The next installment of the Words & Music: A Songwriter Series will take place on Tuesday, April 23, featuring an up close and personal look at the making of the GRAMMY®-winning compilation album Written In Their Soul: The Stax Songwriter Demos. The event will feature an all-star lineup of legendary Stax Records artists and songwriters, including GRAMMY winners William Bell and Deanie Parker, artist/songwriter Eddie Floyd, songwriter Henderson Thigpen, songwriter/session engineer/guitarist Bobby Manuel and GRAMMY-winning compilation producer Cheryl Pawelski.

Compiled by multi-GRAMMY-winning producer Cheryl Pawelski, Written In Their Soul: The Stax Songwriter Demos brings together 146 demos from the legendary Stax Records. Including 140 recordings that are previously unreleased, this collection combines both songwriter demos of some of music’s biggest songs with full blown arrangements of never released tracks. The compilation won two GRAMMY Awards at the 66th Annual GRAMMY Awards on February 4, 2024, for Best Historical Album and Best Album Notes.

This program is sponsored by a Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area grant with the support of the Maddox Foundation and Mississippi Arts Commission.



William Bell.JPG

In a distinguished career as a singer, songwriter and producer, William Bell has come to define the essence of “soul.” Born in Memphis but based in Atlanta since 1970, William Bell was one of the pioneers of the classic Stax/Volt sound, joining such other illustrious musical forces at that label as Otis Redding, Sam and Dave, Isaac Hayes, Booker T. & the MG’s, Albert King, Eddie Floyd, Carla and Rufus Thomas, The Staple Singers and the Bar-Kays, among others.

William recorded his first sides as a member of the group the Del Rios. In 1961, he made his solo recording debut with the classic single, “You Don’t Miss Your Water,” which became one of the fledgling label’s first major hits.
Among his other classic hits at Stax were “Any Other Way,” “Never Like This Before,” “A Tribute to a King” (William’s personal tribute to Stax legend Otis Redding), “I Forgot to be Your Lover,” his internationally-acclaimed duet with Judy Clay, “Private Number,” and the perennial Christmas music favorite, “Every Day Will Be Like a Holiday.” In 2014 William Bell appeared in the critically acclaimed and award winning movie “TAKE ME TO THE RIVER”, a Martin Shore Production. In connection with the film, William Bell still travels the world, attending film festivals and performing concerts. In February 2017 William received a GRAMMY Award for Best Americana Album for his CD on Stax/Concord Records "This Is Where I Live" and performed on the Premiere Ceremony with Gary Clark, Jr. In March of this year, his recording of "You Don't Miss Your Water" was one of the 2024 inducted recordings (four albums and six singles) to the distinguished GRAMMY Hall Of Fame on its 50th anniversary. 



Eddie Floyd.JPG

Eddie Floyd began making records in 1956 in Detroit as a member of the Falcons, but it was at Stax Records in Memphis where the singer/songwriter found his greatest success 10 years later. Floyd, along with guitarist Steve Cropper, wrote the song “Knock on Wood” for Otis Redding, but Stax founder Jim Stewart insisted Floyd cut it himself. Floyd’s recording of “Knock on Wood” rose to the top of the R&B charts and has proven to be one of the most durable and frequently covered songs of the ’60s. Born in 1935 in Montgomery, Alabama, Floyd recorded with the Falcons between 1956 and 1962 and often sang lead, though not on the group’s two biggest hits: Joe Stubbs led “You’re So Fine” in 1959 and Wilson Pickett was featured on “I Found a Love” in 1962. Floyd and Pickett both quit the group that year, and Floyd began recording for Safice Records, a Washington, D.C.-based company he ran in partnership with former Moonglows member Chester Simmons and disc jockey Al Bell.


When Bell was hired in 1965 as Stax’s first Black executive, Floyd followed him South. During his decade-long association with Stax, the singer also scored with “I’ve Never Found a Girl (To Love Me Like You Do)” and “California Girl,” among other hits he had a hand in writing, and with an up-tempo treatment of Sam Cooke’s “Bring It on Home to Me.” Floyd also penned tunes for Pickett, Redding, Carla Thomas, and the Emotions, the biggest being Pickett’s “634-5789 (Soulsville, U.S.A.),” which was issued on Atlantic but recorded at Stax. After the demise of Stax, Floyd recorded for Mercury, Malaco, and Wilbe. He’s been touring and recording as a member of the Blues Brothers Band, which also includes Cropper, since the early 1990s.



Bobby Manuel (Stax Picture).jpeg

Bobby Manuel is a legendary Memphis-born artist, guitarist, producer, engineer, and composer. Manuel joined Stax Records as a staff engineer in late 1967. He worked on over 23 albums within his first year. One of his first assignments was engineering the Home album by Delaney & Bonnie. He also played guitar on the single “Piece Of My Heart,” originally recorded by Erma Franklin. He engineered and played guitar on the Emotion's hit album and single So I Can Love You.


As a session player and songwriter, Manuel partnered with Bettye Crutcher to write over 40 songs for the label. Over a short two-year period, he played on albums by Isaac Hayes, Little Milton, Shirley Brown, Johnnie Taylor, Billy Eckstine, Albert King, Rufus and Carla, The Soul Children, The Mad Lads, The Temprees, The Bar-Kays, and most of the artists on the Stax roster. When Elvis came to Stax, Manuel played on his Raised On Rock album. In 1970, Manuel was asked to become an artist at Stax and he joined Donald Dunn, Al Jackson and Carson Whitsett to reform The M.G.'s. In the early 1970s, he also started producing for the label, working on records for Ben Atkins, Stefan, Annette Thomas, and Little Milton, and The Green Brothers. Additionally, Manuel had the privilege of playing on the last two albums produced by Willie Mitchell—Al Green’s 2005 album Everything’s OK and Solomon Burke 2010 release Nothing’s Impossible.


When Stax Records shuttered in 1975, Manuel worked as an independent producer, often on projects organized by Stax co-founder Estelle Axton. In 1976 she paired him with Memphis disc jockey Rick Dees. The result was "Disco Duck", which soared to No. 1 on the Billboard pop charts in September 1976 and sold over 4 million records worldwide. "Disco Duck" was the last pop song completely recorded in Memphis to reach the coveted No. 1 spot. Manuel subsequently partnered with Jim Stewart, the other co-founder of Stax Records. For 18 years they produced a steady stream of rhythm and blues out of their Memphis recording studio The Daily Planet. In 1985, Manuel co-founded The Coolers with former M.G. bassist Donald Dunn and Caboose lead singer Gary Johns. For more than a decade, The Coolers were the band other musicians wanted to sit in with when they came to town, including Billy Joel, George Thorogood, Bryan Adams, Kenny Loggins, Carl Perkins, Jimmie Vaughan, Ronnie Wood of the Rolling Stones, and Joe Walsh of The Eagles, among others.


In 2013, Manuel was invited to perform at the White House alongside Booker T. Jones, Mavis Staples, William Bell, Justin Timberlake, Steve Cropper, Ben Harper, and Charlie Musselwhite, among others. In 2017, Manuel released his long-awaited solo album Soulsauce.




GRAMMY winner Deanie Parker is a Mississippi-born singer/songwriter. While attending Hamilton High School from which Carla Thomas graduated in the 1960s, Parker joined a group called the Valadors and they entered a talent contest on Beale Street. The first-place prize was an audition at Stax Records. She received advice from Stax founder Jim Stewart to write her own original songs. With that, Parker went home and composed, “My Imaginary Guy,’’ which became a regional hit record. During her senior year in high school, Parker worked at the then Satellite Record Shop located in the lobby of Stax Records. Upon graduating, she became the label’s first publicist. While in that role, she continued to write songs for artists such as Carla Thomas, Albert King, Otis Redding and The Staple Singers. One of the first female publicists in the music business, Parker gained new skills and used her salary to pay her tuition to attend Memphis State University. She credits the late Estelle Axton as a role model.


When Stax shuttered its doors, Parker went on to be promotions director for WPTY-TV, marketing director for Memphis in May and vice president of communications and marketing for The Med. She was subsequently a Soulsville Foundation founder and the organization’s first President/CEO. During her leadership the organization established and successfully operated the Stax Museum of American Soul Music, Stax Music Academy and The Soulsville Charter School.



Henderson Thigpen.jpg

Henderson Thigpen, raised on a farm in rural North Mississippi, where he continues to grow crops today, is perhaps one of the longest tenured songwriters in his association with Stax Records. He made the journey to Memphis in 1964 to decide what to do with his knack for poetry and storytelling. Accompanied by an uncle, he strolled into Black-owned radio station WLOK, where the staff suggested the young man find his way to Stax Records. There, the 16-year-old made the acquaintance of Estelle Axton, David Porter, and Deanie Parker. Parker co-wrote Thigpen’s earliest placement on the label, “It’s Catching” by Mable John, in 1966. During his earliest days at Stax, Thigpen made weekly trips to Memphis, whenever he completed his farm work, before eventually moving to Memphis.

In the final days of Stax Records’ waning dominance in the music marketplace, a final flicker of the company’s sonic and lyrical innovation climbed the charts as the label faded. 1974’s “Woman to Woman,” performed by newcomer Shirley Brown, reached number one on the Billboard R&B charts, where it remained for two weeks, and peaked at number 22 on the pop chart. The feat cemented the song as Stax’s last major chart success before the label’s closing. The songwriters responsible for the hit, Eddie Marion, James Banks, and Henderson Thigpen, had been waiting, wishing they could become the next star-writing stable on staff at the Stax offices.



Cheryl Pawelski.JPG

For more than 30 years, four-time GRAMMY-winning producer Cheryl Pawelski has been entrusted with preserving, curating and championing some of music’s greatest legacies. Before co-founding Omnivore Recordings, she held positions at Rhino Entertainment, Concord Music Group and EMI-Capitol Records. She has produced or supervised recordings, reissues and boxed sets for a diverse array of artists, including: Wilco, Aretha Franklin, The Beach Boys, The Band, Big Star, Miles Davis, Rod Stewart, Otis Redding, Bette Midler, Nina Simone, Willie Nelson, Warren Zevon, Townes Van Zandt, The Staple Singers, Hank Williams, Richard Thompson, John Coltrane, and many more. Her soundtrack work has included Fiddler On The Roof, Raging Bull, Woodstock, Juno, Up In The Air, Shutter Island, Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me, and CBGB. She has served as both a Governor and Trustee of The Recording Academy and is presently serving on the Board of Directors for the Blues Foundation, the Advisory Council for The Recording Academy’s Producers & Engineers Wing, the Advisory Board for Women In Vinyl, the Industry Advisory Board for the Center For Recorded Music, the Farm Aid Development Advisory Council, and the External Advisory Board/Music Industry Liaison for Joey’s Song. Her vast archival record and memorabilia collection yielded the exhibit, Spaced Out! The Final Frontier In Album Covers, that opened at the Experience Music Project in Seattle, Wash., and traveled to The Museum at Bethel Woods. The exhibit featured 117 space-themed albums released between the 1940s and 1969.



Jay B - wyxr-9 - edited.png

Jared "Jay B." Boyd is well-known for his diverse roles in journalism and music. With a background as a daily reporter, culture writer, and columnist at The Daily Memphian, he is respected for his contributions as a biographer chronicling stories for<>. Currently, Jared serves as the head writer and co-host of the long-running globally syndicated radio program Beale St. Caravan, where he passionately explores and celebrates Memphis' musical heritage through engaging interviews and curated content.


As the program manager of Memphis' WYXR 91.7 FM, a nonprofit, freeform radio station led by volunteer DJs, Jared plays a pivotal role in crafting captivating content that resonates with audiences worldwide while shining a spotlight on Memphis' vibrant musical legacy. Beyond radio, Jared is also known as DJ Bizzle Bluebland, where he crafts dynamic performances blending Memphis-made music with rare grooves from other city scenes like boogie soul and deep house. Additionally, Jared's expertise extends to composing liner notes for significant releases such as "The Gospel Truth (The Complete Singles Collection)," “The Truth Is Where It’s At: The Best of Gospel Truth,” and the recent reissue of Frederick Knight’s "I've Been Lonely For So Long."