//The Legend Of The Juke Joint

The Legend Of The Juke Joint


Notodden, Norway is unique in many ways. It is birthplace of the 2nd Industrial Revolution. It is headquarters of the Blues in Europe. It home to the European Blues Center and the Notodden Blues Festival. It is also home to the Juke Joint –  the studio with roots in the renowned Stax Studio in Memphis, the city that gave the world Rock & Roll, Blues and Soul.

The Juke Joint Studio is the original vintage analogue studio located at the Bok & Blueshuset by the Heddal Lake in Notodden. The heart and soul of the Juke Joint comes from the legendary Stax Studio –  the Audiotronics 501 Soundboard, creating the same analogue magic that Stax Studio recorded in the 60s and 70s.

Legendary Stax Studio

It was in Memphis in the late 1950s that a bank clerk by profession, Jim Stevens, created Satellite Records, a label that featured local rockabilly and country acts. The next year, In 1959, he and his sister Estelle Axton became business partners.

It was in Memphis in the late 1950s that a bank clerk by profession, Jim Stevens, created Satellite Records, a label that featured local rockabilly and country acts. The next year, In 1959, he and his sister Estelle Axton became business partners.

This led the way in 1960 for the two of them to purchase the old Capitol Theatre in a poor section of Memphis on 926 East McLemore Avenue.

With an investment of 150 dollars and a lot of hard work, they transformed the dilapidated theatre into a music studio.

Then In 1961, Jim and Estelle changed the name of the studio from Satellite to Stax, and began to create what would become the heart of soul of music in the southern USA, and a worldwide phenomenom.

Black and White

In the Deep South at that time, there was a division of black and white – segregation was the law of the land – but Stax dared to be revolutionary in this time of racial division and unrest.

The creative blend of black (organist Booker T. Jones and drummer Al Jackson) and white (guitarist Steve Cropper and bassist Donald “Duck” Dunn) musicians, created the Stax Sound. Led by the best house band anywhere, over the next 15 years Stax charted over 175 hit songs on Billboard’s Hot 100 and a mind-boggling 250 hits on the Rhythm and Blues charts.

Over the years, artists such as Otis Redding and dozens of other artists that included Elvis PresleyThe Staple SingersIsaac HayesWilson PickettAlbert King and perhaps the most famous house band ever – Booker T and the MGs, recorded hit after hit here at Stax.

A Plane Crash and Bankruptcy

They say that the turning point of Stax Records came to a literal crash on December 10, 1967 when their star Otis Redding´s plane went down in Lake Monona, Wisconsin.

Otis had recorded the song Sitting on the Dock of the Bay just days before his death. It went to number one the following year for four weeks, becoming one of the biggest songs of 1968 (Hey Jude was number one) but everything had changed.

Although the label and studio would see dozens of hits during the next seven years following the death of Otis Redding, the Stax Studio went bankrupt in 1976 with its doors closing forever the following year.

The studio that had seen so much success over so many years was sold to a church for just 10 dollars in 1977, and the studio equipment simply began to collect dust instead of hits over the next years.

The Journey Begins

Then, the soundboard was saved. Purchased by Steve Wold, the Audiotronics 501 became the heart of Wold´s Moon Music. Over the next years, the Audiotronics 501 soundboard and studio equipment would begin a journey that would take it first to the grunge scene in Washington in the early 1990’s and then finally to the mountain town of Notodden in Norway.

Olympia is a neighboring town to Seattle, where grunge music had begun in the early 1990´s. Legend has it that Steve Wold at least met Nirvana´s Kurt Cobain, but more we do not know.

During this time in Olympia, the studio was used for many acclaimed late 90´s Indie-recordings with bands recording on the soundboard that included Modest Mouse764 HerFitz of Depression and the Murder City Devils.

Destination Norway

Steve Wold decided to move to Norway in 2001 with his Norwegian-born wife, packing the Audiotronics 501 and studio equipment in a container and shipping it across the Atlantic. By 2001, the studio had found its home in Notodden, taking its name as the Juke Joint Studio.

Editors Note: The term Juke Joint is by definition an informal establishment traditionally found at rural crossroads in the US south – where plantation workers and sharecroppers could relax and socialize and make music after their long hard days.  

Steve Wold would spend the next six years in Notodden, and it was here that he was given the nicknamed Seasick Steve. The talented musician would go on to international fame in the years after leaving the town in 2007, never looking back.

Stax Lives On in Notodden

Through the years, the Juke Joint Studio has remained popular, drawing blues and rock celebrities to record their music in Notodden. Several albums have won national and international awards, including Norwegian Grammy for Kåre Virud, Rita Engedalen, Blues, and Kjetil Grande.

The Notodden Juke Joint has now become a home to music in the region. Just as in the old Stax Studio in Memphis, in Notodden´s Juke Joint you will find a combination of acoustic tiles and curtains that muffle the echo of the large studio in a way that creates an analogue sound that is unique.

Each year, the Juke Joint is part of the Little Steven Blues School, where Steven Van Zandt becomes Artist-in-Residence each August. This is where new legends are being created.

Even today, in the heart of the Juke Joint studio you can still find the legendary Audiotronics 501 soundboard with the engraved the words:

                     “This is property of STAX – Memphis”

Be sure to visit the Juke Joint Studio in Notodden, Norway to experience a piece of history – and make great music.

By | 2018-07-28T22:36:14+00:00 July 12th, 2018|Bluestown Stories|0 Comments

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