The BBC Proms celebrate “50 Years Of Soul Music” tonight (Friday, September 1) at 10.15pm when the Jools Holland Orchestra hosts an array of Stax Records stars – Booker T. Jones and Steve Cropper of the brilliant house band Booker T. And The M.G.’s, singers William Bell, Eddie Floyd and Sam Moore of Sam And Dave (pictured, above, between Davids Porter and Prater, in Memphis, 1967) – in belated commemoration of the Memphis label’s celebrated Stax/Volt European tour in April/May 1967. British soul brothers and sisters spanning the generations – from Sir Tom Jones through Beverly Knight and Ruby Turner to James Morrison – will also have their credentials examined. The concert will be simultaneously broadcast on BBC4 and BBC Radio 3.
Rehearsing at the BBC’s Maida Vale studios on Wednesday, M.G.’s guitarist Cropper remembered the first tour very warmly. “When we arrived, The Beatles sent a car for us at the airport, which I thought was really cool. [Later] We were rehearsing at a club, I think it was The Speakeasy, and we took a little break and somebody came up and said, There’s some guys over here want to say hello to you,” and it was The Beatles, three of them. Of course, the guy I wanted to see, George, wasn’t there (*laughs). And they all (*arms aloft, makes low bow), and that lifted everybody.”
William Bell missed out on the original 1967 tour, but he soon made up for lost time. “I had another commitments with some concerts I couldn‘t get out of so Arthur Conley took my position,” recalled the singer, whose 2016 album on the revived Stax label, This Is Where I Live, was highly praised in MOJO. “I came over six months later and did a tour in the UK on my own. I just marvelled at the reception. We didn’t really know that people loved the music so much.”
Leaving the Green Room, Bell waited for someone already on the stairs to descend. “William Bell!,” boomed the familiar burr of Sir Tom Jones. “You Don’t Miss Your Water! A great song, no middle eight, but you don’t need one with a great song like that.”
The original Stax/Volt tour brought Soulsville a little closer to the UK. Prom 65, broadcast live from the Royal Albert Hall, promises to rekindle that special relationship.