While many people are familiar with the music of the famed Stax label, the story of its earliest day isn’t one that’s frequently told. In our latest podcast episode, we explore the life and music of Charles “Packy” Axton, son of Stax co-founder Estelle Axton. It’s not an exaggeration to say that the music of the Stax label would’ve been very different if not for Packy’s early involvement. If you’d like to read more about Stax and southern soul music be sure to check out Respect Yourself by Robert Gordon, Sweet Soul Music by Peter Guralnick, and Soulsville U.S.A., by Rob Bowman.
As promised in our last post, today we are publishing the Nadia Price Collection! Nadia opened her own photography studio in Memphis in 1945 and her collection documents her impressive talent.
During her career Nadia documented businesses and buildings in Memphis, simple life in the Mississippi Delta, children at camp, girl scout troops, thoroughbred horses, and portraits, just to name some of her most frequent subjects. This collection gives a unique insight into Nadia’s career and we would once again like to thank our Rhodes Fellows Maria & Sandro for their hard work processing and digitizing this collection. See the post below this for information about the Open House in their honor.
On Thursday, August 27th, the History Department will be hosting an Open House as a token of our appreciation for all the work done by our Rhodes College Fellows this summer. Maria and Sandro have done some great work processing and digitizing collections over the past few months. These collections include: the J. Porter McClean Collection, the Claypool Family Collection, the Walter R. Streuli Collection, and the Nowag Music Collection. Their most impressive work, however, was the Nadia Price collection. Nadia was a local photographer and her collection includes over 600 photographs.
Selections from the Walter R. Streuli Collection, and the Nowag Music Collection have been added to the M Files. Look for more information next week about the Nadia Price Collection when it is published to Dig Memphis.
Thanks again Maria and Sandro for all the great work!
Most Memphians, whether it be through Piggly Wiggly or the Pink Palace, are at least somewhat familiar with Clarence Saunders. Famous in his own time for inventing the self-service grocery store in 1916, Saunders quite literally revolutionized grocery shopping. Though he lost much of his fortune and was forced to sell the partially completed Pink Palace due to stock market woes, Saunders wasn’t done innovating by a long shot.
A large part of this new digital collection focus on Saunders’ second grocery store model: Keedoozle. Perhaps the best way to describe Keedoozle is as a giant vending machine for all your grocery shopping needs. Insufficient technology of the day prevented Saunders’ aotumation vision from achieving its true potential and the concept never took hold.
This collection was digitzed by Rhodes Alumnus and occasional Histroy Department volunteer Matthew Moore.
In this episode, we discuss the melting pot of Memphis’ musical history and how it gave rise to one of the all-time great jazz pianists: Phineas Newborn Jr. Though little known today outside of jazz circles, in his prime Newborn was frequently compared to Art Tatum and Bud Powell while also being acknowledged as one of the most talented musicians working and recording.
After you listen, be sure to check out our Spotify playlist of music discussed on the show.
As you’ve probably heard by now, B.B. King passed away in his sleep last night at the age of 89. Though not a native Memphian, King was as well known and successful an emissary as the Bluff City has ever had. One of the so-called “Three Kings of the Blues Guitar” (alongside Albert King and Freddie King), B.B. King was for many the very embodiment of blues music; his contribution to the style can simply not be overstated.
After discovering that he could earn more than double the amount he was paid growing cotton by playing in clubs, Riley B. King moved from Itta Bena, Mississippi to Memphis. In 1949, King became a regular DJ on WDIA, where he first became known as the Beale Street Blues Boy (eventually shortened to Blues Boy, or B.B.). “Three O’Clock Blues” wasn’t his first recording, but it was the first to find widespread success. Soon after King was touring seemingly non-stop, regularly playing between 200 and 300 shows a year, even into his 80s. His greatest chart success came in 1969 with “The Thrill is Gone”, though he also had hits in the 1990s and 2000s thanks to collaborations with U2 and Eric Clapton.
Incredibly prolific during his 66 years in the music industry, King recorded over 40 studio albums and 17 live albums, including 1965’s famous Live at the Regal (1971’s Live at Cook County Jail is a personal favorite). In 2006, President Bush awarded King the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Memphis and blues fans the world over will always remember King and his contributions to not just the blues, but the music industry at large. Our thoughts go out to his family members.