at the historic Orpheum Theater for “Soul Comes Home,” a concert celebrating the grand opening of the Stax Museum of American Soul Music. She shared the stage with many of her long-time Stax collaborators  and the event was filmed for a DVD release.


She’s a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award winner and Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame inductee. Rolling Stone magazine rated her one of the 100 greatest singers of all time. Now in her seventies, Mavis’ powerful voice still rings with joy and conviction every time she sings.



What to Do

The National Civil Rights Museum


Located at the historic Lorraine Motel where Martin Luther King Jr. was killed, this fabulous museum follows the history of the Civil Rights Movement. Not to be missed.

The National Civil Rights Museum
450 Mulberry Street, Memphis, TN 38103
Phone: (901) 521-9699

Sun Studio


The birthplace of rock n’ roll. See where Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, and Jerry Lee Lewis recorded their first hits.


The guides love to show you around and talk all about music history. The first rock n’ roll record, “Rocket 88” by Jackie Brenston, was recorded here in March, 1951.
Sun Studio
706 Union Avenue, Memphis, TN, 38103
Phone: 800-441-6249

Soulsville USA: The Stax Museum
Welcome to the birthplace of soul music. This completely cool museum walks you through the history of Stax Records and their roster of stars like Otis Redding, Isaac Hayes, The Staple Singers, Booker T. & the M.G.’s, Sam & Dave, and many more.

Don’t miss the wall of hit records and Isaac Hayes’ gold-trimmed
1972 Cadillac Eldorado.
Soulsville USA: The Stax Museum
926 E. McLemore Avenue, Memphis, TN 38106
Phone: (901) 942-7685


Sure it’s tacky and overpriced but you have to go to see how Elvis lived.  This is his Jungle Room with its Polynesian influence and green shag carpet on the floor and the ceiling. A hunka hunka!


Pay the extra fee to see The King’s extensive car and airplane collection. He used to give away Cadillacs like this.
3734 Elvis Presley Boulevard, Memphis, TN 38116
Phone: +1 901-332-3322

Main Street Trolley


At a dollar per ride, it’s a fun way to get around downtown and it passes by the Mississippi River for superb views. They rattle and clatter, and aren’t very fast–but everybody loves them. See trolley highlights by Paul Donovan:

Memphis Area Transit Authority
Route and Schedule Information: (901) 274-6282
Trolley: (901) 577-2640

If you are totally into trains, check out the Memphis Railroad and Trolley Museum, a volunteer-run group dedicated to rail in Memphis.

photo by Katherine of Chicago, Flickr
photo by Katherine of Chicago, Flickr

Memphis Railroad and Trolley Museum
Central Station, 545 South Main Street, Suite 121, Memphis, TN

Gibson Guitar Factory

photo by Patrick from Parka Avenue, Flickr
photo by Patrick from Parka Avenue, Flickr

Even if you’re not a guitar geek, take an informative tour of the factory as they turn out hand-crafted Gibson guitars, from Les Pauls to the Firebird X. Security is high so don’t try to snap pictures like this without permission.

photo by Bones77sm, Flickr
photo by Bones77sm, Flickr

This short video from zZounds.com shows how they are made:

Gibson Guitar Factory
145 Lt. George W. Lee Avenue, Memphis, TN 38103
Phone: (901) 544-7998

Slave Haven Underground Railroad Museum
Located at the modest home of the Burkle family who helped slaves escape to freedom to the northern states and Canada. Even though the small museum is often full of school kids on field trips, the guides have inspiring stories for everyone.  The place has hidden trap doors and secret tunnels used to shelter the escapees.

photo by tennesseevacation, Flickr
photo by tennesseevacation, Flickr

Slave Haven Underground Railroad Museum
826 North Second Street, Memphis, TN 38173
Phone: (901) 527-3227

The Cotton Museum
Founded in 2006, this museum relates the history of cotton and its important role in the economy of the Mid-South. Films and displays show you how the commodity became “King Cotton.” The main exhibit is located on the trading floor of the old Memphis Cotton Exchange building.
The Cotton Museum
65 Union Avenue, Memphis, TN 38103
Phone: (901) 531-7826

The Memphis Riverboat Tour
An entertaining steamship ride along the Mississippi, taking you back to a time when riverboats ruled the waterways. The guides have humorous stories that make local history come alive. Plus, you get some impressive views of the city along the way.
Memphis Riverboat Tour
251 South Riverside Drive, Memphis, TN 38103
Phone: (901) 527-2628

The Withers Collection Museum Gallery

photo by Redfern Photo Archive, Flickr
photo by Redfern Photo Archive, Flickr

Located right on Beale Street, the photo museum features a display of African-American photographer Ernest C. Withers who documented the history and culture of Memphis.

Rosalind Withers is the trustee of her father’s life work and she has a wealth of stories about her dad covering segregation issues, Negro League baseball, and the local blues scene.

photo by Pan African News Wire File Photos
photo by Pan African News Wire File Photos

The Withers Collection Museum Gallery
333 Beale Street, Memphis, TN 38103
Phone: (901) 523-2344

Memphis Rock ‘n Soul Museum

photo by Eridony, Flickr
photo by Eridony, Flickr

Near FedEx Forum, this museum covers the highlights of blues, soul, and rock ‘n roll–all forms of music with roots in Memphis. In addition to traditional museum displays, you can now grab an MP3 audio guide and a map to take the Historic Walking Tour of Beale Street.

photo by otacon4130, Flickr
photo by otacon4130, Flickr

Memphis Rock ‘n Soul Museum
191 Beale Street, Suite 100, Memphis, TN 38103
Phone: (901) 205-2533

The Center for Southern Folklore
This non-profit organization showcases unique gifts, music, and works of art from Southern artists. When you’re done shopping,  stay for coffee and Miss Ella’s peach cobbler. Located downtown at the Peabody Place trolley stop.
The Center for Southern Folklore
123 South Main Street, Memphis, TN 38103
Phone: (901) 525-3655