Carla Thomas was the first star in the Stax Records galaxy. I’ve written about her before, so today just a little about her hit single “B-A-B-Y.” The song was written by Isaac Hayes and David Porter and released on the label in August 1966. The record ran up the R&B chart to #3 and had Pop success at #14. “B-A-B-Y” was the leadoff track on Thomas’ album Carla, itself a #7 R&B hit.

While it’s appropriate to begin the column with the first Stax artist to make an impact on the charts, the real focus this week is on the label’s 60th anniversary and a new set of budget-friendly compilations from Rhino Entertainment highlighting the work of a number of Stax stars. In addition to Thomas, there are new compilations for Otis Redding, Sam & Dave, and Booker T & the MGs.

Stax Classics

In addition to “B-A-B-Y”, the Thomas collection includes hits like “I Like What You’re Doing (To Me),” “Cause I Love You,” and “Tramp,” her 1966 smash with Redding. The Redding collection includes classics like “Try a Little Tenderness,” “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long (To Stop Now),” “Respect,” and his posthumous smash “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay.”

“Hold On! I’m a Comin’,” “You Don’t Know Like I Know,” and the #1 1967 smash “Soul Man” are included on the Sam & Dave compilation, and the Booker T and the MGs disc offers up “Hip Hug-Her,” “Time is Tight,” and the #1 hit “Green Onions” among other classics.

The best news of all is that each of these Stax Classics, as the series is known, can be had for less than seven dollars at Amazon, and you can download the MP3s for less than $10. And the release of these collections is hardly the end of the 60th-anniversary celebration. On June 23 there will be 180-gram vinyl releases that include the Booker T album Green Onions, Rufus Thomas’ Walking the Dog, Soul Men by Sam & Dave, the Otis Redding – Carla Thomas classic King & Queen.

There will be additional vinyl reissues from Redding, Thomas, Sam & Dave, Booker T and the Megs, and Albert King on July 7.