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Stax Museum of American Soul Music announces year-long celebration for 20th anniversary

Events are planned throughout 2023 to celebrate the museum's 20 years highlighting legendary Memphis music.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The Stax Museum of American Soul Music and the Soulsville Foundation are ready to celebrate the museum’s 20th anniversary throughout 2023.

The organizations announced the plans during a special event Wednesday afternoon, featuring the legendary Booker T Jones of Booker T. and the M.G’s. He performed with a rhythm section made up of alumni from the Stax Music Academy. He’s also set to be inducted into the Memphis Music Hall of Fame Thursday night.

Soulsville Foundation President and CEO Pat Mitchell Worley introduced the events planned so far for the year-long celebration, and announced a special group of 2023 ambassadors is being formed.

The group will include one-time Stax Records artists and executives who will advise the museum, attend events, conduct interviews, and raise awareness of the Stax legacy during the year.

“With the Stax Museum celebrating its 20th Anniversary in 2023 and HBO to air the Stax Records documentary series during the same year, there will be much attention given to soul music art form we created at College and McLemore,” said one-time Stax Records executive and owner Al Bell. “It’s a very complicated story filled with the kinds of highs and lows that came with being a predominantly Black record company trying to thrive in the music industry of the 1960s and 1970s. It is filled with high points but also the challenges we faced.”

“We’ve very carefully planned the Stax Museum’s 20th Anniversary so the community and the public can join us in 2023 for a very special year of events to celebrate the legacy of Stax Records,” said Stax Museum Executive Director Jeff Kollath. “Stax Records and the Stax Museum is a Memphis story that started here and became known around the world. We want to celebrate not only the past 20 years, but also look forward to the museum’s next 20 years and what we can accomplish as we continue to interpret the Stax story.”

Mitchell Worley added, "Celebrating the 20th Anniversary in 2023 will be a milestone for the Stax family. We are tremendously proud to continue the legacy of Stax with a year-long calendar of exciting events slated to celebrate the past, present, future of the Stax Museum.”

Below are some of the highlights officials said people can expect in 2023:

  • A year of free field trips for Memphis Shelby County Schools students to familiarize more young people with the history of Stax Records;
  • An April 23 “Night Train” gala fundraising designed as a walk through the history of Black American music, reminiscent of when people traveled by rail; this will replace our annual Staxtacular event;
  • The May activation of a Stax Soul Mobile Pop-Up vehicle that will take Stax music, merchandise, contests, parties, and more around the country to locations like Austin’s SXSW, Nashville’s Americana Fest, and New Orleans’ Essence Festival;
  • A July “Live In Studio A” concert series featuring intimate performances by nationally touring acts;
  • A monthly series of free and open-to-the-public events to give fans and community residents even more access to celebrating the Stax Museum’s 20th Anniversary.
  • The series will include events such as:
    • January – Grand reopening of the Stax Museum’s newly renovated lobby and gift shop;
    • February – A premier of the Stax Museum and Stax Music Academy’s Black History Month 2023 Virtual Film celebrating the 20t anniversary;
    • February - Film Screening event for the 50th anniversary of the 1973 Golden Globe Award-nominated documentary Wattstax, chronicling the famed 1972 Los Angeles concert hosted by Stax Records as well as on-the-street interviews and commentary by a young Richard Pryor;
    • March – Lecture and book signing for Black Country Music: Listening for Revolutions - Francesca Royster, first Black author to write a book about country music and racism;
    • April – A Spoken Word event during which multigenerational spoken word artists will discuss and perform pieces about Stax and Soulsville;
    • May – A Birthday Party to celebrate the official 20th Anniversary of the Stax Museum
    • June – A Black Music Month live-streamed Panel Discussion in which current Memphis artists and industry leaders will the future of Memphis music: labels, studios, audiences, venues, consumers, and more;
    • June - Written in their Soul: The Stax Songwriters Demos, a celebration of Stax Records’ all-star songwriting aces such as Sir Mack Rice, Bettye Crutcher, Homer Banks, Henderson Thigpen, plus never-before-hear songs by Eddie Floyd, the Staple Singers, and William Bell;
    • July - Wax & WineFirst-of-its-kind event in Memphis pairing wines selected by a local sommelier with appetizers and a soundtrack featuring rare soul recordings from the Stax Museum’s Bob Abrahamian Collection. Ticketed event, limited seating. 
    • August- The Whole Damn World Is Going Crazy: A celebration of the song’s author John Gary Williams of the Mad Lads, plus a film screening of the 2016 documentary The Invaders about a Memphis 1960s Black Power youth group of which Williams was a member, plus a sneak peek at John Hubbell’s upcoming film about Williams’ life;
    • September - Soldiers for the Lord: The Gospel Impulse in Memphis and Beyond: A celebration of the Black gospel music recorded at Stax plus gospel artists and producers from Memphis and beyond discussing and performing soon-to-be classics of the genre;
    • September - Southwest of Memphis: A Celebration of Chicano Soul: Celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month with the Stax Museum’s first examination of the Chicano Soul Movement;
    • October – Back to School: From Professor W.T. McDaniel to Jimmie Lunceford, the teachers who taught the basics of blues and improvisation of jazz were the true inspiration behind the Memphis music sound. Todays’ music educators discuss teaching a new generation of Memphis musicians;
    • November – Wax and Wine: Wine tastings paired with appetizers and listening party with the Stax Museum’s Bob Abrahamian Collection. Ticketed event.
    • December – In the Christmas Spirit annual Stax Museum holiday bash with food, cocktails, live music by Booker T. & the M.G.’s cover band The MD’s, and more.

Learn more about the Stax Museum of American Soul Music at https://staxmuseum.com/.

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