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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, 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. The terms "Deep soul", "Country soul", "Downhome soul" and "Hard soul" have been used synonymously with "Southern soul"p.18
Pioneers of southern soul include: Georgia natives Ray Charles and James Brown; Little Willie John, Bobby "Blue" Bland, New Orleans R&B artist Allen Toussaint; and Memphis DJ Rufus Thomas. Southern soul was influenced by blues and gospel music.
Southern soul was at its peak during the 1960s, when Memphis soul was created. In 1963, Stan Lewis founded Jewel Records in Shreveport, Louisiana, along with two subsidiary labels, Paula and Ronn. Jewel and Ronn Records were among the leaders for R&B, blues, soul and gospel tunes. Lewis signed artists such as John Lee Hooker, Charles Brown, Bobby Rush, Buster Benton, Toissaint McCall, Lightin' Hopkins, Ted Taylor, Little Johnny Taylor and The Uniques. The Carter Brothers in 1965 landed Jewel Records its first national hit on the R&B charts.
In 1966, the Shreveport-based Murco Records released "Losin' Boy" by Eddie Giles, which registered for five weeks on Cashbox magazine's Hot 100. Murco Records had chart success with its other artists which included Reuben Bell and the Belltones, Dori Grayson, Charles Crawford, Ann Alford, Abraham & the Casanovas and Marion Ester.
The other 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, the Dramatics and Isaac Hayes. Atlantic Records artists Sam & Dave's records were released on the Stax label and featured the MGs. Wilson Pickett launched his solo career through his collaboration with the Stax team.
After Sam & Dave moved from Stax to Atlantic Records, Stax producer David Porter and his songwriting and production partner Isaac Hayes decided to put together a new vocal group of two men and two women. They recruited J. Blackfoot, together with Norman West, Anita Louis, and Shelbra Bennett, to form The Soul Children. Between 1968 and 1978, The Soul Children had 15 hits on the R&B chart, including three that crossed over to the Billboard Hot 100, and recorded seven albums.
Another Memphis label, Goldwax Records, featured O.V. Wright, James Carr, and Spencer Wiggins, while Al Green, Don Bryant, and Ann Peebles recorded for Memphis's Hi Records, where they were 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 Wilson Pickett, Percy Sledge, Joe Tex and Aretha Franklin.
The popularity of Southern soul declined during the height of disco's commercial dominance in the mid- to late 1970s. In 1983, however, J. Blackfoot saw success with his single "Taxi".
Southern soul music is still being recorded and performed by artists such as Sharon Jones, Charles Bradley, Avail Hollywood, Shirley Brown, Sir Charles Jones, Barbara Carr, Willie Clayton, Bobby Rush, Denise LaSalle, Reggie Sears, TK Soul, Joyce Cobb, LJ Echols, O.B. Buchanan, Ms Jody, Karen Wolfe, LeBrado, Redd Velvet, Vick Allen, Floyd Taylor, Bigg Robb, Omar Cunningham, Jeff Floyd, Gwen McCrae, William Bell, Mel Waiters, Roni, Theodis Ealey, Rosalyn Candy, Roy C, Donnie Ray, Millie Jackson, Sam Dees, Pokey, and Summer Wolfe among many other known Southern Soul artists that receive world wide recognition and airplay.