After Stax ceased operations, the speakers found their way to Steve “The Colonel” Cropper’s Memphis studio, Trans Maximus, Inc. At TMI, some of the artists to use the Altec’s included Poco, Jeff Beck, John Prine, and Tower of Power. Over the next 30 years after TMI closed, the speakers bounced around unused, eventually finding their way to the Stax Museum of American Soul Music, where they have been on static display as part of the guided tour’s recreated studio space.
Egglestonworks Rescues and Restores Altec Monitors with Remarkable Provenance: “When Stax Records, America’s first R’n’B Recording Studio, had the opportunity to save a unique piece of audio history, they called EgglestonWorks. Like Egglestonworks, Stax was born and raised in the musical melting pot which is Memphis. Former home of Rufus Thomas, Carla Thomas, the Mar‐Keys, Booker T and the MG’s, Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett, Aretha Franklin, Sam and Dave, the Barkays, Albert King and Isaac Hayes among many, many more, Stax Records employed a pair of Altec Lansing Voice of the Theater speakers for playback sessions at the studio from 1960 to 1976.”
“I met Jeff Kollath at a record swap one weekend at Stax,” said Jim Thompson, President of EgglestonWorks. Jeff is the Executive Director of the Stax Museum of American Soul Music located in Memphis at the site of the former Stax Recording Studio. “We talked about music and speakers and as you might expect, Jeff has a love for audio gear and said that I might find some of their curated components interesting.”
Jeff expressed an interest in having the Altec’s actually be able to play if at all possible. So, in early December, 2017, Jim Thompson and his partner, John Callery, collected the speakers from Jeff, and brought them back to the EgglestonWorks factory. After a careful evaluation of the speaker, an inventory was made of the parts needed to get them back in working order. Surprisingly, the drive units were still perfectly functional! There had been some questionable repairs performed over the years and one of the crossovers was destroyed but EgglestonWorks were able to develop a comprehensive repair strategy.
“Currently, we are restoring these important pieces of the history of both Memphis and American Music. All of this will be done with a ‘Light hand’ so as not to disturb the Soul and originality of these very cool speakers. One day soon, the Stax Altecs will sing once more, thanks to the engineers and craftsmen at Egglestonworks.” Said Thompson.
It is rare indeed to find components with both the provenance and historical importance of these Altecs; in fact, it is hard to imagine any other city in the United States where such significant historical artifacts could be discovered. It is a testament to Memphis’ musical history—as well as Egglestonworks combination of technical and creative prowess—that such a restoration could be successfully undertaken.