Stax Songwriters Get The Spotlight Via Demos Release

Stax Records is best known for releasing music by stars like Otis Redding, Carla Thomas, Sam & Dave, and the Staple Singers, but their success was built upon songwriters. Craft Recordings will be celebrating the work of these writers with the collection Written in Their Soul: The Stax Songwriter Demos. Set for release on June 23, 2023, the 7-disc box set includes 146 demos (140 previously unreleased) from Stax’s roster of songwriters, including Bettye Crutcher, Homer Banks, and William Bell.

Compiled by multiple Grammy-winning producer Cheryl Pawelski and restored/mastered by multiple Grammy-winning engineer Michael Graves, the songs featured on Written in Their Soul fall into three categories: demos that were released by artists at Stax or its subsidiary imprints, including Volt, We Produce, and Enterprise (CDs 1–3); demos by Stax songwriters that were released by artists on other labels, such as Atlantic and Decca (CD 4); and a trove of recordings that were never released (CDs 5–7).

Adding context to these songs are notes by Pawelski, plus a new essay by Emmy and Grammy-winning writer/producer Robert Gordon (Respect Yourself: The Stax Records Story) and Stax’s original Director of Publicity Deanie Parker. Parker later served as the founding President and CEO of the Soulsville Foundation, which encompasses the Stax Museum of American Soul Music, among other educational organizations. Ms. Parker, who joined the Stax fold in 1962, was also a songwriter at the label.

A first taste of Written in Their Soul has been released with a demo of “634-5789 (Soulsville, USA).” Written by Eddie Floyd and Steve Cropper, the song was famously recorded by Wilson Pickett, who made it a No.1 R&B hit and Top 20 pop single in 1966. Released on Atlantic Records, the song’s title was inspired by the Marvelettes’ 1962 hit, “Beachwood 4-5789,” while the tune would later be recorded by Tina Turner, Ry Cooder, and Bon Jovi.

Cheryl Pawelski comments:

Demo recordings are often tossed off without inhibition, just writer and tape recorder sharing an intimate space. I love all these songs as they tumbled out for the first time. They’re filled with the joy and magic of discovering something that wasn’t there moments before. Suddenly, there it is, a song filled with the hope of finding an audience, of saying something, of moving someone.

About Stax Records:

Stax Records, now owned by Concord, was founded by Jim Stewart in 1957 in Memphis, Tennessee. It rose from a small, family-operated company to become one of the most influential record labels in the world, helping create “The Memphis Sound” and launching the careers of icons such as Otis Redding, Isaac Hayes, Booker T. & The M.G.’s the Staple Singers, Sam & Dave, Rufus and Carla Thomas, The Bar-Kays, and dozens of other artists who helped change popular culture forever. In all, Stax placed 167 hit songs in the Top 100 in Pop and 243 hits in the Top 100 in R&B.