Tonight, BBC Four re-airs Stax Records – 50 Years of Soul: a star-studded tribute to the legendary soul label, Stax Records. The 2017 concert, captured at the Royal Albert Hall for the BBC Proms, featured several of the label’s greatest surviving artists, including Booker T. Jones, Steve Cropper, Sam Moore, Eddie Floyd, and William Bell.
The broadcast originally celebrated the 50th anniversary of the 1967 Stax/Volt tour of the UK and Europe, which included all of the artists above. Tonight’s airing is part of the BBC’s Proms 2020 season, which showcases six weeks of archival concerts, plus two weeks of live performances.
The historic, 75-minute concert also included appearances by some of Britain’s biggest Stax devotees, including Sir Tom Jones, Beverley Knight, Ruby Turner, and James Morrison. Musician and TV presenter Jools Holland offered accompaniment with his Rhythm & Blues Orchestra.
When uDiscover caught up with the visiting Stax legends in 2017, it was clear that the concert stirred strong memories of their 1967 tour.
Booker T. Jones and Steve Cropper, for example, performed on the dates as part of Booker T. and the M.G.’s. In a backstage interview, Jones said that “the respect and the appreciation for the music [in the UK] is a big deal. That was such a huge part of our continuation. You have to have people that listen and buy the music in order to keep doing it, so that’s been such a great contribution from here, to our career.”
Cropper added, “it’s good to play with my buds again. When I saw the [song] list, I said, some of those songs, I haven’t played on since the session. And some, like let’s say ‘Green Onions’ and ‘Knock On Wood’ and ‘Dock Of The Bay,’ I play every night.”
Eddie Floyd, meanwhile, had just hit the UK top 20 with “Knock On Wood” when he travelled across the pond in 1967. The 2017 event was bittersweet for Floyd. “A lot of members of that show are now deceased, but there’s still three or four of us standing,” he told uDiscover. “We’re now playing with Jools and the orchestra, and it’s going to be great.”
William Bell, whose first UK success came soon after the tour, shared: “It’s going to be a tremendous concert, because it’s like homecoming. It’s a great venue we’re doing it in, and we’re happy that the BBC is behind us with this.”
Longtime Stax associate Deanie Parker was also in London for the show. Parker’s relationship with Stax began in 1963, where she worked as an artist, songwriter, and publicist. Parker went on to become the CEO of Soulsville – the nonprofit organization that oversees the Stax Museum of American Soul Music, the Stax Music Academy, the Soulsville Foundation, and The Soulsville Charter School. While Parker retired from the position in 2007, she remains a key figure, historian, and spokeswoman within the Stax universe.
Parker told uDiscover that attending the Proms rehearsal was “emotionally…overwhelming. We’re all getting older now, and I don’t take for granted opportunities to unite with the artists. It’s such a joy. To be able to relive it and talk about it and hear these guys performing…they are better than they were when we did this the first time.”
Stax Records – 50 Years of Soul airs tonight on BBC Four.