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Soulsville USA street renamed after Stax legend James Alexander, the only living member of the original Bar-Kays

The Memphis music legend was in attendance for the ceremony which saw his childhood street renamed in his honor.
Credit: WATN

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — In a special ceremony on Sunday, Stafford Avenue was renamed for Stax legend and iconic funk bassist James Alexander, whose childhood home was on the street. 

He is the founder and only living member of the original Bar-Kays, Otis Redding’s Stax touring band and longtime pioneers in the funk genre. The new moniker will change the name from Stafford Avenue to “James E. Alexander Avenue.”

Memphis City Councilman JB Smiley, who sponsored the street renaming resolution, said, “Mr. Alexander has blazed a trail worth following and opened doors for many. He is a fine example of what it means to be a Memphian.”

Alexander was the original bassist for the Bar-Kays when four of the six band members were killed in the same December 10, 1967 plane crash that claimed the life of singer Otis Redding. Alexander was the only Bar-Kays member not aboard that flight, which was carrying Redding, five of the Bar-Kays, the pilot, and Redding's road manager. 

Because the plane could accommodate only a certain number of people, Alexander boarded a commercial flight to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, with plans to join the group for their next gig in Madison. After the plane crashed in the icy waters of Lake Monona just a few miles from the Madison airport, Alexander had the task of identifying the bodies of his bandmates, as well as that of Redding. He was 17 years old.

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After the crash, Alexander worked to reform the band, with the addition of lead singer Larry Dodson, formerly of The Temprees. Cauley left the group in 1971 and went on to perform with the likes of B.B. King, Levon Helm, Keith Richards, Boz Scaggs and numerous others until his death in 2015.

Today, Alexander and the reformed Bar-Kays have been performing their unique style of funk for more than 60 years, during which time they have released more than 20 albums and some 50 singles. They remain a sought-after touring group. They were inducted into the Memphis Music Hall of Fame in 2013 and the National Rhythm and Blues Music Hall of Fame in 2015. 

Alexander is the father of famed hip hop and R&B producer and artist, Phalon “Jazze Pha” Alexander, who has worked with many music artists such as Ciara, T.I., Field Mob, Too Short, Slick Rick, Ludacris, and OutKast, among many others.

RELATED: Memphis street being renamed for member of The Bar-Kays

“I am absolutely in awe about the renaming of the street I grew up on, Stafford Avenue, to James E. Alexander Avenue,” Alexander said. “Words can’t even express what I’m feeling right now about this kind of recognition. I think it’s just amazing to receive this accolade.”

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