Sunday, September 16, 2007

The Story of the Stax-Studded Guitar, Part 2

(This is a continuation of the story, told in photos and her words, of how Novella got the autographs of 18 Stax Records-era living legends on a new Gibson guitar. To begin with Part 1, click here.)

Click here to see the complete photo story.

James Alexander
Larry Dodson
The Bar-Kays

August 23. The Bar-Kays came to my house to sign. Most of the original band were lost with Otis Redding in a plane crash in 1967. Bass player James Alexander missed the flight. He and and the sole survivor, Ben Cauley, rebuilt the band. Larry Dodson (right) joined as lead singer in 1970. They just released their 30th CD.

Don Nix

August 27. My husband went back to Ardent for two more autographs. Don Nix has had a long career as sax player for the Mar-Keys, songwriter, musician, and author. He signed, and gave us a copy of his latest CD, "I Don't Want No Trouble" (2006).

John Fry
Founder of Ardent Studios

While there, Mike also got John Fry's autograph. Ardent celebrated its own 40th birthday last year. It should always be remembered that Ardent's history is interwined with Stax's. When Stax got too busy for its own studio, a lot of the recording work went to Ardent, including landmark albums like Hot Buttered Soul.

Deanie Parker
Founder of Soulsville

August 29.We found Deanie Parker in her offices at Soulsville, the parent organization over the Stax Museum, Music Academy, and Charter School.

Bobby Manuel

August 31. A return trip to Ardent for two more signatures. Bobby Manuel was originally a Stax engineer, but became one of the most often-used session guitarists. Check the back of your Stax albums, and see if he isn't there. Today, he became the second person to play this guitar.

Marvell Thomas

Not as famous as his sister Carla or father Rufus, Marvell Thomas, like Bobby, is session musician who is a Stax institution. Check your albums again. (And boy, can Marvell tell you stories.)

Charles "Skip" Pitts

September 5. After some crossed signals, we finally met up a long-time Isaac Hayes guitarist, Skip Pitts, who's also played for Rufus Thomas, Soul Children, and others. He's perhaps best known as the "wah-wah guitar" on Theme from Shaft.

Al Bell
Owner of Stax Records (1970s)

September 8.Jim's Stewart's right hand business guy from 1965. More than once, Al Bell was instrumental in bringing Stax back from ashes to even greater glory. He helped Jim buy the company back from Gulf+Western and CBS, ending up owner until the end in 1975.

Al lives in Little Rock, so it was a matter of catching him on a trip to Memphis. That's his beautiful wife and my longtime friend, Lydia.

Isaac Hayes

September 12. At long last Isaac! He'd just come back from a trip to Atlanta, and was at Studio Center on Union Ave., recording spots for Memphis Light Gas and Water (MLGW). With him was MLGW communications director Gale Jones Carson (seen in the last photo). We pulled him out of the studio and sat him down in the waiting room to sign. I stole a kiss.

David Porter

With Isaac signing, we had to have David Porter, his songwriting partner from way back. After leaving the studio I called David. He was out in his car. Cellphone to cellphone, we triangulated down to a parking lot near Mt. Moriah Road and Park Avenue. He signed the guitar on the back of my PT Cruiser.

The Hayes/Porter team wrote 200 songs for Stax artists and groups, including "Soul Man," which was a Sam & Dave hit long before it was the Blue Brothers anthem.

Novella Smith

With the guitar finally complete, now I can sign it.

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Click here for more on mission of this guitar.

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Friday, July 27, 2007

Respect Yourself

Al Bell, Executive Vice President and co-owner (with Jim Stewart) of Stax Records from 1970 to 1975, and Bev Johnson of WDIA Memphis, just after the sneak-preview screening last night of the upcoming PBS documentary, Respect Yourself: The Stax Records Story, here in Memphis. This powerful and affecting film about the great Stax adventure, driven by an incredible score, will be aired Wednesday, August 1, at 8 pm Central (9 pm Eastern) on PBS stations nationally (WKNO locally).

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