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STAX LABEL CO-FOUNDER ESTELLE AXTON DIES

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FROM WWW.BBC.CO.UK (27 FEB 2004)

Soul label Stax co-founder dies

Estelle Axton, who helped create the legendary US soul music label Stax, has died in hospital in Memphis aged 85.

Axton and brother Jim Stewart began the label in a former cinema, combining the first part of their surnames to create the Stax name.

Memphis-based Stax was home to artists such as Otis Redding, Rufus Thomas, Isaac Hayes and Booker T & the MGs.

Axton helped to create a soul music legend

Estelle Axton, who helped create the legendary US soul music label Stax, has died in hospital in Memphis aged 85.

Axton and brother Jim Stewart began the label in a former cinema, combining the first part of their surnames to create the Stax name.

Memphis-based Stax was home to artists such as Otis Redding, Rufus Thomas, Isaac Hayes and Booker T & the MGs.

Axton helped give Stax its reputation for racial harmony, as black and white artists came together there to record.

The Stax studio, which became known as "Soulsville USA", was second only to Motown in its production of soul hits during its 1960s heyday.

The old Stax studio brought black and white artists together

It was also remarkable for being an integrated business in a largely segregated city.

Axton and her brother were white, while most of their hitmakers were black. "We never looked at colour - we looked at people," she once said.

Axton grew up in Middleton, Tennessee, and trained as a teacher before going into business with her brother in 1959.

They originally began as Satellite Records, about 30 miles outside Memphis, but struggled to attract artists to their studio and looked for a city location.

The first singers to record at the studio were father and daughter Rufus and Carla Thomas.

In 1969, after disagreement about the label's direction, Axton quietly left the company.

It went bankrupt in 1975, and the old Stax headquarters was demolished in 1989.

Last year, a new building opened on the site as the Stax Museum of American Soul Music and the Stax Music Academy.

Axton, who died of natural causes on Tuesday, is survived by a daughter, Doris.

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