Southern soul is a type of soul music that emerged from the Southern United States. The music originated from a combination of styles, including blues (both 12 bar and jump), country and western, early rock and roll, and a strong gospel influence that emanated from the sounds of Southern African-American churches. The focus of the music was not on its lyrics, but on the “feel” or the groove. This rhythmic force made it a strong influence in the rise of funk music.
Southern soul was at its peak during the 1960s, when Memphis soul was created. The most significant contributors were Stax Records and their house band Booker T. & the MGs. The Stax label’s most successful artist of the 1960s, Otis Redding, was influenced by fellow Georgia native Little Richard and the more cosmopolitan sounds of Mississippi-born Sam Cooke. Other Stax artists of note included Carla Thomas, Eddie Floyd, Johnnie Taylor, The Staple Singers, and Isaac Hayes. Atlantic Records artists Sam & Dave‘s records were released on the Stax label and featured the MGs. Wilson Pickett also launched his solo career through his collaboration with the Stax team.
Another Memphis label, Goldwax Records featured O.V. Wright and James Carr, while Al Green recorded for Memphis’s Hi Records, where he was produced by Willie Mitchell. Also influential was the Muscle Shoals Sound, originating from Muscle Shoals, Alabama. The Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section played on hits by many Stax artists during the late 1960s through the mid 1970s, and Atlantic Records artists Pickett, Percy Sledge, Joe Tex and Aretha Franklin.
Southern soul music is still being recorded and performed all over the world by artists such as Mel Waiters, Willie Clayton, Carl Marshall, T.K. Soul, Sir Charles Jones, Omar Cunningham, Vick Allen, Donnie Ray, O.B. Buchana, Jeff Floyd, Wilson Meadows, Bigg Robb, Charles Wilson to name a few.