‘You can feel the energy’: Concerted efforts helped bring back the legend of Stax

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The Stax Museum is located at 926 East McLemore Avenue in Memphis — but it is not, in fact, house in the old building where so many legendary soul sides were once cut. That facility was actually torn down in 1989, before a motivated group of locals decided to center a revitalization program on bringing the former Stax space back.

For people like Steve Cropper, who spent years making music in the converted former Capitol Theatre that was Stax Records, their efforts were well worth it: “I swear, you can feel the energy coming out of the ground of that place,” Cropper tells Guitar Shop. “I know the old building doesn’t exist. But they went and found the original blueprints of that theater, and they came real close to duplicating the studio. It’s a little cleaner than it was then! [Laughs.] But we didn’t care. We were just in there making music.”

The building was initially sold to a church, after Stax went bankrupt in 1976. For a time, it was used as a soup kitchen, but over the years, the studios fell into disrepair. Construction on the museum, and adjacent Stax Music Academy, began in 2001 — with a grand opening held two years later. Such was their attention to detail that the floor in Studio A replicates the original’s sloping floor.

“It’s unbelievable,” Cropper says. “All I can say is: They spent their money well.”

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