MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Jim Stewart, the co-founder of Stax Records in Memphis, died at 92 years old Monday morning, according to the Stax Museum of American Soul Music.
According to Stewart's biography on the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame's website, he was born on July 29, 1930 in Middleton, Tennessee. He got his start in the music business as a part-time country fiddle player. He left his family's farm at 18 years old to come to Memphis to attend then-Memphis State University.
"He brought with him two very important things: the fiddle he had practiced playing for years when he wasn’t in school or working in the fields, and the notion that he was going to get into the music business," the Stax Museum of American Soul Music wrote in a statement. "The fiddle didn’t earn him a living and he worked first at Sears Roebuck and then as a bank teller while playing around town with various bands in the evenings. But that notion to get into the music business kept at him. And he kept at it."
The museum said Stewart died peacefully surrounded by his family.
The longtime Memphis resident founded Satellite Records, which was later known as Stax, in the late 1950s. After that, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame said he convinced his sister Estelle Axton to take out a second mortgage on her home to finance a label inspired by Sam Phillips' success at Sun Records.
"WOW!! No way a poor kid from a housing project’s picture in Memphis would be on a bus rolling through Memphis if it were not for this man, JIM STEWART the ST of the word Stax," Porter wrote. "The co-owner and beginning of Stax Records! He passed this morning at 92 years old! I love and acknowledge him and his memory. RIP my dear benefactor to American Soul music."
Stewart was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2002 by Steve Cropper of Booker T. & the M.G.'s and Sam Moore of Sam & Dave. By then a very private person, Stewart sent his granddaughter to accept his award on his behalf.