The A.V. Club's "Gateways to Geekery" feature is pitched at neophytes, so I kept my rabid fandom in check while writing about one of my personal obsessions: the astonishing Southern soul released on the Stax Records label, particularly during their 1962-68 heyday. It's not unusual for a musical love affair to begin at a pivotal moment — a fantastic live show, or the time you first heard a given song — but in this case, no actual music was necessary. I was visiting Memphis at the end of a road trip with a long-ago girlfriend, and we stopped at the Memphis Rock 'n' Soul Museum. This was before it moved to its much fancier current digs, back when the museum consisted of a handful of glass cases, memorabilia dangling from pegboard like tools in a basement workshop. I knew enough to recognize the hits of Otis Redding, Sam and Dave and Booker T. & the MG's, but it wasn't until looking over the tchotchkes in three adjacent cases that it struck me that all of their songs, and many more besides, had been recorded in the same converted movie theater on McLemore Avenue, by most of the same musicians. Suddenly, the picture was much larger than any one song, however great. The volume of great music committed to tape in that single space was staggering. (I had a similar experience standing in the tiny confines of Sun Studios as the tour guide rattled off the list of artists who had recorded there, and I reasoned that based on numbers alone, Elvis Presley or Jerry Lee Lewis or Carl Perkins — though hopefully not Bono — must once have stood in the same place where my feet were at that precise instant.) When I got home, I scoured eBay for a reasonably priced copy of The Complete Stax/Volt Singles 1959-1968, and that was pretty much that.
I'm fairly determined to keep the "Gateways" pieces at an introductory level, since they're not much good if they don't bring new people on board, but the comments contain much in the way of gratifyingly nerdy discussion on the subject. After pointing you in the direction of my 2009 interview with Booker T. Jones, I'll leave you with a few tunes to get you started.