And when you get it, you got something…

Mike Lawson • Perspective • October 1, 2018

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Yeah man, did I get it! First time I heard the music of Stax/Volt Records’ southern-fried soul as a kid I was knocked out, inspired, and wanted to play music more than ever.

Otis Redding, Isaac Hayes, “Sam and Dave” (Porter, whom I was a Grammy Trustee with many years ago, along with Marvell Thomas), Rufus and his daughter Carla Thomas and other daughter Vaneese, Eddie Floyd, Booker T and the MGs, and the Memphis Horns – Andrew Love and Wayne Jackson. If their music doesn’t move and groove you, you can’t be moved or grooved. The Memphis Horns, y’all. Seriously. Just wow!

It takes a great song and a great performance of that song to make a hit. The recording equipment used is dead last in the equation for making a great record. Nowhere else is that more evident than a tour of the Stax Museum. The thing about the Stax Museum is you see first-hand the primitive stone knives and tools cobbled together for recording, ancient tape machines and playback speaker monitors, the microphones, and get to really understand that these soul-stirring hit records, these gems, these timeless classics, were made in spite of the worst conditions. I’ve been more than once. Every time I leave, I remind myself that I have 24 inputs in my home recording studio, unlimited tracks in Pro Tools, plugins galore, and can never make the excuse that my gear can’t produce amazing results. You leave completely understanding that it is a poor carpenter who blames his tools on his work. You’ll see that a great song and great performance of that song are far more important than the quality of the equipment recording it.

“Green Onions,” “Hold On, I’m Coming,” “Sitting on the Dock of the Bay,” “Soul Man.” I cannot list all of the hits, the artists, and their impact on our culture in this editorial. But I can make my case for Stax/Volt Records and their impact on me as a kid who wanted to make music, and I can celebrate in this issue the way Stax is helping kids in Memphis want to make music today.

Our cover story is about a charter school program in Memphis that is amazing. While I tend to lean more in favor of fully-funded public schools in my dream world where charter schools aren’t a thing, I am grateful that in our real world, people get together to do things like create The Soulsville Foundation to make this massive difference in a place like South Memphis with the population they serve.

I think you’ll be inspired by what they are doing there. While I know there is need everywhere for help with instruments, I will still use this space this month to encourage anyone who can to help The Soulsville Charter School Band as they search for more instruments. In particular, they need low brass Instruments such as tubas (concert or marching, with concert being first priority) along with concert baritones. They need woodwinds including bass clarinets, tenor, and baritone saxophones. And they could really use timpani. Contact Tim Sampson of The Soulsville Foundation if you think you can help at or 901-946-2535 ext. 324.

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