March 13, 2004 by

Estelle Axton

1 comment

Categories: Business, Musicians

eaxton.jpgAs the co-founder of the Stax Records Co., Estelle Axton was a maternal presence in the Memphis music scene. Known as Lady A, she and her brother Jimmy Stewart built an R&B record label that rivaled Detroit’s Motown during the late 1960s and early 1970s.
Axton grew up in Tennessee, playing the organ and singing in the family’s gospel quartet. She studied education at Memphis State University, where she met her husband Everett Axton.
Axton was a middle-aged bank clerk when she mortgaged her home to launch the record company in 1957. It was originally called Satellite Records, but that name had to be changed because another company already owned the rights to it. So the siblings combined their last names to come up with Stax.
During its heyday, Stax Records offered an impressive lineup of artists, including Sam and Dave, Otis Redding Jr., Isaac Hayes, The Staple Singers, Booker T. and the MGs, Rufus Thomas, and the Mar-Keys. Several Stax tunes, such as “Soul Man” and “In the Midnight Hour,” turned into chart-topping hits.
Until the company went bankrupt in 1975, it placed 166 hits in the pop charts. Two years later, Axton and other family members established Fretone Records, which produced the popular Rick Dees single, “Disco Duck.” A museum dedicated to the history of Stax opened in 2003.
Axton died on Feb. 24 of natural causes. She was 85.

One Response to Estelle Axton

  1. Carla

    I admire Mrs. Axton’s intrepid nature. It took bravery, I think, for a woman of her times to drop a paying job, cash out her assets, and branch out into a profession mostly dominated by men.
    Rest in peace, Lady A.

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