Estelle Axton, co-founder of famed soul label Stax Records, died of natural causes Tuesday in Memphis. She was 85.

Estelle Axton, co-founder of famed soul label Stax Records, died of natural causes Tuesday in Memphis. She was 85.

Axton and her brother Jim Stewart founded Stax in Memphis as Satellite Records in 1957. The label, which operated a record store and adjacent studio in a former movie theater on McLemore Avenue, was later renamed, taking its handle from a melding of the siblings' last names.

After a long hitless spell, Stax was lofted by the 1960 hit " 'Cause I Love You" by local DJ/musician Rufus Thomas and his daughter Carla. The label quickly became the top Southern soul imprint of the '60s and early '70s. Stax was responsible for launching the careers of Booker T. & the MG's (who served as the label's house band), Otis Redding, Sam & Dave, Johnnie Taylor, Albert King, Eddie Floyd, the Staple Singers and Isaac Hayes, among others.

Axton's late son Packy was a member of the Mar-Keys, which scored an early Stax hit with the 1961 instrumental "Last Night."

After the sale of Stax to Gulf & Western in 1968 and her exit from the label in 1969, Axton went on to found Fretone Records, which in 1976 issued Memphis DJ Rick Dees' No. 1 novelty hit "Disco Duck."