Written In Their Soul: The Stax Songwriter Demos

Various artists
Written In Their Soul: The Stax Songwriter Demos

You may think you know Stax, but this seven-CD set of 146 tracks (140 never before released) proves again how much creative genius was contained in that old Memphis theater turned recording studio. These songwriter demos are loose and unfinished – usually without a full band backing, and sans horn section. But they’re still soulful, funky, and in most cases, stunners. Plus, if you’re a fan of Steve Cropper and the Memphis guitar sound, you can hear it here loud and clear.

Dial up “634-5789 (Soulsville, USA).” Penned by Eddie Floyd and Cropper, the tune became a hit for Floyd’s former bandmate in the Falcons, Wilson Pickett. But Floyd’s demo unveils the genesis, powered by Cropper’s silky-smooth riffs. Ditto the Staples Singers’ smash “Respect Yourself,” demoed with an uptempo urgency by studio songwriter Mack Rice with jagged-but-driving guitar.

Other gems include the Staples’ “Top Of The Mountain” with Roebuck “Pops” Staples’ tremolo-laced rhythm and Rice’s demo of his “Linda Sue Dixon,” which became an LSD-paean for Mitch Ryder’s Detroit Wheels. And that’s just highlighting a handful of tracks. Last, but hardly least, in proving the point is a sweet tune simply titled “Song #2” by The MGs, presumably a studio jam that coulda, shoulda been a hit.

This article originally appeared in VG’s October 2023 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.

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