Here's my quick & dirty take on Stax records and some of the big artists to check out. This is the blueprint for southern soul right here. Hard-edged with that slammin' backbeat that is unmistakable. This is by no means comprehensive and is sorta focused on dance music and earlier stuff, but still, it should help if you are starting out.

Otis Redding

Otis Redding was the center of the Stax sound, and the king of southern soul. known for his power and soulfulness, he also used to sing out the horn lines to the band during recording sessions. He died too young in a plane crash just before the release of his now-classic song, "Sittin' on the Dock of the Bay".

A good album to buy:
Sam & Dave

Sam & Dave epitomized gospel-infused soul in their music. They had huge hits for Stax Records like "Soul Man" and "I Thank You" but since they were officially signed to Atlantic Records, once the partnership between Stax and Atlantic dissolved and they no longer worked with the Stax musicians, the well ran a bit dry for them.

A good album to buy:
William Bell

William Bell was one of the men most responsible for the Stax/Volt sound. He wrote many of the classic songs and was himself a great singer. His songs are often characterized by a tenderness that stands in contrast to tough, muscular sound for which Stax became so well-known.

A good album to buy:
Albert King

Albert King was one of the most influential blues guitarists ever, right up there with greats like B.B. King and Freddie King. He played left-handed, without re-stringing the guitar which may account for his unique sound. The oft-covered title track to his album "Born Under a Bad Sign" was written by none other than William Bell.

A good album to buy:

Other great artists to check out and a couple songs to look out for are:

Rufus Thomas

"Walkin' the Dog"
"Do the Funky Chicken"
"Do the Penguin"

Eddie Floyd

"Knock on Wood"
"I've Never Found a Girl (to Love Me Like You Do)"

"But wait - I want way more music than that - what should I buy?"

Well, if you are looking to dive into the deep end and get more music that you could possibly need - this collection is amazing:

And if you are going for that one, you should either get the 9 CD boxed set with the liner notes written by the great Rob Bowman (for which he won more than one Grammy) or download the digital version and just buy his book: