Entertainment & Arts

Tom Jones to celebrate the sound of soul at the Proms

Image caption Tom Jones has played at the Royal Albert Hall many times, but never as part of the Proms

Sir Tom Jones is to make his Proms debut in a celebration of Stax Records, alongside soul legends Booker T Jones and Sam Moore.

The concert, on 1 September, marks the 50th anniversary of the label's hugely successful 1967 European tour.

Featuring acts like Sam & Dave and Otis Redding, the revue prompted a surge in popularity for American soul in the UK.

The prom comes near the end of a season which also features Simon Rattle, Jarvis Cocker and Nicola Benedetti

Sir Tom said he was looking forward to his first appearance at the classical music festival.

"I've always sung soul and I've always sung Stax," he said. "I sang Otis Redding's (Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay on my television show in 1969 and I intend to sing it at this prom again!"

Image caption Otis Redding died in a plane crash a few months after the Stax/Volt Revue hit the UK

He'll be joined on the night by Beverley Knight, James Morrison and Ruby Turner as well as Stax artists William Bell, Steve Cropper and Eddie Floyd.

The concert will be led by Jools Holland and his Rhythm and Blues Orchestra.

Puddles of sweat

Stax Records began as a small regional record label in Memphis in 1957. Established by bank clerk Jim Stewart and his sister Estelle Axton, it developed a roster that was rich with talent, including Otis Redding, Sam & Dave, Wilson Pickett, Carla Thomas, Rufus Thomas and the Bar-Kays, amongst others.

The sound was gritty and gutsy compared to the pop sheen of Motown, but it had a huge influence on UK acts. The Rolling Stones covered hits by Otis Redding and Rufus Thomas; while The Beatles paid homage to the label on Baby You Can Drive My Car.

When the Stax entourage landed at Heathrow in spring 1967, the Fab Four even sent limos to greet the musicians. Later, they took a break from recording Sgt Pepper to spend a night on the town with Redding.

The 17-date tour saw an all-star line-up, including Sam & Dave, Eddie Floyd, and Arthur Conley, all backed by the label's house band Booker T and the MG's.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Sam & Dave's biggest hit was Soul Man

A friendly rivalry emerged, with each of the acts trying to top each other, making the shows a breathtaking spectacle.

Trumpeter Wayne Jackson later recalled that "Redding would slosh through puddles of Sam & Dave's sweat to get out to the stage and then he would add a gallon of his own perspiration to the lake."

Sam Moore, the higher-voiced member of Sam & Dave, said the 1967 tour was "one of the most exciting times in my life".

"The love and enthusiasm from the British audiences back then was like nothing any of us had ever experienced before," he said in a statement.

"Performing at the Proms now with some of those we influenced is spectacular.

"I just wish that Otis, Arthur, Al, Duck, Wayne, Andrew and Dave were here to celebrate with us ... Maybe they're all looking down and patting their feet to the beat."

As with every Prom, around 1,000 standing tickets will be made available on the day of the concert, priced at just £6,

The Stax Prom will be broadcast at 22:15 BST on Friday, 1 September on BBC Radio 3 and BBC Four; and again on BBC Radio 2 on Friday, 15 September at 20:00 BST.

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