And the GRAMMY Goes to Memphis: Concerts, New Exhibit Celebrate 40 Years of the Recording Academy®
Let’s say you’re not in the music industry. What does GRAMMY® mean to you? Maybe a trophy, or a night on TV, or a cue to listen.
Now let’s say you’re in the music industry. The definition expands: Twelve Recording Academy® chapters across the country celebrate music every day of the year. Sure, they vote on GRAMMY® winners. But they steadfastly support musicians by hosting educational programs and workshops; by fundraising and creating awareness to preserve music heritage (you might remember the Memphis Chapter’s efforts to provide displaced musicians with replacement instruments following Hurricane Katrina).
Now, I’ll admit my bias, but hear me out: The Memphis Chapter is special. Beyond the musical ground-zero that is the Bluff City, the chapter reaches into Arkansas and Missouri and rambles down through Mississippi to Louisiana. In the words of The Recording Academy®, the Memphis Chapter “encompasses the deepest roots of American music…the birthplaces of blues, jazz, ragtime, R&B, Cajun, zydeco and rock & roll.”
This year, the Memphis Chapter of The Recording Academy® turns 40. I had the supreme pleasure of attending a concert in celebration this summer at the city’s Levitt Shell. Imagine Amy LaVere covering Sun Studio-era Elvis Presley. Carla, Vaneese and Marvell Thomas conjuring their Stax Records days and their father, Rufus. William Bell accompanied by The Bo-Keys. Gospel, gospel and more gospel. The Memphis Dawls channeling Dusty Springfield. Shannon McNally paying tribute to Bobby Blue Bland. Susan Marshall, Al Kapone, Rebirth Brass Band and the Hi Rhythm section sharing a stage. As if the three-hour event needed additional weight, it started with Knox Phillips (son of Sun Studio’s Sam Phillips) receiving his Beale Street Walk of Fame brass note and ended with the North Mississippi Allstars (sons of the late, SO great Jim Dickinson) jubilantly playing. Read the full recap here; then do yourself a favor and buy a song or album by any of the chapter’s artists. But first, watch this video of former Stax Records artist (and GRAMMY® winner) Booker T. Jones talking about his experience performing at Memphis’ Levitt Shell:
You know I’m going to leave you with more than that, though, right? First, get to the Levitt Shell for any of the remaining free concerts this season. My best bets:
- Sept. 27, 7:30 p.m.: Shannon McNally I love her combined with Amy LaVere or The Wandering, Luther Dickinson’s super-group, so solo-Shannon is sure to be a treat.
- Sept. 28, 7:30 p.m.: Opus One with John Gary Williams and The Bo-Keys I’ve raved to you before about Opus One, Memphis Symphony Orchestra’s unexpected collaborations (in unexpected venues) with Memphis artists of all genres. Sept. 28, Opus One comes to the historic Levitt Shell, featuring 1970s Stax Records artist John Gary Williams and the generation-spanning musicianship of The Bo-Keys.
- Oct. 6, 7:30 p.m.: Vaneese Thomas Hear how the Stax legacy lives on in Vaneese Thomas’ swirl of R&B, gospel, blues and jazz.
- Oct. 12, 7 p.m.: Stars at the Shell This one isn’t free. But for just $25 (advance sale), you can help fund an entire season of free concerts at the Levitt Shell, and hear Mavis Staples, a former Stax recording artist, plus Patty Griffin, Buddy Miller and Jim Lauderdale. VIP tickets, including cocktails, dinner, reserved parking and special seating, run $150.
Birthday bonus: Since 2013 marks the 40th anniversary of the Memphis Chapter of The Recording Academy® and the 10th anniversary of the Stax Museum of American Soul Music, the two are hosting a special exhibit, And The GRAMMY Goes To Memphis, Oct. 24, 2013 – Oct. 31, 2014. Anticipate GRAMMY® awards attributed to regional artists including Otis Redding, B.B. King, Elvis Presley and Kirk Whalum, among others; a B.B. King Lucille guitar; rare footage and photos from the Memphis Chapter of The Recording Academy® archives; and an interactive exhibit showcasing several Memphis recording studios.
So tell me – who’s your favorite Memphis recording artist past or present? Tell me in the comments section below, and feel free to include your favorite song title(s), too – imagine the playlist possibilities!