Moondust Records

Rocket to Reggae City

Lawless On June - 21 - 2012

Mar-keys Inspired by a post I found about great moments in black history I thought it would be fun and interesting to post stories about Space/ Moon themed music, bands or releases. For this first post I’ve decided to expand on the post that originally inspired me. So here it the 1st in a semi-regular column on GREAT MOMENTS IN SPACE THEMED MUSIC HISTORY.


Founded in Memphis, TN by Jim Stewart in 1957 and then shortly after joined by his sister Estelle Axton Satellite Records began simply enough. Jim started by releasing mainly white artists doing country and pop tunes for the first couple of years of the label until he was introduced to black artists playing rhythm and blues by staff producer Chips Moman.

The Veltones’ “Fool For Love” was the first release by a non country/pop artist on Satellite. While promoting the single Stewart met Memphis disc jockey and R&B singer Rufus Thomas. They were both immediately were impressed with the other. Soon after Rufus Thomas and his daughter Carla would record, “Cause I Love You” which became a substantial regional hit. It would be picked up for national distribution by Atlantic Records on their ATCO subsidiary and go on to sell between thirty and forty thousand copies. This was Satellite’s biggest hit at the time.

Following the success of “Cause I Love You,” Stewart signed a distribution deal with Atlantic Records giving them first choice on releasing future Satellite recordings. With the last few recordings being hits he decided to focus more and more on recording and promoting the newly found music bubbling up: black rhythm and blues artists.

From then on virtually all of the output of Satellite Records (and successor labels Stax and Volt) would be in the R&B/southern soul style of which they became hugely famous for.

As part of the deal with Atlantic, Satellite agreed to continue recording Carla Thomas, but to allow her releases to come out on Atlantic. Carla Thomas’ first hit, “Gee Whiz,” was originally issued on Satellite 104, but was quickly re-issued on Atlantic 2086, becoming a hit in early 1961. Carla Thomas would continue to have material issued on Atlantic through mid-1965, though much of it was recorded in the studios at Satellite (later Stax), or in Nashville under the supervision of the Stax staff.

In June 1961, Satellite signed a local instrumental band known as The Royal Spades. Changing their name to The Mar-Keys, the band recorded and issued the single “Last Night,” which shot to #3 on the US pop charts, and #2 on the R&B charts.

“Last Night” was the first single to be nationally distributed on the Satellite label — previous Atlantic issues of Satellite material were issued nationally on the Atlantic or Atco labels. This led to a complaint from another “Satellite Records,” a company that had been in operation in California for some years but who were previously unaware of the Memphis-based Satellite label.

Accordingly, in September 1961, Satellite permanently changed its name to “Stax Records,” a combo of the names of the two owners of the company: Jim STewart and Estelle AXton and so after going on to shape and change the history of southern soul, R&B, and music in general forever.

Satellite 100 The Vel-Tones: Fool In Love/ Someday 1959
Satellite 101 Don Willis: Boppin’ High School/ Baby Warrior Sam 1960
Satellite 102 Rufus and Carla: Cause I Love You/ Deep Down Inside 1960
Satellite 103 Donna Rae and The Sunbeams: Little Fool/ Whisper You Love 1960
Satellite 104 Carla Thomas: Gee Whiz (Look At His Eyes) For You 1960
Satellite 105 The Chips: As You Can See You Make Me Feel So Good 1960
Satellite 106 Jimmy and The Spartans: You’re My Girl Why Doesn’t She Notice Me 1960
Satellite 107 The Mar-Keys: Last Night Night Before 1960
Satellite 108 Prince Conley: All The Way I’m Going Home 1961
Satellite 109 Nick Charles: The Right Girl Ain’t That Love 1961
Satellite 110 Hoyt Johnson: Cindy I Just Can’t Learn 1961

One of my favorites.

Featured Video