Al Bell | 2009 Make Think Design Conference

Al Bell

Al Bell welcomes the AIGA Design Conference to Memphis, Tennessee, a rebellious, innovative river town noted for the founding of FedEx as well as the country's first self-service grocery store. But nowhere is this unbridled spirit more evident than in its music industry—past, present and future. Stax Records, which launched the likes of Otis Redding, Isaac Hayes, Sam & Dave and dozens of other music icons, started in a tiny garage and grew to become one of the most important labels in the world. It thrived in the face of racism, corporate greed, political corruption and other challenges. But the creativity that formed the culture of Stax Records lives on today and its legacy is still changing the world.

A recording industry legend, Al Bell has been responsible for shaping the American music scene for over 50 years. Bell started his music career as an on-air personality in Little Rock, Memphis and Washington, DC, and soon became chairman of Stax Records and subsequently the president of Motown Records. His innovative promotional efforts drove the “Memphis sound” internationally and made Stax the second-largest African American-owned business in the 1970s. Bell is largely responsible for the careers of such artists as Booker T and the MG’s, Otis Redding, William Bell, The Staple Singers, Sam and Dave, Little Milton, Albert King, Johnnie Taylor, Rufus Thomas, Carla Thomas, The Bar-Kays, The Dramatics and Richard Pryor. Bell is currently the chairman and CEO of Al Bell Presents.