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Jim Stewart (record producer)

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Jim Stewart
Stewart c. 1960s
Stewart c. 1960s
Background information
Birth nameJames Frank Stewart
Born(1930-07-29)July 29, 1930
Middleton, Tennessee, U.S.
DiedDecember 5, 2022(2022-12-05) (aged 92)
Memphis, Tennessee, U.S.
  • Record executive
  • record producer
Years active1957–1975

James Frank Stewart[1] (July 29, 1930 – December 5, 2022) was an American record producer and executive who in 1957 co-founded Stax Records with his sister Estelle Axton. Stax was one of the leading recording companies during soul and R&B music's heyday.[2][3] The label also scored many hits on the Billboard Hot 100 pop music chart, and internationally, during this time.[4][5]

Life and career[edit]

Stewart was born on July 29, 1930.[1] Raised on a farm in Middleton, Tennessee, he moved to Memphis in 1948 after graduating from high school, then worked at Sears and the First National Bank before being drafted into the United States Army. After serving for two years, Stewart returned to his job as a bank clerk in Memphis in 1953.[6]

Stewart was a part-time fiddle player and joined a local country music group, the Canyon Cowboys. He worked days as a banker at Union Planters Bank. In 1957, Stewart launched his own record label, then called Satellite Records, which issued country music and rockabilly records. His sister, Estelle Axton, mortgaged her home to invest in her brother's venture by buying an Ampex 300 tape recorder. The label's ultimate name "Stax" was derived from Stewart and Axton.[7]

Although Stewart initially recorded country music and some rockabilly, several local R&B musicians, including Rufus Thomas, found their way to Stax and also began recording there. With the success of Thomas' "Cause I Love You", Stewart made a distribution deal in 1960 giving Atlantic first choice on releasing Satellite (later Stax) recordings.[8]

After selling millions of records during its history,[9]

In 2018, Stewart made a rare public appearance at the Stax Museum to donate his fiddle to the museum.[10]

Stewart died on December 5, 2022, at the age of 92.[1][11]

Prior to his death in 2022, Stewart gave interviews for the HBO documentary Stax: Soulsville U.S.A., which was not released until 2024.[12]


Some of the R & B artists who worked with Stewart include: William Bell, Booker T & the MGs, Eddie Floyd, Isaac Hayes, Otis Redding, Carla Thomas, and Sam & Dave.[4]


  1. ^ a b c Friskics-Warren, B. (2022), "Jim Stewart, Unlikely Entrepreneur of Soul Music, Dies at 92", New York Times, retrieved 8 December 2022
  2. ^ Grace Lichtenstein, "U.S. Details Payola Plot Of $406,737", New York Times, August 22, 1973. Retrieved 6 December 2022
  3. ^ Bowman, Rob (1995). "The Stax Sound: A Musicological Analysis". Popular Music. 14 (3): 285–320. doi:10.1017/S0261143000007753. JSTOR 853127. S2CID 162379706.
  4. ^ a b Madarang, C. (2022), "Jim Stewart, Stax Records Co-Founder, Dead at 92", Rolling Stone, retrieved 8 December 2022
  5. ^ "Stax Records founder Jim Stewart, who helped produce the "Memphis sound," is dead at 92", Music Times, 7 December 2022, retrieved 8 December 2022, Stax's 15 years of service led the company to push more than 167 songs on the Billboard Hot 100.
  6. ^ Cogan, Jim; Clark, William, Temples of sound : inside the great recording studios, San Francisco : Chronicle Books, 2003. ISBN 0-8118-3394-1. Cf. pp. 65–66.
  7. ^ "Stax Records founder Jim Stewart, who helped produce the "Memphis sound," is dead at 92", The Week, 7 December 2022, retrieved 8 December 2022
  8. ^ Bowman, Rob (1997). Soulsville USA. p. 12
  9. ^ Press, T. A. (2022), "Jim Stewart, co-founder of Stax Records in Memphis, dies at age 92", NPR, retrieved 8 December 2022, Stax and its affiliated record labels released 300 albums and 800 singles between 1959 and 1975, according to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
  10. ^ Mehr, B., "Stax Records alumni salute founder Jim Stewart during emotional museum event", The Commercial Appeal, retrieved 8 December 2022
  11. ^ Mehr, Bob. "Stax Records co-founder, Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Famer Jim Stewart dies at 92". The Commercial Appeal. Retrieved 6 December 2022.
  12. ^ Hamilton, Jack (2024-05-20). "A Great New Documentary Corrects the Record About One of Music's Most Important Chapters". Slate. Retrieved 2024-06-11.

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