R&B / Soul

Historic Timelines

R&B / Soul

Note—Doo-Wop, Motown, Philadelphia Soul and Funk are not timelined. This timeline focuses predominantly on R&B and Soul that emanated from the South.

Around 1907

New Orleans cornetist Buddy Bolden composes “Funky Butt Hall.” A nickname for the Union Sons of Honor Hall in Back o’Town, “Funky Butt Hall” marks the first appearance of “funky” or “funk” in a song—and in this case, Bolden’s referring to human odors. Jelly Roll Morton later adapts it into one of his songs, “I Thought I Heard Buddy Bolden Say” aka “Buddy Bolden’s Blues.” Dr. John and Hugh Laurie are among those who have recorded it lately.

1908

Louis Jordan born in Brinkley, Arkansas. He moves to New York in 1932.

1910

T-Bone Walker born in Linden, Texas. He moves to Los Angeles in the mid-1930s.

1911

“Big” Joe Turner born in Kansas City, Missouri. He moves to New York in 1938, Los Angeles in 1941, and then New Orleans.

1916-1970

The Great Migration: In 1900, just 740,000 African Americans (or roughly eight percent of the population) live outside the South. Between 1916 and 1970, the Great Migration sees more than six million African Americans from the Triangle leave for northern cities, primarily Chicago, Detroit, and Cleveland.

1920

First recorded blues. African American vaudeville singer Mamie Smith records “Crazy Blues.” When it reportedly sells over a quarter-million copies, the record business wakes up to the potential of African American music.

1924

Dinah Washington born, Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Her family moves to Chicago when she is a child.

1927

Hank Ballard born, Detroit. He grows up in Bessemer, Alabama.

1928

“Pinetop’s Boogie Woogie.” Clarence “Pinetop” Smith, originally from Troy, Alabama, records an epochal single, naming and defining the piano blues style that will greatly influence R&B. The style predates Smith, but his record jump-starts the Boogie Woogie craze. Ray Charles later reconfigures the song into an early hit, “Mess Around.”

1928

Willie Mitchell born in Ashland, Mississippi. He moves to Memphis in 1930 and launches a band in 1946. In 1962, he joins Hi Records as an artist, and then as a producer.

1928

James Brown born, Barnwell, South Carolina. He grows up in Toccoa, Georgia.

1930

Ray Charles born, Albany, Georgia. Partially blind by age five, he’s completely blind by age seven.

1930

Bobby Bland born, Rosemark, Tennessee. He begins singing in Gospel groups after moving to Memphis in 1947.

1931

Sam Cooke born, Clarksdale, Mississippi. The family moves to Chicago in 1933, and Cooke joins local Gospel groups.

1934

Jackie Wilson born in Detroit, Michigan. His mother is from Columbus, Mississippi, and Wilson often visits there, drawing some of his style from the local church.

Mid 1930s

Kansas City. Blues shouter Big Joe Turner and boogie-woogie pianist Pete Johnson begin working together.

Late 1930s/Early 1940s

Rhythm & Blues evolves. Jazz bands, notably those led by Louis Jordan, Lionel Hampton, Andy Kirk, and Erskine Hawkins, together with hipster Jazz vocalists like Jordan, the Harlem Hamfats and Cab Calloway are crucial to early R&B. Boogie Woogie pianists and urban Blues singers share a role in its creation.

Late 1930s/Early 1940s

The Harlem Hamfats. Their mid-1930s riff-based hits, “Oh Red,” “Weed Smoker’s Dream,” “We Gonna Pitch a Boogie Woogie,” and “Let’s Get Drunk and Truck,” set R&B’s bawdy tone and musical template. Their name notwithstanding, most of them are from New Orleans and Mississippi.

Late 1930s/Early 1940s

Lionel Hampton. After leaving Benny Goodman to organize his own band in 1940, he plays with propulsion unequaled in any other band. His 1942 hit “Flying Home,” has a screaming saxophone solo that influences an entire generation of R&B saxophonists. Hampton hires Dinah Washington.

Late 1930s/Early 1940s

Louis Jordan. His 1941-1942 hits, “Knock Me a Kiss,” “I’m Gonna Move to the Outskirts of Town,” and “What’s the Use of Getting Sober,” strike the same tone as the Harlem Hamfats, but he’s more successful, and that success becomes a catalyst for R&B’s swift development.

Late 1930s/Early 1940s

T-Bone Walker. The guitarist’s early 1940s Blues hits, including “Call It Stormy Monday,” bring urban sophistication to the Blues. Like Jordan, Walker works with a small combo, and, like Jordan, his rhythms are rooted in Boogie Woogie (which he claims he first heard in church) and light shuffles. Neither employs the heavier Gospel Backbeat.

Late 1930s/Early 1940s

At the same time, the Ink Spots and the Mills Brothers score a string of hits that pave the way toward Doo Wop, a style that develops almost exclusively in the Northeast and on the West Coast.

1937

Little Willie John born, Cullendale, Arkansas. His family moves to Detroit four years later.

1938

Boogie Woogie craze. Big Joe Turner and Pete Johnson appear at John Hammond’s Spirituals to Swing concert at Carnegie Hall, and they’re invited back for residencies at the Café Society. Their 1938 recording of “Roll ‘em, Pete” is a major influence on R&B for its Backbeat—a syncopated accentuation of the 2 and 4 beats. Very quickly, Boogie Woogie is orchestrated and popularized by the big bands of the day and the smaller R&B bands.

1940

Solomon Burke born, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Soon after his birth, his grandmother consecrates him a bishop of the United House of Prayer for All People. Aged seven, he begins preaching and by 1952 he’s on the radio as Solomon the Boy Wonder Preacher.

1941

Otis Redding born, Dawson, Georgia. His father is a part-time preacher, and Otis learns to sing in a local Baptist church.

1941

Wilson Pickett born, Prattville, Alabama. He sings in Baptist church choirs before leaving for Detroit in 1955, and joining the Violinaires gospel group.

1942

Aretha Franklin born, Memphis, Tennessee. Her father is a charismatic preacher, Rev. C. L. Franklin, who takes the family first to Buffalo, New York, and then Detroit. C.L. Franklin’s sermons make him so popular that his house is a focal point for the Gospel community. Mahalia Jackson, Sam Cooke, and others visit regularly.

1942

Isaac Hayes born, Covington, Tennessee.

1945

Indie labels turn to R&B. During the Second World War, major labels cut back their rosters to accommodate the shortage of manufacturing material, so the years of R&B’s birth are poorly documented. After the War, indie labels spring up, capturing the new R&B market. Unlike the majors, the indies are nimble in picking up new trends and willing to sell via barber shops or anywhere that will stock their records. Among the new independent labels focusing on R&B are Savoy (1942), King (1943), Aladdin (1944), Modern (1945), Juke Box (later Specialty)(1946), Imperial (1945), Aristocrat (later Chess)(1947), and Atlantic (1947).

1945

Rhythm & blues reaches the nation from Nashville. Disc jockey Gene Nobles begins all-night broadcasting on Nashville’s WLAC. Radio is still predominantly “live,” making Nobles one of radio’s pioneering dee-jays. As fellow dee-jay Hoss Allen remembered, “Some students from Fisk or Tennessee State brought some black records up and asked Nobles if he’d play them. He put on some boogie woogie records and he got so much mail he continued. The more he played, the more mail came in from all over the Southeast, Southwest and Deep South.” The following year, Ernie Young starts Ernie’s Record Mart in Nashville to sell records on Nobles’ show. Two years later, Randy Wood in nearby Gallatin, Tennessee begins advertising on Nobles’ show and ships packages of R&B records throughout the nation from Randy’s Record Shop. Gene Nobles, Randy Wood, Ernie Young, WLAC’s daytime R&B dee-jay, John. R. (Richbourg), and Hoss Allen are all white.

1945

First recording studio in New Orleans. Cosimo Matassa opens J&M Recording Studio at Rampart & Dumaine in New Orleans. For many years, J&M (later Cosimo’s) is the only pro-quality studio in New Orleans, and, for some time, the only one in Louisiana.

1945

Pvt. Cecil Gant’s “I Wonder.” Gant, originally from Nashville, records his supper-club Blues on the west coast, and it becomes a sensation, selling over one million copies. “I Wonder” is a sophisticated urban Blues, owing more to Pop than rural Blues.

1946

Al Green born, Dansby, Arkansas. His family moves to Grand Rapids, Michigan in 1955, and Green joins the family gospel group.

1947

Roy Brown’s “Good Rockin’ Tonight.” Brown returns from Texas to his home town, New Orleans. At his first session in New Orleans, held at the J&M Studio, Brown records the raucous and anthemic “Good Rockin’ Tonight.”

1949

Beginning of Black Radio. In Memphis, a country and pop station, WDIA, becomes the first to exclusively program to the African American community. B.B. King signs on as an on-air musician and dee-jay. In response to WDIA’s success, WHBQ programs Dewey PhillipsRed Hot and Blue show in the evening after WDIA goes off the air. Phillips becomes a pioneering disc jockey, playing Elvis Presley’s first record repeatedly.

 

1949

Billboard magazine coins the phrase “Rhythm & Blues.” R&B replaces previous labels—Race Music, Sepia Music, and Harlem Hit Parade—and acknowledges that R&B is distinct from Blues. Arnold Shaw wrote, “R&B was not a euphemism for something else like Race Music or Sepia Music, it WAS something else: esthetically, chronologically, and sociologically.” Louis Jordan is still setting the pace with hits like “Saturday Night Fish Fry” and “Blue Light Boogie,” influencing Little Richard, Chuck Berry, Bill Haley, and many others, but younger artists like Amos Milburn, Wynonie Harris, Roy Brown, and others play R&B at a more frenetic tempo and with a heavier beat.

1949

Professor Longhair and Fats Domino begin recording in New Orleans. Longhair’s 1949 recordings include “Mardi Gras in New Orleans.” Domino begins his recording career with “The Fat Man,” based closely on a local song, “Junker Blues,” recorded by New Orleans singer Champion Jack Dupree in 1941. Domino’s record becomes an R&B hit. Longhair plays with Cuban musicians and blends Caribbean music with R&B. “Mardi Gras in New Orleans” is a rumba-boogie. New Orleans R&B is different from mainstream R&B in that it features Cuban rhythms, some of which—like the Tresillo—have their origin in sub-Saharan music. The  three-note Tresillo bass pattern can be heard on many New Orleans R&B records by Domino, Little Richard, and others, including Domino’s “Blue Monday.” New Orleans drummer Earl Palmer creates many of the rhythm patterns that underpin Rock ‘n’ Roll, some of them adapted from New Orleans parade music.

1950

Joe Turner moves to New Orleans. He’s signed by Atlantic Records and begins recording a string of hits that will define early R&B. The backbeat is a little heavier; otherwise, this is the same music that Turner has played since the mid-1930s.

1950

Sam Cooke joins the Soul Stirrers. Cooke learns how to phrasing and timing from his years with the Soul Stirrers—one of the leading gospel groups of the day.

1951

Rocket 88. Sam Phillips, who later launches Sun Records in Memphis, leases Jackie Brenston’s “Rocket 88” (featuring Ike Turner on piano) to Chess Records. Although based on an earlier song, it’s more explosive and edgier than most R&B hits, leading some to call it the first Rock ‘n’ Roll record.

1951

Alan Freed begins broadcasting in Cleveland. Adopting the name Moondog, he soon begins calling R&B by a new name, Rock ‘n’ Roll. His listenership includes white teenagers.

1952

Duke Records starts in Memphis. The label signs Johnny Ace and Bobby Bland before its acquisition by Peacock Records in Houston.

1953

Jock-o-Mo. In New Orleans, Sugar Boy Crawford records a Mardi Gras parade song, “Jock-o-Mo” aka “Iko, Iko,” and Guitar Slim records the proto-Soul classic “The Things I Used to Do,” arranged by Ray Charles.

1953

Bill Haley cracks the pop charts with “Crazy, Man Crazy.” Haley’s arrangements are like Louis Jordan, but with a heavier backbeat and Country instrumentation. His hit announces a new hybrid later dubbed Rock ‘n’ Roll.

1954

U.S. Supreme Court rules in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka (Kansas). Segregated schools are “inherently unequal.”  Washington, D.C., and Baltimore begin desegregating.

1954

Kids take up R&B. Writing in Cash Box magazine, Jerry Wexler of Atlantic Records talks about the Blues renaissance in the South. “Distributors there about two years ago began to report to white high school and college kids were picking upon the Rhythm & Blues records, primarily to dance to. From all accounts, the movement was initiated by youthful hillbilly fans rather than pop bobby-soxers.”

1954

Hank Ballard & the Midnighters’ “Work with Me Annie.” Ballard’s guitar-driven sound influences Rock ‘n’ Roll, and young white kids love the double entendre of “Work with Me, Annie,” “Sexy Ways,” and “Annie Had a Baby,” all of them No. 1 or No.2 R&B hits in 1954. Ballard later writes and records “The Twist.”

1954

Ray Charles records “I Got a Woman” in Atlanta. Based on the Gospel Tones’ “It Must Be Jesus,” it marks a departure for Charles. He changes the Gospel Tones’ words, but retains the fervor, making this one of the records pointing from R&B to Soul.

1954

Joe Turner records “Shake, Rattle, and Roll” in New York. Bill Haley covers and sanitizes it for the Pop charts.

1954

Johnny Ace dies. His smooth ballads, including “My Song” and “Pledging My Love,” are a template for R&B-Pop crossover, but Ace kills himself in a game of Russian roulette.

1955

Pop cover versions. Randy Wood at Dot Records in Gallatin, Tennessee signs a local high school student, Pat Boone. Fats Domino records “Ain’t That a Shame” aka “Ain’t It a Shame” in New Orleans. His record is played on some pop stations, but Pat Boone covers him and scores the bigger pop hit. Little Richard records “Tutti Frutti” and “Long Tall Sally” in New Orleans; Boone covers him and scores the Pop hits. Nearly every substantial R&B hit is covered for the Pop market.

1955

Bo Diddley records “Bo Diddley.” Originally from McComb, Mississippi, Diddley records in Chicago, re-Africanizing R&B, employing both African and Caribbean rhythms. Sometimes, as on “Who Do You Love” and “Hey, Bo Diddley,” his songs have no chord changes. Diddley’s hits are not covered for the Pop market.

1955

Emmett Till. A 14-year-old Chicago boy, Till is murdered in Money, Mississippi for allegedly wolf-whistling at a white woman. In Los Angeles, Scatman Crothers, calling himself the Ramparts, records a protest song, “The Death of Emmett Till.”

1955

Rosa Parks arrested. Her arrest spurs a boycott lasting more than a year. An African American Mississippi preacher, Will Hairston—Hurricane of the Motor City, records “The Alabama Bus” for a tiny Chicago company. Like the Ramparts’ record, these early Civil Rights singles are barely heard.

1956

James Brown’s first hit, “Please, Please, Please.” His next hit, “Try Me,” comes in 1959.

1956

Little Willie John’s “Need Your Love So Bad” becomes a Top 5 R&B hit. His anguished, gospel-based singing influences a generation of R&B and Soul singers, including James Brown, who opens for him.

1957

The 1957 Civil Rights Act. Affirms that all Americans have the right to vote. Trying to implement Brown v. Board of Education, nine students integrate Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas. President Eisenhower sends paratroopers to enforce desegregation. Rock ‘n’ Roll shows often drop either the African American or white acts when they tour the South, but audiences are becoming increasingly integrated.

1957

Hi Records founded in Memphis. The label’s earliest success comes in 1960 with the Bill Black Combo playing R&B instrumentals. The label owners convert an abandoned movie theater on South Lauderdale Avenue into a recording studio.

1957

Jackie Wilson’s first solo hit, “Reet Petite.” Wilson’s dramatic, heavily gospelized style prefigures Soul. His early hits are written by Berry Gordy, who uses some of the money to launch Tamla Motown. Gordy said, “He [Wilson] set the standard I’d be looking for in singers forever.”

1957-1960

Changing face of R&B. At a time when Country music evolves into the Nashville Sound in search of Pop crossover, R&B artists record cleaner songs with full arrangements to try for Pop airplay. The era of the cover version is over. Fats Domino places 33 songs in the Pop charts during the 1950s, but no other artists can match his success.

1957-1960

Gospel influence. Sam Cooke becomes the first prominent Gospel singer to forsake Gospel for R&B, and he scores a hit with “You Send Me.” Ray Charles continues to mine Gospel music for inspiration (“Hallelujah, I Love Her So”), delivery, and arrangements. Cooke’s desertion of Gospel and Charles’ adaptation of Gospel attract heavy criticism from within the Gospel community, but their music points from R&B toward Soul. Additionally, Ray Charles begins using “Soul” in song titles as early 1956 (“Hornful Soul”) and “Soul Brothers” (1957).

1957-1960

Farther up the Road.” Bobby Bland’s breakthrough hit doesn’t try for Pop crossover, but, like Ray Charles’ mid/late Fifties records, begins infusing R&B with Gospel overtones. Unlike Charles, Bland’s following remains rooted in the African American community until his death in 2013.

1958

Jim Stewart and his sister, Estelle Axton, start Satellite Records in Memphis. They soon buy an abandoned movie theater on McLemore Avenue, and install a recording studio.

1958

For Your Precious Love.” Jerry Butler, born in Sunflower, Mississippi, moves to Chicago with his family in 1942 and forms a group, the Impressions. Their first record, “For Your Precious Love,” is a slow-burning, gospel-infused R&B classic.

1959

Motown Records launched in Detroit by Berry Gordy. The label’s first hit is Barrett Strong’s “Money,” reissued on Anna—a better distributed label owned by Gordy’s sister. Strong, born in West Point, Mississippi, goes on to write hits for the Temptations (“Cloud Nine,” “Papa Was a Rolling Stone,” etc.) and Marvin Gaye (“I Heard It Through the Grapevine”).

1959

Allen Toussaint’s hit streak. He joins Joe Banashak’s New Orleans indie, Minit Records, as in-house producer, songwriter, and arranger, and will become the guiding hand behind New Orleans R&B in the 1960s, ‘70s, and beyond. Already, he has written one hit, “Java,” and goes on to write “Get out My Life Woman,” “Southern Nights,” “Workin’ in a Coal Mine,” “Yes, We Can,” “Ruler of My Heart,” “Lipstick Traces,” and many more.

1959

Muscle Shoals-Florence, Alabama. James Joyner and Tom Stafford start a studio and a music publishing company, Spar, above a drugstore owned by Stafford’s father. Joyner soon exits and is replaced by Rick Hall and Billy Sherrill.

1961

New Orleans: All for One. After another Allen Toussaint production, Ernie K. Doe’s “Mother-in-Law,” becomes a pop and R&B hit, Toussaint forms part of a cooperative in which the session musicians will produce records for their own label, AFO (All for One). They score one hit, Barbara George’s “I Know,” before running out of financing. In the aftermath, some of the city’s stellar backing musicians move to Los Angeles. Toussaint stays, but begins working with out-of-town artists, including The Band.

1961

Stax Records. The Mar-Keys’ “Last Night” is the first hit for Jim Stewart and Estelle Axton’s Satellite Records before they change the label name to Stax. After Rufus and Carla Thomas score a local hit with “’Cause I Love You” later in 1961, they secure a deal with Atlantic Records that immediately yields results when Carla Thomas’s “Gee Whiz” becomes a national hit.

1961

The birth of the Muscle Shoals sound. Billy Sherrill exits Spar Studio to go to Nashville where he becomes an architect of the 1970s Nashville Sound. Tom Stafford sells his share of Spar to Rick Hall, who opens a new studio, FAME (Florence, Alabama Music Enterprises) in a tobacco warehouse on Wilson Dam Highway. With musicians from Dan Penn’s band, they record Arthur Alexander singing “You Better Move On,” and lease it to Dot Records. The Rolling Stones cover “You Better Move On” and the Beatles cover another of Alexander’s singles, “Anna.” Alexander’s sound is part Country and part R&B.

1961

Solomon Burke records “Just out of Reach.” A Country song by the Stewart Family from rural Arkansas, “Just out of Reach” becomes an early Soul classic. Burke’s dramatic delivery and lush arrangement prefigure Ray Charles’ adventures in Country music. Burke follows with “Cry to Me” (1962) and “If You Need Me” (1963), both seminal early Soul records.

1962

Ray Charles’ first volume of “Modern Sounds in Country & Western Music” released. Charles’ imaginative reinvention of classic Country songs influences many in Nashville to use violin sections.

1962

Sam Cooke records “Bring It on Home to Me.” The gospelized call-and-response (with an uncredited Lou Rawls) is a milestone in the realization of Soul music. Cooke unifies the sexually-charged music of the dance floor with the spiritually-charged music of the church hall. In Detroit, Wilson Pickett’s screaming lead on the Falcons’ “I Found a Love” moves R&B even closer to Soul.

1962

Otis Redding signs with Stax-Volt Records. His earlier recordings for other labels had flopped, but, paired with the Stax house band, Redding sings “These Arms of Mine,” and it becomes a landmark Soul record.

1963

NAACP Field Secretary Medgar Evers is killed outside his home in Jackson, Mississippi. Nina Simone writes “Mississippi Goddam” in protest.

1963

Billboard ceases to publish its R&B chart. The stated reason is that R&B records, such as “The Twist,” are indistinguishable from Pop. Eighteen months later, the rise of Soul music forces Billboard to reconsider.

1964

In Memphis, Chips Moman launches American Studio. The all-white session band, comprising Reggie Young on guitar, Bobby Emmons on keyboard, Gene Chrisman on drums, and Tommy Cogbill on bass, becomes a major draw for artists recording in Memphis. Unlike Stax, Sun, and Hi, there’s no label predominantly associated with American. Hits from the studio include Dusty Springfield’sSon of a Preacher Man,” the Boxtops’ “The Letter,” Sandy Posey’s “Born a Woman,” and King Curtis’s “Memphis Soul Stew.” In one tally, American places 120 records on the Billboard charts between 1967 and 1971.

1964

Booker T. and the MGs. The Stax Records house band, a four-piece, mixed race group, scores a pop hit with “Green Onions.”

1964

Sam Cooke killed. The last single released during his lifetime is “A Change Is Gonna Come,” a song inspired by Bob Dylan’s Blowin’ in the Wind” and the 1963 March on Washington. Cooke’s song becomes a Civil Rights anthem.

1965

When a Man Loves a Woman.” In Florence, Alabama, dee-jay Quin Ivy sets up Norala Studio. A local hospital orderly, Percy Sledge, records “When a Man Love a Woman” there. Rick Hall hears it and places it with Atlantic Records. It becomes a No.1 Pop and R&B single, and a landmark Soul record.

1965

In the Midnight Hour.” Wilson Pickett is recording at the Stax studio, Memphis when he and Stax’s guitarist, Steve Cropper, write “In the Midnight Hour,” based on an old gospel song.

1965

Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag.” Emphasizing the first beat in the bar and forsaking traditional chord changes for one-chords vamps, James Brown’s record points toward Funk. It is released the month that Malcolm X is killed, and weeks before the Watts riots in Los Angeles.

1967

Otis Redding performs at the Monterey Pop Festival. The audience, estimated at 200,000, is comprised of mostly white kids. Redding dies in a plane crash in December 1967. Three days before his death, he records a pastoral Soul record, “(Sittin’ on the) Dock of the Bay.”

1967

Aretha Franklin signs with Atlantic. After six commercially arid years on Columbia, she is signed by Atlantic and taken to Muscle Shoals to record “I Never Loved a Man” at FAME. She records sixteen No. 1 R&B hits on Atlantic between 1967 and 1979, including many of the era’s best-known songs: “Baby, I Love You,” “Natural Woman,” “Chain of Fools,” etc.

1967

Respect.” A song that Otis Redding wrote and recorded in 1965 is re-recorded by Aretha Franklin and becomes more than a call for respect within a relationship. It tops the Pop and R&B charts and wins two Grammys.

1967

“Soul Man.” Isaac Hayes and Dave Porter’s song is recorded for Stax Records by Sam & Dave and becomes the song that identifies R&B’s new direction as “Soul.” Hayes takes his cue from footage of the 1967 riots in Detroit where he sees stores in African American neighborhoods with “Soul” painted on them.

1967

Malaco opens a recording studio in Jackson, Mississippi. Since 1962, Malaco has been a booking agency.

1967

Charles Wright & the Watts 103rd St. Rhythm Band. Wright, originally from Clarksdale, Mississippi, joins James Brown at the forefront of emerging Funk music. Polyrhythmic grooves, elastic pulse, and de-emphasizing melody and harmony distinguish Funk from Soul.

1968

Martin Luther King killed in Memphis; Soul music becomes politicized. Dr. King is shot at the hotel where Wilson Pickett and Steve Cropper wrote “In the Midnight Hour.” Riots erupt throughout the United States. As music and politics become entwined, Stax releases an LP to urban radio, Stay in School, Don’t Be a Drop-Out. James Brown releases the ultimate statement of Black Pride, “Say It Out (I’m Black and I’m Proud).”

1968

Al Green signs with Hi Records. Willie Mitchell joins Hi Records as a partner and signs Al Green, who breaks through in 1971 with a radical rethink of the Temptations’ “Can’t Get Next to You,” setting the stage for seven years of Soul hits.

1969

The FAME house band departs to start Muscle Shoals Sound Studio. The first year’s sessions include “Take a Letter, Maria,” a hit for R&B singer R.B Greaves, and the Rolling Stones’ “Brown Sugar” and “Wild Horses.” The studio ambience and house band attract Bob Dylan, Traffic, Willie Nelson, Elton John, Paul Simon, and many others. After the Stax house band breaks up, Stax holds sessions at MSSS, including  the Staple Singers’I’ll Take You There” and “Respect Yourself.”

1969

The Meters break through with next-generation New Orleans music. The group had been Allen Toussaint’s studio group on sessions with Lee Dorsey, Aaron Neville, and others. As the Meters, five of their singles hit the R&B charts in 1969. Their tight, melodic grooves and Second Line rhythms are quintessential Funk. They’d been playing almost identical polyrhythmic tracks for years, underscoring New Orleans’ contribution to the genesis of Funk.

1969

Billboard magazine belatedly renames its R&B chart. Until 1982, it’s Best-Selling Soul Singles. In 1982, it becomes Black Singles.

1970

Malaco Studio cuts two hits in one session. The Jackson, Mississippi studio cuts King Floyd’s “Groove Me” and Jean Knight’s “Mr. Big Stuff” on the same day, both A&R’d by New Orleans arranger, Wardell Quezergue. Soon after, Malaco becomes a record label, keeping the flame of Southern R&B, Gospel, and Blues alive with artists including Denise LaSalle, Johnnie Taylor, Z.Z. Hill, and later Bobby Bland and Little Milton.

1971

“Theme from Shaft.” Isaac Hayes, formerly a songwriter and session musician at Stax, writes, sings, and arranges the symphonic Soul theme song to a blaxploitation movie. It tops the Pop and Soul charts, and wins the Oscar for Best Original Song. The 16th note hi-hat ride and wah-wah guitar become Funk hallmarks.

1972

Wattstax. Held to commemorate the seventh anniversary of L.A.’s Watts riots, the show presents Stax’s then-current line-up, including Isaac Hayes, the Staple Singers, in concert in Los Angeles. The event is filmed and released nationwide in 1973.

1975

Stax Records forced into bankruptcy. Union Planters Bank seizes the assets, sells them to a holding company which in turn sells them to Fantasy Records in Berkeley, California. In 1981, Union Planters deeds the Stax studio on McLemore Avenue to Southside Church of God in Christ for ten dollars, and the church tears it down in 1989.

1975

Dorothy Moore’s “Misty Blue.” Originally a Country song, “Misty Blue” is recorded at Malaco in Jackson, Mississippi, and becomes one of the last great Southern Soul classics before Disco.

1976

Advent of Disco. New York dee-jay Larry Levan begins spinning Disco records and remixes at the Paradise Garage in New York. Memphis dee-jay, Rick Dees, records the biggest-selling record ever made in Memphis, “Disco Duck.” It is first released on a label owned by Estelle Axton (the “ax” in Stax). The Disco craze goes viral with the success of Saturday Night Fever in 1978.

1977

Hi Records sold. The company moves to California, and the acclaimed Hi rhythm section breaks up.

1979

Al Green leaves secular music. Although successful, Green becomes disenchanted with his life as a “no good, woman hunting, champagne drinking, good time having, Saturday night blues singing man.” He buys a church in Memphis and becomes a pastor.

1979

Sugar Hill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight” released. It’s the first Rap hit.

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