We’re back at the Upper Cut Club in Forest Gate for this week’s musical history lesson.
On Saturday, March 18th 1967, the Uppercut was visited by the amazing Stax Volt review.
Stax Records began as a small local record label in Memphis in 1957 by Jim Stewart and Estelle Axton. Their intention was to take advantage of the huge untapped talent of the African American singers in the Southern states of America.
At the time black musicians could perform almost anywhere but were usually forbidden from sitting in the audience in most venues. The races, particularly in the southern states, were strictly segregated. Often the slightest offence caused to a white person could result in violence – even death (look up the history of the song Strange Fruit).
Against this background, Stax records had a mixed race house band, Booker T and the MGs, who played on almost all their hit records – sometimes recording 4 or 5 tunes a day.
In 1967, the Stax Volt Revue took to the road in Europe, motivated by the huge following the music enjoyed in Europe and the more liberal racial atmosphere here.
They became one of the biggest labels in the USA, boasting artist such as Sam and Dave and Otis Redding. You should definitely check out their music if you haven’t already. Here’s Otis Redding himself the day he played in Forest Gate.
The Revue had a very fixed format – first Booker T and the MGs came on stage, then, after playing their hit Green Onions, they were joined by their sax section, Mar-Keys. Now the band was in place – the singers came on one by one, performed a couple of songs, then left. The whole show is a well rehearsed and very slick 1 hour long. We could all learn a great deal from the professionalism and readiness of these superb musicians – no faffing about between songs just hit after hit….
A couple of weeks later the same review took place in Norway and it was filmed for tv – you can watch the whole show below.