If you have not read Robert Gordon's fantastic history of Stax, Respect Yourself, then you are basically a Louisville fan. The book is the most in-depth history of Memphis' integrated hit machine and one of the best things I've read in some time. But on Thursday, the characters come to life at Rhodes, where Gordon will host a panel of Stax's surviving leaders. Willie Hall (pictured), Don Nix, Bettye Crutcher, and Marvell Thomas are the stars of this panel presented by Rhodes' Mike Curb Institute.
Willie Hall. Where to start on this guy? He's a Bar-Kay, he played percussion on Shaft, and he played drums for the whole Stax roster from the late 1960s until the label's demise in the 1970s. A colorful character to say the least, Hall was cast for the Blues Brothers band and has backed everyone from Ray Charles to Earl Scruggs. Earl. Scruggs.
Bettye Crutcher is one of the unsung heroes of the Stax story. Crutcher wrote more songs than we can enumerate. She's credited on Johnnie Taylor's "Who's Making Love," the Staples Singers' "The Ghetto," and William Bell's "My Whole World Is Falling Down." Joan Baez, the Allman Brothers, and Paul Weller have performed her songs.
Marvell Thomas is the son of Memphis' musical godhead: Rufus Thomas. He played piano on Etta James' Tell Mama, the Staples Singers' Soul Folk in Action, and was a producer on Hot Buttered Soul.
Finally, there is Don Nix. Few people have the institutional knowledge of Stax that Nix has. He was a member of the Mar-Keys, the original Stax band started by Estelle Axton's son Packy. Nix went on to a career of music production that involved George Harrison and, most importantly, Moloch. Go to this. — Joe Boone
"Respect Yourself: A Celebration of Stax Records" with Willie Hall, Don Nix, Marvell Thomas, Bettye Crutcher, and Robert Gordon at Rhodes College, McCallum Ballroom, Thursday, March 6th, 6 p.m.