Early morning, April four
Shot rings out in the Memphis sky.
Free at last, they took your life
They could not take your pride.
“Pride (In the Name of Love) – U2”
Joseph Louw / The LIFE Images Collection via Getty
I recall the day like it was yesterday. I was a junior at Brien McMahon High School, Norwalk, CT, in 1968, 50 years ago. I learned from the evening news that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. It paralyzed my heart. I felt lost. I was a great admirer of Dr. King and his non-violent teachings. How could someone do such a thing?
If you ever get to Memphis please visit and honor Dr. King’s memory. The Lorraine Hotel hosts the National Civil Rights Museum. We saw the balcony and the vintage cars from the Memphis tour van a couple of years ago. A moment forever frozen in time. A humbling moment. You’ll feel his spirit there.
Walking in Memphis with my feet 10 feet off of Beale is fundamental to the successful completion of my bucket list.
Beale Street in Memphis, Tennessee was officially declared the Home of the Blues by an act of Congress in 1977. “Walking in Memphis” is a song by American singer-songwriter Marc Cohn, from his self-titled 1991 album. It has always romanticized my soul to experience Memphis.
I happened upon a forthcoming book (3/30/15) by Memphis music journalist/historian, Preston Lauterbach, Beale Street Dynasty. The book’s subject matter establishes a sharp contrast to the general perceptions held about the most iconic street in America. (USA Today, National Poll)
Robert Church, who would become “the South’s first black millionaire,” he was a mulatto slave owned by his white father. Having survived a deadly race riot in 1866, Church constructed an empire of vice in the booming river town. He made a fortune with saloons, gambling, and—shockingly—white prostitution. But he also nurtured the militant journalism of Ida B. Wells and helped revolutionize American music through the work of composer W.C. Handy, the man who claimed to have invented the blues.
In charting the rise of Memphis, Lauterbach adds to the rich library devoted to the “old, weird America” established by writers such as Michael Ventura, Peter Guralnick and Greil Marcus.
Thanks to the Bob Lefsetz‘s LefsetzLetter I received in my G-Mail Inbox today, I am actively learning about the annual Folk Alliance International event in Memphis, Tennessee. Prior to Bob’s e-mail I wasn’t aware of this folk music conclave at all. I am thankful for the perpetuation of folk music as an art form industry that such an assemblage viably exists and thrives. 2012 marks the Folk Alliance International 24th annual get together.
As a fellow music blogger I have deep respect and mutual admiration for Bob Lefsetz’s contributions. He is insightful, as he is judicious with his music analysis and reporting. Lefsetz has a keen intuitive sense for marketplace conditions, worthiness of musicians and keeping the record companies accountable in their business practices.
A recent article I read about Bob Lefsetz, “Who the Fuck is this Guy?” (authored by Brian Raferty) in Wired Magazine issue 20.03 makes me proud to see a music blogger have such klout and prowess. Granted he can be a controversial catalyst but fresh, no-holds barred journalism begs for and should receive such dynamics.
Like most music bloggers, Lefsetz posts frequently and verbosely, unlike most music bloggers, he has actually gained the interest of the music industry, so much so that even Lefsetz’s most casually tossed off missives get noticed.
It just so happens Bob Lefsetz is the keynote speaker for the Folk Alliance this year, go figure, right 😉 I am hoping his keynote speech makes it onto YouTube to further our awareness for folk music 🙂
Visiting Memphis, Tennessee and attending the Blues Foundation, Blues Music Awards is high on my bucket list 😉 Which reminds me to look into the status of my Blues Foundation membership so I can vote for the awards before the March 1st deadline…
Memphis is a music city with a rich heritage of country, rock and roll, blues and soul music.
The Folk Alliance International Web site will be the closest I get to Memphis for now. There are so many great genres of music and so little time to appreciate them all. I haven’t given folk music deserved attention and that is my mistake I try to correct. Fortunately the activities of the folk alliance organization are rekindling my love of this native art form. I hope it awakens an interest in your explorations as well.
I was thumbing through the Nov/Dec 2010 issue of Blues Revue magazine, where I picked up on a thread of continuity with three blues harp players, Grady Champion, James Cotton, and Charles Musslewhite. Each had advertisements in the magazine and all three harp players recordings are reviewed in the reviews section.
The first harp player reference I saw was a half page advertisement for the International Blues Challenge 2011, featuring an image of Grady Champion (last year’s IBC winning band!). The Blues Foundation will present the 27th International Blues Challenge February 1-5, 2011 in Memphis, TN
Grady Champion is a new influence for me. His band’s latest recording is Back In Mississippi Live at the 930 Blues Cafe on Earwig Records. Having a Microsoft Zune music account I decided to sample Grady Champion’s recording. I liked what I heard immediately. Grady and the band have a sharp, fresh sound that commands your attention from the first note. Give them a listen 🙂
Charlie Musselwhite, is a veteran blues-man who is having a welcome resurgence of late. You may have seen him playing with Cyndi Lauper on her latest recording Memphis Blues. Charlie has been a sideman with many famous musicians such as Tom Waits, Bonnie Raitt, John Lee Hooker and The Blind Boys of Alabama, just to name a few. Charlie’s latest recording on Alligator Records, The Well is up for a Grammy Award nomination in the Best Traditional Blues Album category. The Well has been hailed by critics and fans as one of the very best blues CDs of 2010. I wholeheartedly agree, The Well is a gritty, straight ahead blues rocker. One of my favorite tracks is “Cook County Blues” where you hear humorous diatribe about being in the slammer” 😉
“Superb, original and compelling…harmonica master Musselwhite sets the standard for blues.” – Rolling Stone Magazine
Alligator Recording artist James Cotton at 75 years young has also received a well-deserved Grammy Award nomination in the Best Traditional Blues Album group for Giant. James Cotton began his career at the age of 9 under the tutelage of Sonny Boy Williamson. He is totally dedicated to his craft and will shake you to your bones on this recording.
“Among the greats of all time, He blazes on harp with brilliant virtuosity,”–Rolling Stone Magazine