Ladies Night

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In this episode of Memphis Type History: The Podcast, we take each and every one of you out for Ladies Night! And guess what? It’s a two-for-one special tonight because we each share the story of a Memphis lady we love.

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First, Rebecca makes Caitlin play a game of “Name That Tune.” Well, sort of. We’re not really sure how the game show worked and we for sure don’t play the right way. But you can play along with us if you dare! But beware that Rebecca gets REALLY bossy about it.

All of these shenanigans lead us into learning all about Estelle Axton, who grew up on a farm and moved to Memphis to be a teacher. But then in 1958, fate came upon her when her brother, Jim Stewart, asked her to start Satellite Records with him. Estelle and her husband re-mortgaged their home and created their first big musical hit. This caught the attention of an LA label that already owned that name. So the siblings combined the first two letters of their last names to create… drum roll please… Stax!

Memphis-STAX-Estelle-Axton-podcast-history

Every recording studio is known for its unique sound, which is greatly affected by the physical build of the studio. At Stax, the floor was slanted because they had to set up shop in a theater. And voilà, the Stax sound was created! The original label’s name lived on in the Satellite Record Shop that Estelle created in the former concession stand to help pay rent and gain insight into which records would sell best. Along with much success with Stax, Estelle also went on to become huge in the music industry, both in Memphis and globally.

estelle-axton-stax-memphis-podcast

Next up, Caitlin brings the Wild West to Memphis with a story that bundles up in one inspirational woman all the things we love: Memphis, an iconic sign, and, as stated, the Wild West. In 1927, 21-year-old Evelyn Estes (aka “Calamity Jane’s Little Sister) set off alone with just a horse and her dog, Kip, to reach the Pacific Ocean in California. She took very little with her except a travel journal, intending to rely solely on the kindness of strangers. Caitlin details the high points of Evelyn’s journey, which includes things like how she delivered a baby, ran slap into pioneer life (straight up Oregon Trail stuff, y’all), saw several famous people, and lots more.

Evelyn Estes in 1927 Memphis history

Evelyn Estes with her horse in 1927 (via Elmwood Cemetary)

Evelyn Estes again with her trusty stead via Elmwood Cemetary

For those who particularly love the ladies of the Wild West, we also have a nice little sidebar in this episode about Calamity Jane herself, too! We also cover a bit of the history behind our surprise iconic sign encountered by Evelyn herself on her way to the ocean… no spoilers here, though!

Iconic Hollywood Sign in Los Angeles, CA

Evelyn didn’t stop being awesome at 22. She also was a WWII nurses’ aid, made B29s, worked with children in the John Gaston Hospital. Being the total boss she was, Evelyn lived on to the age of 103.

john-gaston-nursing-class

The John Gaston nursing class

Links Mentioned:

Girlschool X Spotlight: Estelle Axton via Amy Pohler’s Smart Girls

Estelle Axton: The First Lady of Stax

Gee Whiz by Carla Thomas

Last Night by The Mar-Keys

Walking the Dog by Rufus Thomas

Evelyn Estes via the Elmwood Blog

John Gaston via Ask Vance

Support the show via Patreon and get bonus content like our weekly blooper reel, digital wallpaper featuring Rebecca’s artwork, t-shirts, signed books, and more!

Support the Memphis Type History Podcast on Patreon

Caitlin L. Horton

Author of Memphis Type History & Brand Strategist at Caitlin L. Horton Brand Strategy
Partner-in-crime for entrepreneurs and community builders getting their message out with thoughtful design and marketing.

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