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On the right note in Memphis

Time Staff Writer

More than 25 years after one of the seminal producers of soul music shut its doors, a museum celebrating the genre has risen on its site in Memphis, Tenn.

The Stax Museum of American Soul Music, which opened in May, is at 926 E. McLemore Ave., where Stax Records spun out more than 160 Top 100 hits from 1960 to 1975, recorded by Otis Redding, Isaac Hayes, Sam & Dave, Rufus Thomas and other artists.

Many of its songs, such as "Sittin' on the Dock of the Bay," "Soul Man" and "I'll Take You There," are classics.

The Stax building, which was auctioned after the company closed, was sold to a church and then razed in 1989, said Deanie Parker, president and executive director of the nonprofit Soulsville, which operates the museum.

The site was "glass and grass" except for a historic marker when Soulsville began building the museum as part of a $20-million effort to revitalize the South Memphis neighborhood where many prominent musicians, including Aretha Franklin, lived or worked, Parker said. The 2-square-mile area is dubbed Soulsville USA.

Next to the museum is the Stax Music Academy, opened last year, which offers music programs and lessons to urban youth. Both are part of the revitalization project, financed with government and private funds.

The museum, with more than 17,000 square feet of exhibits, houses archives and more than 2,000 artifacts. Among the more unusual exhibits is the one-room Hooper's Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church. It was dismantled in Duncan, Miss., and reconstructed.

"Soul, blues and R&B have their roots in Southern gospel," curator Nashid Madyun said.

Visitors can check out Hayes' 1972 gold-trimmed blue Cadillac with TV and bar; his handwritten original sheet music for the hit "Theme From Shaft"; and Redding's favorite suede jacket, among other items. There are also touch-screen educational stations and a dance floor.

The museum is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays, 1 to 5 p.m. Sundays. Admission is $9 adults, $6 students. (888) 942-SOUL (942-7685),

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