About MSA

Estelle Axton (September 11, 1918 – February 25, 2004)

Estelle was the co-founder, with her brother Jim Stewart, of Stax Records.  Born in Middleton, Tennessee, Estelle Stewart grew up on a farm. She moved to Memphis as a school teacher, married Everett Axton, and was working in a bank.

In 1958, her brother Jim Stewart asked for help to develop Satellite Records, which he had set up to issue recordings of local country and rockabilly artists. She convinced her husband that they should remortgage their house and, in 1959, joined Satellite as an equal partner.

The following year, Axton and Stewart turned the Capitol Theatre, in a black Memphis neighborhood, into a recording studio and record shop, and began making hit records with predominantly black artists. Satellite was forced to change its name after it was discovered that a Los Angeles label already owned the title, and it changed its name to Stax, taking its name from Axton and Stewart's surnames.

Axton was actively involved with selecting and developing the artists on the label, who included Rufus Thomas, Otis Redding, Booker T & the MGs, and Isaac Hayes. She sold her interest in the company in 1970. After the non-compete agreement expired, Axton formed Fretone Records whose biggest hit, "Disco Duck" by Rick Dees was licensed for distribution to RSO Records.  In December, 2006, The Recording Academy honored Estelle Axton with a Trustee's Award as part of the Grammys.


Estelle was the founder of the Memphis Songwriters Association in 1973. The Memphis Songwriters Association was formed in order to foster the education and advancement of local area songwriters. There was a focus on the development of the songwriting craft with the intentions of producing commercially viable songs and improving performance skills. MSA has consecutively maintained membership for over 40 years. Estelle's formation of the Memphis Songwriters Association led to the motivation of many local songwriters and singer/songwriters publishing their original material. Some of these songs and artists met with great success. Unfortunately, historical records are fragmented and scarce, however, a number of MSA alumni could still tell the stories.

Estelle went on with friend and founder of Moon Records, Cordell Jackson to work with the Music Industries of Memphis, later named the Memphis Music Association to assist in the development of local Memphis music as a global force once again. Their collaboration and guidance helped launch the first Memphis Demo Derby, the brainchild of PR Director Brett Hamilton, which was designed to present and showcase any and all Memphis musical talent to A&R reps, studio heads, producers and the like. The event was such a huge success, it continued for several years. Joe Savarin, founder of the Handy Awards and Wanda Freeman of Tenant Laboratories lent a hand. The MMA was the umbrella organization for all Memphis music.

The Memphis Songwriters Association is still consistently holding meetings, songwriter workshops, open mics, song critiques and singer/songwriter showcase events to this day. Each and every meeting and event is held in remembrance of "Lady A" that sweet inspirational force with a heart of gold and a million-dollar smile who was ever searching for that next big hit.

MSA Founder Estelle Axton WIKIPEDIA