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HBO

A New HBO Documentary Series ‘Stax: Soulsville U.S.A.’ Debuts This Month

The Memphis Soul Sound That Electrified The World

The HBO Original four-part documentary series Stax: Soulsville U.S.A., an official selection of the 2024 SXSW Film & TV Festival and winner of the TV Premiere Audience Award, is produced and directed by filmmaker Jamila Wignot. The series, a production of Laylow Pictures and White Horse Pictures in association with Concord Originals, Polygram Entertainment, and Warner Music Entertainment, debuts Monday, May 20 (9:00-10:00 p.m. ET/PT) on HBO with two episodes airing back-to-back, followed by the final two episodes airing back-to-back on Tuesday, May 21 at the same time. All four episodes of the series will be available to stream on Max on May 20.

Synopsis

By 1973, Stax Records was one of the recording industry’s most influential producers of soul music, breaking acts such as Otis Redding, Isaac Hayes, Booker T. & the M.G.’s, Sam & Dave, and many more. In just under two decades, the scrappy outsider had grown from a modest family-owned record store and studio in Memphis, TN to a trailblazing global music label. Stax: Soulsville U.S.A. chronicles the audacious group of individuals who dared to make music on their own terms, smashing racial barriers and defining an era and leaving an enduring musical legacy in their wake. Driven by a striking collection of restored and remastered archival performance footage and intimate interviews with key players in the label’s remarkable history, Stax: Soulsville U.S.A. details the unlikely origin story of Stax Records and pays tribute to its complex music library and the legendary artists that emerged from the iconic studio.

Founded in 1957 by Jim Stewart and co-owned with his sister, Estelle Axton, the company drew upon a mix of young, local talent – musicians, songwriters, and producers – who would create the unforgettable Stax sound. Against the backdrop of the American south of the ‘50s, ‘60s, and ‘70s, white and Black artists worked together, defying segregation, and producing hits such as “(Sittin’ On) the Dock of the Bay,” “Soul Man,” “Green Onions,” and the Oscar®-winning “Theme from Shaft.” At the peak of its success, Stax artists commemorated the Watts Rebellion by playing to over 100,000 African Americans at the 1972 benefit concert Wattstax. During an era of major social turbulence, systemic inequity, and racial tensions, Stax, an integrated company, saw stunning artistic and cultural success, and managed to rebound from repeated business setbacks and tragic losses before the studio ultimately dissolved after fifteen pioneering years.

A wealth of music and archival footage is complemented by insight from: Stax founder Jim Stewart and co-owner Estelle Axton; the legendary Otis Redding and Isaac Hayes, Stax producer and artist; Al Bell, Stax’s former president, owner, and director of promotions; Deanie Parker, Stax’s director of publicity; David Porter, musician and Stax songwriter; Booker T. Jones, Booker T. & The M.G.’s musician and band leader; Booker T. & the M.G.’s guitarist, Steve Cropper; Rufus Thomas, artist and Memphis DJ; Carla Thomas, Stax singer and songwriter; Sam Moore, singer; Bar-Kays bassist, James Alexander; musician and Bar-Kays drummer, Willie Hall; Howard Robertson, Stax publicist; Terry Manning, Stax engineerBettye Crutcher, Stax songwriter; Bobby Manuel, Stax guitarist; Wattstax cinematographers Larry Clark and Roderick Young; Bruce Talamon, photographer; James Douglas, marketing and promotions for Stax; and Rob Bowman, historian and author of “Soulsville, U.S.A.”

Are you going to check out Stax: Soulsville U.S.A. when it airs on HBO?

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