Just like Picasso, the Stax and Volt labels had a blue period. In Stax and Volt’s case, this began in 1964, and lasted until mid-1968. During this period, Stax released over 300 singles and Volt in excess of 120 singles. This included some of best music in in the labels eighteen year history. That’s not surprising, Stax and Volt had enviable rosters. Especially between 1964 and 1968.

During this period, Stax was home to three of the biggest names in soul, Sam and Dave, Otis Redding and Booker T and The MGs. Other names included Johnnie Taylor, Carla Thomas, William Bell, The Mar-Keys, Eddie Floyd and Lynda Lyndell. These artists enjoyed a string of hit singles, and brought even more commercial success the way of Stax and Volt.

The pressure was on songwriters and producers at Stax’s Memphis’ headquarters. Unlike one of their major competitors, songs were carefully crafted at Stax. There was no recycling of backing tracks that had been used before. This was left to lesser labels. Instead, songwriters and producers at Stax took pride in their work. They weren’t willing to rush when it came to writing or recording a song. Not even when it came to a B-Side.

Especially not when it came to a B-Side. They received the same care and attention as a single. Record buyers appreciated this, and when they bought a new single always flipped over to the B-Side to hear what treat was in store. If the single was a ballad, often the B-Side would be a joyous uptempo tracks. Similarly, with an uptempo single, a heart-wrenching ballad would feature on the flip-side. On many an occasion, record buyers felt that the B-Side rivalled the single. That was the case many times during Stax and Volt’s blue period.

Between 1964 and 1968, countless hidden gems found their way on to B-Sides of Stax and Volt singles. Since then, none of these B-Sides have been released on CD before. That’s until now. Twenty-four B-Sides from Stax and Volt’s blue period are celebrate on The Other Side Of The Trax-Stax-Volt 45rpm Rarities 1964-1968, which was recently released by Kent Soul, an imprint of Ace Records. 

The Other Side Of The Trax-Stax-Volt 45rpm Rarities 1964-1968 features tracks from some of the biggest names on Stax and Volt’s roster during the blue period. This includes Johnnie Taylor, Carla Thomas, William Bell, The Mar-Keys, Eddie Jefferson, Dorothy Williams, Oscar Mack, Eddie Floyd and Lynda Lyndell. They’re just a few of the artists that feature on The Other Side Of The Trax-Stax-Volt 45rpm Rarities 1964-1968, which is a reminder of the delights tucked away on B-Sides during Stax and Volt’s blue period.

Opening The Other Side Of The Trax-Stax-Volt 45rpm Rarities 1964-1968 is Changes. This was the B-Side of Johnnie Taylor’s 1966 Stax single I Had A Drea. Changes  was penned by Johnnie with Isaac Hayes and David Porter. When Changes was recorded, the Stax house band provided a stomping beat, while stabs of horns punctuate the arrangement. Meanwhile, Johnnie literally struts his way through the lyrics, on this hidden gem, which describes Johnnie’s other contribution, Strange Things (Happening In My Heart).

It was the flip-side to one of Johnnie Taylor’s best known, and most successful single Somebody’s Sleeping In My Bed. It was released on Stax in 1967. Accompanied by soulful harmonies, Johnnie delivers an emotive, vocal powerhouse on this Homer Banks and Allen Jones song.

Carla Thomas features twice on The Other Side Of The Trax-Stax-Volt 45rpm Rarities 1964-1968. When she released A Boy Named Tom in 1964, Carla Thomas was just twenty-two. However, her recording career began when she was just seventeen. A Boy Named Tom was penned by Carla, and was the flip-side to I’ve Got No Time To Lose. Just like so many singles released during the blue period, A Boy Named Tom oozed quality and emotion. Carla seems to have lived the hurt and heartache in the lyrics. It seemed she was well on her way to being crowned the Queen Of Memphis Soul.

By the the time Carla Thomas released Pick Up The Pieces as a single on Stax in 1967, the queen had been crowned. That’s apparent on Separation, the B-Side to Pick Up The Pieces. It’s  a David Porter and Isaac Hayes composition which features a feisty, assured performance from Carla Thomas. Not only had she matured as a singer, but had been crowned the Queen Of Memphis Soul. 

In 1964, Barbara and The Browns released two singles for Stax.  The first was Big Party, which was written by Jerry L. Williams and recorded at Chips Moman American Studios in Memphis. Big Party was originally released on Jerry L. Williams Wil-Mo label. and became a local hit. However, Jerry L. Williams knew his small label didn’t have the money to break the single nationwide. So he took it to Stax, who released it in 1964. Sadly, the single  just scraped into the lower reaches of the charts, before quickly disappearing without trace. Those that bought Big Party and decided to flip it over, were rewarded with You Belong To Her, another Jerry L. Williams composition. It’s a tale of betrayal, heartbreak and love gone wrong, that’s brought to life by Barbara and The Browns. They do the same on Please Be Honest With Me.

This was the B-Side to Barbara and The Browns’ sophomore single In My Heart. It was released on Stax in 1964, and tucked away on the B-Side was Please Be Honest With Me. It’s a William Bell and Steve Cropper composition that Barbara and The Browns bring to life. Barbara combines power, passion and soulfulness as she asks, begs Please Be Honest With Me. Aided and abetted by The Browns, it’s three minutes of raw emotion.

William Bell played an important part in the rise and rise of Stax Records. Although he’s remembered as a singer, William Bell was also a talented songwriter. He wrote songs for many artists on the Stax and Volt labels. However, William Bell and Steve Cropper cowrote Don’t Stop Now. It’s the B-Side to Crying All By Myself, which was released in the summer of 1965. Don’t Stop Now is a anthemic stomper, which fifty-one years later, sounds just as good as the day it was released. The same could be said of the ballad Ain’t Got No Girl.

It’s a song penned by some of Stax’s best songwriters. William cowrote Ain’t Got No Girl with Steve Cropper, Isaac Hayes and David Porter. Then when William Bell released Everyday Will Be Like A Holiday in time for Christmas 1967, Ain’t Got No Girl was chosen for the flip-side. This was a huge mistake. If ever a song deserved better it’s Ain’t Got No Girl. It could’ve and should’ve been released as a single. Especially the way William Bell sings it. Ain’t Got No Girl becomes an impassioned, needy confessional, where heartache and loneliness shine through. Sadly, the only people who heard Ain’t Got No Girl were those that listened to B-Sides. They enjoyed a very special Christmas present from William Bell and Stax, Ain’t Got No Girl.

Back in 1967, Detroit born Eddie Purell released The Spoiler as a single on Volt in America. The single quickly disappeared without trace. Meanwhile, in Britain, The Spoiler was proving popular in discos. However, if curious DJs had flipped the single over, they would’ve discovered a heart-wrenching ballad, My Pride Won’t Let Me. It’s akin to an outpouring of emotion from Eddie Purell. His hurt and betrayal seems almost real on this spine-tingling slice of soulfulness.

Dorothy Williams career at Volt was short, but memorable. Her one and only single was Closer To My Baby, which was released in 1964. It sunk without trace. That might not have been the case if Volt had released Watchdog, which Dorothy cowrote with Steve Cropper. It’s truly irresistible and would’ve filled any dance-floor in 1964. Fifty-two years later, and Watchdog is still capable of packing dance-floors at all-nighters and soul weekenders.

Gorgeous George will be a new name to many soul fans. He was born Theodopholos George Odell, and released his debut single Now I Believe in 1961 on the Shaw brothers’ Neptune label. Soon, Gorgeous George had established a reputation as a flamboyant, colourfully attired showman. However, success seemed to elude him. However, in 1965, Gorgeous George signed to one of soul’s biggest labels Stax.

By then, Gorgeous George was writing his own songs. He had penned his first Stax single Biggest Fool In Town and the B-Side Sweet Thing. When Biggest Fool In Town was released, the single failed commercially. That was the end of Gorgeous George’s time  at Stax. Things could’ve been very different though. Especially, if the flip side Sweet Thing, another Gorgeous George composition, had been chosen as the single. It finds Gorgeous George literally strutting and vamping his way through the lyrics, as if paying homage to James Brown on this sassy soulful hidden gem.

Eddie Floyd is another artist that played an important part in the Stax story. He was one of the label’s most successful artists. In 1967, Eddie Floyd released Love Is A Doggone Good Thing, which reached number twenty-two in the US R&B charts. On the B-Side was Hey Now, which Eddie cowrote with Steve Cropper. Irresistible, funky and soulful, it’s almost too good to be a B-Side. So is the bluesy Under My Nose. It was the B-Side to On A Saturday Night. Penned by Isaac Hayes and David Porter, Under My Knows showcases Eddie Floyd’s versatility and ability to bring a song to life.

My final choice from The Other Side Of The Trax-Stax-Volt 45rpm Rarities 1964-1968 comes courtesy of Lynda Lyndell. She signed to Stax in 1968. By then, she had supported James Brown and Ike and Tina Turner. Then in 1967, Lynda Lyndell joined The Fabulous Georgia Soul Twisters. That’s where DJ Dave Crawford came across Lynda Lyndell. He recommended her to Stax, who signed her. 

Lynda Lyndell’s debut single was Bring Your Love Back To Me. However, it failed to chart. Hidden away on the B-Side was Here Am I. It was penned by DJ Dave Crawford, who hoped to forge a career as a songwriter and producer. The dance-floor friendly Here Am I showed what he was capable of. It also became a favourite in British clubs and on the nascent Northern Soul scene. However, Lynda Lyndell’s Stax debut proved to be the end of an era.

Never again would a single be released on the Stax label in both Britain and America. This marked not just the of an era, but the end of Stax and Volt’s blue period. It had been good while it lasted. 

Since 1964, Stax had released over 300 singles and Volt had released over 120 singles. This included singles from some of the biggest names in the labels’ history, plus artists who played a mere walk-on part. Many of these familiar faces and new names feature on The Other Side Of The Trax-Stax-Volt 45rpm Rarities 1964-1968.

Among the familiar faces are Johnnie Taylor, Carla Thomas, William Bell, The Mar-Keys and Eddie Floyd. New names include Eddie Purrell, Johnny Jenkins and Lynda Lyndell. They all feature on The Other Side Of The Trax-Stax-Volt 45rpm Rarities 1964-1968. However, the tracks that are included aren’t singles. Instead, they’re the hidden gems that were tucked away on the B-Sides of singles during the blue period.

Just like the singles, the B-Sides were carefully crafted. The utmost care and attention was paid to songs that many people would never even listen to. 

Many record buyers were only interested in the single. The B-Side they saw as a makeweight. In a way, that wasn’t surprising. By 1964, B-Sides had gotten a bad reputation. Some lesser labels didn’t care about B-Sides. They stuck any second or third rate songs on the flip-side. However, Stax and Volt were one of the exceptions.

Often, the B-Side to a Stax or Volt surpassed the quality of the single. Those that flipped over were richly rewarded, and heard joyous, uptempo, dance tracks or heartbreaking ballads. Twenty-four of Stax and Volt’s finest B-Sides feature on The Other Side Of The Trax-Stax-Volt 45rpm Rarities 1964-1968. These songs are a reminder to always flip over to the B-Side, as musical gold may be awaiting discovery. 

















1 Comment

  1. justsoulin

    Hi Derek, fantastic job as always. Much appreciated how indepth you go, thanks 🙂

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