memphis music

Otis Wows 'Em Out West

Dec 27, 2013

What do the records “California Dreaming” and “The Rain the Park and Other Things” have in common? Besides being the first big hits for their respective bands, The Mamas & the Papas and The Cowsills, they generated lots of money for songwriters, John Phillips and Artie Kornfeld. Those songwriters would eventually fund two of the major rock music festivals of the 1960s: Monterey Pop and Woodstock.

The Memphis Jug Band

Aug 20, 2013

From 1927 through 1934, the Memphis Jug Band created an exceptional sound, combining harmonicas, violins, mandolins, banjos, guitars, washboards, kazoos, and, of course, jugs. 

African American musicians from across the Mid-South centered on singer-songwriter Will Shade, otherwise known as Sun Brimmer.

Their music was a mix of blues, ballads, dance tunes, and knock about novelty numbers. At first, they played wherever they could around Memphis, but, soon, their music was popular with both black and white audiences.

Reverend C. L. Franklin was no stranger to the recording business.  In fact, he was a pioneer in using broadcast and recorded media to expand the reach of his pulpit out into the world. His daughter, Aretha, was also no stranger to the business of recording as she grew up.  Born in Memphis, she followed as her father’s gifts and calling moved the family from New Salem Baptist Church, first to Friendship Baptist in Buffalo, New York, then to New Bethel Baptist in Detroit.

Archer Records

Sid Selvidge was a cultural voice in Memphis for more than five decades, and he helped start the Beale Street Caravan radio show, which broadcasts live performances of Memphis music to more than 2.4 million people worldwide.

First and foremost a singer, Selvidge made eight albums as a solo artist and three with the Memphis alt/rock band Mud Boy and the Neutrons. Selvidge also ran his own record label for several years and produced Alex Chilton’s Like Flies on Sherbert, Cybill Shepherd’s Vanilla, and Paul Craft’s Warnings!

We remember 1967 as a year which brought us “Lucy In The Sky (With Diamonds)” as well as “Judy In Disguise With Glasses.” But it was also the year Elvis Presley’s recording career began to wake from a deep slumber.

To get a perspective on Presley’s music in 1967, you have to go back to sessions in 1966 and 1961. His music career was still being driven by his movie commitments, and still being hamstrung by his management’s insistence on exclusively cutting songs owned by their publishing company.

Over the course of time, Ronnie And The Devilles had two Ronnies and two Jordans.  Eventually they would become the first band to cut a record in Memphis which hit number one on the Billboard Hot 100, but by that time there were no Ronnies, no Jordans, and they weren’t the Devilles any more. 

  

  

Around our house, whenever an MGM movie starts, if my wife doesn’t say it first, I’ll chime in: “You know, that lion came from the Memphis Zoo.” The lion’s name was Volney, by the way, and the roar was in fact recorded in the old Carnivora building at the zoo. He died in 1944.

In 1965, Memphis bands made their mark on the Billboard charts, with top 5 spots attained by Sam The Sham and the Pharaohs and the Gentrys. Elvis Presley just missed out on the top 10 with “I’m Yours” and “Puppet On A String.” Wilson Pickett came to town and teamed with the folks at Stax for “In The Midnight Hour.”

Citric acid and sodium bicarbonate react with water to produce carbon dioxide and sodium citrate. Toss in some aspirin and a healthy dose of Madison Avenue snake oil, and you have the panacea that launched some of television’s most memorable advertising campaigns.

When the Beatles came to Elvis Presley’s Bel Air home in 1965 for a meeting orchestrated by managers Brian Epstein and Colonel Tom Parker, John Lennon asked if Elvis had any ideas for his next movie project. Elvis said he would probably play a country boy with a guitar who meets a few girls and sings a few songs. Elvis couldn’t keep a straight face long after making that statement, and laughingly explained that the only time one of his films strayed from that format was the only time he came close to losing money on a movie.

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