Day 2 of the Otha Turner Picnic at Gravel Springs

1790 Otha Turner Picnic1787 Along the Road1786 Along the Road1784 The Other Festival1782 Kenny Brown1781 Kenny Brown1780 The Como-Tions1778 Sharde Thomas1776 Full Moon1774 Stud & Lightning1772 David Evans1170 Rising Star Fife and Drum Band095 Lightning Malcolm094 Lightning Malcolm093 Lightning Malcolm092 Stud091 Lightning Malcolm090 Lightning Malcolm089 Lightning Malcolm088 Otha Turner Picnic087 Otha Turner Picnic086 Otha Turner Picnic085 Lightning Malcolm084 Lightning Malcolm083 Along the Road082 Along the Road081 Sharde Thomas080 Sharde Thomas079 Sharde Thomas078 Otha Turner Picnic077 The Other Festival075 Rising Star Fife and Drum Band074 Rising Star Fife and Drum Band073 Rising Star Fife and Drum Band072 Rising Star Fife and Drum Band071 Rising Star Fife and Drum Band070 Rising Star Fife and Drum Band069 Rising Star Fife and Drum Band068 Rising Star Fife and Drum Band067 Rising Star Fife and Drum Band066 Rising Star Fife and Drum Band065 Rising Star Fife and Drum Band064 Rising Star Fife and Drum Band063 Rising Star Fife and Drum Band062 Rising Star Fife and Drum Band061 Rising Star Fife and Drum Band060 Rising Star Fife and Drum Band059 Sharde Thomas058 Rising Star Fife and Drum Band057 Rising Star Fife and Drum Band056 Otha Turner Picnic055 Lightning Malcolm & Kenny Brown054 Otha Turner Picnic053 Kenny Brown & Lightning Malcolm051 Sherena and Malcolm050 Otha Turner Picnic049 Kenny Brown048 Stud047 Kenny Brown046 Kenny Brown045 Kenny Brown044 Kenny Brown043 Kenny Brown041 Otha Turner Picnic040 The Como-Tions038 The Como-Tions037 The Como-Tions036 The Como-Tions035 The Como-Tions034 The Como-Tions033 The Como-Tions032 The Como-Tions031 The Como-Tions030 The Como-Tions029 The Como-Tions028 The Como-Tions027 The Como-Tions025 The Como-Tions024 The Como-Tions020 Stud & Lightning019 Lightning Malcolm018 Stud017 Stud016 Stud015 Stud014 Dr. David Evans013 Otha Turner Picnic012 Dr. David Evans011 Dr. David Evans009 Dr. David Evans008 Dr. David Evans007 Dr. David Evans006 Otha Turner Picnic005 Otha Turner Picnic004 Otha Turner Picnic003 Otha Turner Picnic
The second day of the annual Otha Turner Picnic in Gravel Springs near Senatobia always falls on a Saturday, and brings out a larger crowd. This year, there were performances by Dr. David Evans, the eminent musicologist from the University of Memphis, a new blues-rock band called the Como-Tions from Como, Mississippi, and Lightning Malcolm, as well as the periodic parades around the grounds with Sharde Thomas and the Rising Star Fife and Drum Band. On this Saturday night, the bass drum beat seemed more insistent and the dancers more exuberant and enthusiastic as the night progressed. In addition, there was a massive block party outside the gates along O. B. McClinton Road as literally hundreds of young people lined both sides of the highway, just hanging out. There was also supposed to be some sort of after-event at L.P.’s field on Hunters Chapel Road, but when I drove past there, I only saw a few cars, so I kept on rolling.

Preserving the Black Fife and Drum Tradition at Gravel Springs

001 O. B. McClinton Road002 Otha Turner's Place003 O. B. McClinton Road004 Otha Turner's Place005 Otha Turner Picnic006 Otha Turner's Place007 Otha Turner Picnic008 Otha Turner Picnic009 Otha Turner Picnic010 Otha's Place with a Bass Drum011 Otha Turner Picnic012 Otha Turner Picnic014 Moses Crouch015 Otha Turner Picnic016 Moses Crouch017 Otha Turner Picnic018 Moses Crouch019 Otha's Place020 Sharde Thomas and the Rising Star Fife and Drum Band022 Future Bass Drummer023 Blue Mother Tupelo024 Otha Turner Picnic025 Full Moon026 Blue Mother Tupelo030 Rising Star Fife & Drum Band031 Rising Star Fife and Drum Band033 Otha Turner Picnic034 Otha Turner Picnic035 Otha Turner Picnic036 Sherena and FriendJPG037 Otha Turner Picnic038 Otha Turner Picnic041 Lightning Malcolm042 Lightning Malcolm043 Lightning Malcolm044 Lightning Malcolm045 Lightning Malcolm046 Lightning Malcolm047 Lightning Malcolm048 Lightning Malcolm050 Lightning Malcolm051 Lightning Malcolm052 Lightning Malcolm053 Lightning Malcolm054 Greg Ayres Band055 Greg Ayres Band056 Greg Ayres Band057 Greg Ayres Band058 Greg Ayres Band059 Greg Ayres Band060 Greg Ayres Band061 Greg Ayres Band062 Greg Ayres Band063 Greg Ayres Band064 Greg Ayres Band065 Greg Ayres Band066 Greg Ayres Band067 Greg Ayres Band068 Greg Ayres Band1758 Hernando's Underground Cafe1760 Otha Turner Picnic1762 Moses Crouch1764 Otha Turner Picnic1767 Blue Mother Tupelo1763 Otha Turner Picnic1765 Sharde Thomas & the Rising Star Fife and Drum Band1766 Blue Mother Tupelo
For fans of the blues in Mississippi, the summer is somewhat framed by two major events, the North Mississippi Hill Country Picnic in June, which celebrates the Hill Country blues tradition, and the Otha Turner Picnic at Gravel Springs near Senatobia, generally held in August on the weekend before Labor Day. But the latter event is all the more important because it celebrates a type of African-American music that is older than the blues, Black fife-and-drum music. Tate and Panola Counties have always been a center of the fife-and-drum style, and picnics were frequently held on the Fourth of July and Labor Day. Fife master Otha Turner became famous for his pre-Labor Day picnic featuring fife and drum music and barbecued goat. Upon his death, the picnic tradition and the music tradition were continued by his granddaughter Sharde Thomas, who has kept the Rising Star Fife and Drum Band together and who remains an advocate for this endangered form of Black music. Under her administration, the picnic, held at the Otha Turner homestead in Gravel Springs near Senatobia, has become a two-day festival of many different artists and styles of music, including bands like Blue Mother Tupelo and the North Mississippi All-Stars, to solo artists like Dr. David Evans or Lightning Malcolm. There’s plenty of good fun and good food, and several processions of the fife and drum band across the grounds each evening. As the night progresses, the dancers become more exuberant, getting low to the ground and shaking in time with the beat of the bass drum, and the scene is reminiscent of other similar processions in African cultures, including New Orleans second-lines, and Haitian raras in Miami. On this year’s first night, there was also a brilliant full moon which threw a strange light on the proceedings. As in previous years, the festival inside the gates lead to another festival outside the gates, in which young people from the rural community parked and gathered along O. B. McClinton Road, listening to music and hanging out.

On the Square in Ripley, Tennessee

031 Ripley032 Ripley033 Lauderdale County Courthouse, Ripley034 Ripley035 Lauderdale County Courthouse, Ripley036 Ripley037 Lauderdale County Courthouse, Ripley038 Lauderdale County Courthouse, Ripley039 Ripley040 Ripley041 Ripley042 Ripley043 Russell's Kitchen, Ripley044 Ripley045 Babe's Place, Ripley046 Lauderdale County Training School, RipleyJPG047 Lauderdale County Training School048 Lauderdale County Training School, Ripley049 Lauderdale County Training School, Ripley050 Lauderdale County Training School, Ripley051 Lauderdale County Training School, Ripley052 Lauderdale County Training School, Ripley
Ripley, Tennessee is the county seat of Lauderdale County, Tennessee, and has a traditional courthouse square, such as is common in many areas of the south, but due to building restorations, it has a somewhat sterile and uptown atmosphere, completely different from Covington or Somerville, two other West Tennessee county seat towns. Although the weather was blue and pretty, rain was predicted and the courthouse square was absolutely deserted. Across the tracks in Ripley’s East End, I came upon the ruins of Lauderdale County Training High School, which prior to 1970 had been the community’s high school for Black students. The sign above the door of the old school reading “Ripley _____ High School” is probably not the racial slur that I initially suspected. Rather, that sign probably dates from the days when the school building was used as the junior high school for all of Ripley. However, today it and its gymnasium are both abandoned buildings, and their abandonment at a time when young people need knowledge and recreation facilities is sad indeed.

Kenny Brown, Cameron Kimbrough and Garry Burnside Live at Holly Springs

010 Cu-Man's011 Holly Springs012 Marshall County Courthouse013 Holly Springs014 Holly Springs015 Duwayne Burnside and Son016 Duwayne Burnside and Son017 Cameron Kimbrough, Kenny Brown & Garry Burnside018 Marshall County Courthouse019 Duwayne Burnside and Friend020 North Center Street021 North Center Street022 Blues in the Alley023 Duwayne Burnside and Family024 Oxford All-Stars Band025 Blues in the Alley026 Blues in the Alley027 Holly Springs Sunset028 Blues in the Alley029 Oxford All-Stars030 Blues in the Alley031 Blues in the Alley032 North Center Street033 Blues in the Alley034 Oxford All-Stars035 Oxford All-Stars036 Oxford All-Stars037 Blues in the Alley038 Blues in the Alley039 Blues in the Alley040 Oxford All-Stars041 Oxford All-Stars042 Blues in the Alley043 Oxford All-Stars044 Blues in the Alley046 Oxford All-Stars047 Oxford All-Stars048 Oxford All-Stars049 Oxford All-Stars050 Oxford All-Stars051 Oxford All-Stars052 Holly Springs Sunset #2053 Jukin'054 Blues in the Alley055 Blues in the Alley056 Kenny Brown & Cameron Kimbrough057 Kenny Brown, Cameron Kimbrough & Garry Burnside058 Cameron Kimbrough059 Kenny Brown061 Kenny Brown062 Cameron Kimbrough & Garry Burnside063 Kenny Brown067 Blues in the Alley068 Kenny Brown069 Kenny Brown & Garry Burnside070 Kenny Brown, Cameron Kimbrough & Garry Burnside071 Kenny Brown, Cameron Kimbrough & Garry Burnside072 Blues in the Alley073 Blues in the Alley074 Kenny Brown Band075 Kenny Brown, Cameron Kimbrough & Garry Burnside076 Cameron Kimbrough & Garry Burnside077 Kenny Brown Band078 Kenny Brown, Cameron Kimbrough & Garry Burnside079 Kenny Brown, Cameron Kimbrough & Garry Burnside080 Kenny Brown, Cameron Kimbrough & Duwayne Burnside081 Kenny Brown & Duwyane & Garry Burnside085 Kenny Brown & Duwayne Burnside086 Kenny Brown & Duwayne Burnside087 Kenny Brown, Duwayne Burnside, Kent Kimbrough & Garry Burnside088 Cameron Kimbrough, Kent Kimbrough & Garry Burnside089 Kenny Brown & Duwayne Burnside090 Kenny Brown & Duwayne Burnside091 Kenny Brown, Cameron Kimbrough, Kent Kimbrough & Garry Burnside092 Blues in the Alley093 Blues in the Alley094 Blues in the Alley095 Blues in the Alley1701 Oxford All-Stars1703 Oxford All-Stars1705 Oxford All-Stars1707 Kenny Brown1708 Kenny Brown & Duwayne Burnside1709 Kenny Brown & Duwayne Burnside
Going the Old Hudsonville Road from Hudsonville to Holly Springs proved to be a mistake, because more than half the distance between the two communities was gravel, but the road did take me into a neighborhood of Holly Springs that I had never seen before, an area to the east of the Rust College campus where there were several churches, a Roman Catholic school and a juke joint called Cu-Man’s. But for some reason, the crowd on the square on this particular Thursday was far less than it had been the last time I went a couple of weeks before. Through an error, the people in charge of the weekly event had booked two different bands for the same time slot, so the Oxford All-Stars opened up the evening, playing a lot of Motown and Memphis classics, and a couple of blues, and then they were followed by Hill Country veteran Kenny Brown, with Cameron Kimbrough (son of Kinney Kimbrough and grandson of Junior) on drums, and Garry Burnside ( son of R. L.) on bass. After a few songs, they were joined on stage by Garry’s brother Duwayne Burnside, who did several of the Hill Country classics with the band. As the temperatures cooled off, the crowd around the square grew larger, and the final song featured Cameron’s dad Kent “Kinney” Kimbrough on drums.

Hate at InLOVE Memphis with Jason Da Hater

001 CCDE002 CCDE003 Hardface with CCDE004 CCDE005 Hardface006 CCDE007 CCDE008 CCDE009 Fuller's Back010 Fuller's Back014 CCDE015 CCDE016 CCDE017 CCDE018 CCDE019 CCDE020 CCDE021 CCDE022 CCDE023 CBeyohn024 CBeyohn025 CBeyohn026 CBeyohn027 CBeyohn028 CBeyohn030 CBeyohn031 CBeyohn032 CCDE033 CBeyohn034 Jason Da Hater035 Jason Da Hater036 Jason Da Hater037 Jason Da Hater038 Jason Da Hater039 Jason Da Hater042 Jason Da Hater044 Jason Da Hater045 Jason Da Hater046 Jason Da Hater047 CBeyohn & Jason The Hater048 Jason Da Hater049 Jason Da Hater050 Jason Da Hater051 Hater Swag052 InLOVE Memphis053 InLOVE MemphisThe Chinese Connection Dub Embassy live at @inlovememphis @ccdevibes #LiveFromMemphis #MemphisMusicMemphis rap artist Fulla at @inlovememphis #MemphisMusic #LiveFromMemphisPositive vibrations with @ccdevibes at @inlovememphis #LiveFromMemphis #MemphisMusicRapper @cbeyohn live at @inlovememphis #LiveFromMemphis #MemphisMusicMemphis MC @jasondahater at @inlovememphis #LiveFromMemphis #MemphisMusicMemphis hip-hop stars @jasondahater and @cbeyohn live at @inlovememphis #LiveFromMemphis #MemphisMusic #Memphop
InLOVE Memphis is one of Memphis' most elegant clubs, but it is not usually the venue for any kind of rap music, so I was somewhat surprised when I saw that a rap concert called Fall In Love Memphis was being held there. But it was also no ordinary rap concert, as the rappers were to be backed by the Chinese Connection Dub Embassy, Memphis' superb dub band. The show was hosted by Memphis comedian/rapper/actor Elliot "Hardface" Nelson, and opened up with a rapper named Fuller's Back, who did a couple of songs. Memphis hip-hop artist CBeyohn was next, featuring the Chinese Connection's drummer Donnon Johnson on an amazing solo at the front of one of the songs. But the headliner for the night was Memphis veteran Jason Da Hater, well-known for his unique image and "hater" persona. Despite being introduced as the "worst MC in Memphis" and his appearance on stage being greeted by a chorus of boos (per his instructions), Jason is actually one of the city's most gifted MC's, and demonstrated that fact during his fairly brief set of some six or so songs. It was a night of great lyrics and great musicianship in an upscale, grown-folks environment.

Blues In The Grove At Oxford

001 Doc Prana Trio002 Doc Prana Trio004 Doc Prana Trio005 Doc Prana Trio006 Doc Prana Trio007 Doc Prana Trio008 Zediker Brothers010 Oxford Blues Fest011 Oxford Blues Fest012 Oxford Blues Fest013 Oxford Blues Fest014 Zediker Brothers015 Oxford Blues Fest016 Oxford Blues Fest017 Oxford Blues Fest018 Oxford Blues Fest019 Oxford Blues Fest020 Zediker Brothers021 Zediker Brothers022 Oxford Blues Fest023 Oxford Blues Fest025 Bobby Ray Watson026 Bobby Ray Watson027 Bobby Ray Watson028 Bobby Ray Watson029 Bobby Ray Watson030 Bobby Ray Watson032 Bobby Ray Watson033 Oxford Blues Fest034 Bobby Ray Watson035 Sherena038 Bobby Ray Watson039 Oxford Blues Fest040 Bobby Ray Watson & Joyce Jones041 Bobby Ray Watson & Joyce Jones042 Joyce Jones043 Joyce Jones044 Bobby Ray Watson & Joyce Jones045 Bobby Ray Watson & Joyce Jones046 Bobby Ray Watson & Joyce Jones047 Bobby Ray Watson & Joyce Jones048 Bobby Ray Watson & Joyce Jones049 Bobby Ray Watson & Joyce Jones050 Joyce Jones051 Bobby Ray Watson052 Sherena053 Bobby Ray Watson & Joyce Jones054 Bobby Ray Watson & Joyce Jones056 Bobby Ray Watson & Joyce Jones057 Oxford Blues Fest058 Bobby Ray Watson059 Oxford Blues Fest061 Cadillac Funk062 Cadillac Funk063 Cadillac Funk064 Cadillac Funk065 Cadillac Funk066 Cadillac Funk067 Cadillac Funk068 Cadillac Funk069 Cadillac Funk070 Cadillac Funk071 Cadillac Funk072 Cadillac Funk073 Cadillac Funk074 Cadillac Funk075 Cadillac Funk076 Cadillac Funk077 Cadillac Funk078 Cadillac Funk079 Cadillac Funk082 Cadillac Funk & Joyce Jones083 Cadillac Funk084 Sherena Boyce085 Joyce Jones086 Sherena Boyce & Cadillac Funk087 Joyce Jones & Cadillac Funk088 Sherena & Cadillac Funk089 Sherena & Cadillac Funk091 Cadillac Funk & Sherena Boyce & Joyce Jones092 Cadillac Funk093 Cadillac Funk094 Cadillac Funk095 Como Mamas097 Como Mamas098 Como Mamas099 Como Mamas100 Como Mamas101 Como Mamas102 Como Mamas103 Oxford Blues Fest104 Oxford Blues Fest105 Puppy Love106 Puppy Love107 Blind Mississippi Morris108 Blind Mississippi Morris109 Blind Mississippi Morris110 Blind Mississippi Morris112 Oxford Blues Fest1623 Doc Prana Trio1625 Zediker Brothers1627 Oxford Blues Fest1630 Bobby Ray Watson1632 Cadillac Funk1634 Joyce Jones & Cadillac Funk1636 Sherena Boyce & Cadillac Funk1638 Como Mamas1640 Blind Mississippi Morris
The Oxford Blues Festival was not held on the Square this year, as I would have expected, but rather on the Grove on the Ole Miss campus, and a good thing, since the entire Mid-South was under a heat advisory and the sun was beating down fiercely. Perhaps as a result, when I first got there, the crowd was rather small, and that despite the fact that the festival was also free. But as the day progressed, from the jazz of Doc Prana, to the bluesy rock of the Zediker Brothers, to the folk blues of Bobby Ray Watson (who had studied with Mississippi Joe Callicott), the crowd grew steadily in numbers and enthusiasm, and ever so slowly the heat began to subside. Female blues singer Joyce Jones was in the audience, and was called up on stage by Bobby Ray Watson and by Cadillac Funk to feature on a couple of songs. Then the Como Mamas came on stage to do some a cappella gospel numbers, and the afternoon was closed out by Blind Mississippi Morris as the sun was setting. Although there was a headline act for later in the evening, the people I was with wanted to head back to the Square for dinner. Despite the outrageous heat, it was a fun day of blues in a beautiful, shady setting.

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Hill Country Blues in Benton County on a Very Hot Day

001 Ashland002 Willie Mitchell Marker003 Old Benton County Courthouse004 Arts Beats & Eats005 Ashland006 Ashland007 Ashland008 Ashland009 Old Benton County Courthouse010 Ashland011 El Rancho012 Hill Country Project013 Hill Country Project014 Snow Lake Building015 Ashland016 Ashland017 Ashland018 Old Benton County Courthouse019 Old Benton County Courthouse020 Ashland021 Old Benton County Courthouse022 Ashland023 Ashland024 Ashland025 Garry Burnside026 Ashland027 Ashland028 The Brooks Firm029 Our Club Constitution030 Ashland031 Ashland032 Ashland033 Ashland034 Sherena & Her Niece036 Garry Burnside037 Little Joe Ayers038 Garry Burnside039 Little Joe Ayers040 Ashland043 Garry Burnside044 Little Joe Ayers046 Mark "Muleman" Massey & Little Joe Ayers047 Mark "Muleman" Massey048 Little Joe Ayers049 Garry Burnside050 Mark "Muleman" Massey051 Mark "Muleman" Massey052 Mark "Muleman" Massey053 Mark "Muleman" Massey054 Mark "Muleman" Massey055 Mark "Muleman" Massey056 Mark "Muleman" Massey057 Ashland058 Mark "Muleman" Massey059 Mark "Muleman" Massey060 Ashland061 Ashland062 Ashland063 Ashland066 Mark "Muleman" Massey067 Ashland068 Mark "Muleman" Massey069 Old Benton County Courthouse070 Ashland071 Ashland072 Old Benton County Courthouse073 Old Benton County Courthouse074 Ashland076 Sherena077 Mark "Muleman" Massey078 Garry Burnside079 Mark "Muleman" Massey080 Mark "Muleman" Massey1601 Arts Beats & Eats1603 Old Benton County Courthouse1604 Garry Burnside1609 Little Joe Ayers & Garry Burnside1611 Little Joe Ayers1613 Mark "Muleman" Massey1616 Garry Burnside1619 Ashland
Just to the east of Marshall County, Mississippi is Benton County and its county seat of Ashland, which are also part of the Mississippi Hill Country. However, unlike Marshall County, Benton County is remote, and not as well-known, even though musicians like Nathan Beauregard and Willie Mitchell were originally from there. Sparsely populated indeed, Benton County has never been much of a destination, with the exception of visits from civil rights workers during the 1960’s. However, efforts are being made to preserve the history of Benton County, and toward that end, a festival called Arts, Beats & Eats was held on July 11th in Ashland, to attract people to the courthouse square, which has certainly seen better days. The Benton County Courthouse moved out of the historic structure on the square to a former manufacturing plant on Highway 370, and many businesses seem to have done the same. Worse, the extreme heat on Saturday kept crowds down to a minimum, with the exception of those who were running for office. But blues legends Little Joe Ayers and Garry Burnside were among the musicians who came out to perform with Mark “Muleman” Massey, and as the sun sank lower in the sky, the crowd increased and the temperature decreased. One of the purposes of the festival was to raise funds for the renovation and restoration of the square in Ashland, which is an extremely worthwhile goal. Here’s hoping this summer event becomes an annual thing. Blues belongs in Benton County as well as Marshall County.

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The Cassie Bonner Band on the Square in Holly Springs

001 Holly Springs002 Holly Springs003 Holly Springs004 Marshall County Courthouse005 Marshall County Courthouse006 Holly Springs007 Marshall County Courthouse009 Holly Springs010 Holly Springs011 Marshall County Courthouse012 Aikei Pro's Record Shop013 Holly Springs014 Holly Springs015 Holly Springs016 Hill Country Blues017 Holly Springs018 Holly Springs019 Holly Springs020 Holly Springs021 Holly Springs022 Holly Springs023 Holly Springs024 Holly Springs025 Holly Springs026 Holly Springs027 Holly Springs028 Cassie Bonner Band030 Holly Springs031 Holly Springs032 Holly Springs033 Holly Springs034 Holly Springs036 Holly Springs038 Cassie Bonner's Drummer039 Cassie Bonner's Drummer042 Cassie Bonner's Drummer043 Cassie Bonner Band044 Cassie Bonner Band045 Cassie Bonner046 Cassie Bonner Band047 Cassie Bonner Band048 Cassie Bonner049 Holly Springs051 Wobble, Baby, Wobble052 Wobble, Baby, Wobble053 Cassie Bonner Band054 Holly Springs055 Holly Springs056 Cassie Bonner Band057 Holly Springs058 Holly Springs059 Holly Springs060 Highway 7 & 4061 Holly Springs063 Little Joe Ayers065 Holly Springs066 Holly Springs067 Holly Springs068 Cassie Bonner Band069 Cassie Bonner Band070 Cassie Bonner Band071 Cassie Bonner Band072 Cassie Bonner Band073 Cassie Bonner Band074 Holly Springs075 Cassie Bonner Band076 Cassie Bonner Band077 Cassie Bonner Band078 Cassie Bonner Band079 Cassie Bonner Band080 Cassie Bonner Band084 Holly Springs086 Holly Springs087 Holly Springs088 Holly Springs089 Cassie Bonner Band090 Cassie Bonner Band091 Cassie Bonner Band092 Cassie Bonner Band093 Cassie Bonner Band094 Cassie Bonner Band095 Cassie Bonner Band097 Holly Springs098 Holly Springs099 Future Attractions1565 The Smiling Phoenix1568 Holly Springs1570 JB's On The Square1572 Holly Springs1574 Holly Springs1575 Marshall County Courthouse1576 Marshall County Courthouse1578 Holly Springs1579 Cassie Bonner Band1581 Cassie Bonner's Drummer1583 Cassie Bonner Band1585 Wobble, Baby, Wobble1587 Cassie Bonner Band1589 Cassie Bonner Band1591 Holly Springs1592 Holly Springs1596 Cassie Bonner Band1599 Cassie Bonner Band
Although the Delta of Mississippi is known as “The Land Where Blues Began”, the area to the east known as the Hill Country produced a unique style of blues that has become famous around the world. This subgenre of blues was especially prevalent in Marshall and Benton Counties, so it’s not surprising that Holly Springs, the county seat of Marshall County, is a town that emphasizes its blues heritage. The county was home to Junior Kimbrough and R. L. Burnside, and each Thursday night during the summer, Holly Springs sponsors a weekly live music concert called Blues in the Alley, which is held directly on the courthouse square. On July 9, the featured artist was the Cassie Bonner Band, a group from Oxford that I was not familiar with. Cassie Bonner proved to be a keyboard player and a singer, and while the group’s style was more neb-soul than blues, I was quite impressed with them, particularly the young drummer. There were also food vendors and a DJ, and a crowd of several hundred people, as well as a number of motorcyclists, and a camera crew filming a documentary about Holly Springs and David Caldwell, the owner of Aikei Pro’s Record Shop. I also ran into Hill Country Blues legend Little Joe Ayers on the square as well.

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Happy 4th Birthday to Radio Memphis

001 Radio Memphis002 Radio Memphis003 Radio Memphis004 Radio Memphis005 DJ Bay006 Radio Memphis007 Radio Memphis008 Radio Memphis009 Radio Memphis010 Radio Memphis012 Radio Memphis013 Radio Memphis014 Radio Memphis015 Radio Memphis016 Radio Memphis017 Radio Memphis018 Radio Memphis019 Radio Memphis020 Jay DaSkreet, Devin & Donnon Johnson021 Radio Memphis022 Donnon Johnson023 Mason Jar Fireflies025 Mason Jar Fireflies026 Mason Jar Fireflies028 Mason Jar Fireflies030 Mason Jar Fireflies031 Donnon Johnson033 Donnon Johnson034 Devin036 Jay DaSkreet037 Jay DaSkreet038 Jay DaSkreet040 Jay DaSkreet042 Devin043 Donnon Johnson044 Ciara Oulette045 Ciara Oulette046 Ciara Oulette047 Ciara Oulette049 Radio Memphis050 DJ Bay052 Zeke Johnson053 DJ Bay054 Zeke Johnson055 Zeke Johnson & Sturgis Nikides056 Zeke Johnson & Low Society
Radio Memphis is a superb internet radio station that for the last four years has been supporting Memphis music and musicians. So for their fourth birthday, they threw a party at their studios with food and music, and broadcasted the music live on the air. The performers covered nearly all genres, from the folk of Mason Jar Fireflies, to the funky organic hip-hop of Tunica rapper Jay DaSkreet, who was backed by D-Squared, consisting of Donnon Johnson on drums and Devin Jordan on keyboards, to the country of Ciera Oulette, to the authentic blues of Zeke Johnson (who studied with the late Furry Lewis) and Sturgis and Mandy Nikides of Low Society. Rarely has so much great Memphis talent been in one building at the same time, and it led to some startling serendipities, as when Donnon Johnson got on the drums backing Mason Jar Fireflies as they played an instrumental riff as a warm-up. It was a great way to celebrate Radio Memphis and what it means to the local music community.

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The Rebirth of Jazz on Beale Street at The Blue Note: A Tribute to Emerson Able

001 Memphis Jazz All-Stars002 Sidney Kirk003 Bill Hurd & Sidney Kirk Jr004 Ralph Collier005 Ralph Collier007 Ralph Collier, Bill Hurd & Sidney Kirk Jr008 Mickey Gregory & Sidney Kirk009 Emerson Able Tribute010 Mickey Gregory011 Mickey Gregory012 Mickey Gregory013 Johnny Yancey014 Kelvin015 Ralph Collier016 Sidney Kirk Jr017 Ralph Collier & Mickey Gregory018 Bill Hurd Quartet020 Johnny Yancey & Kevin021 Blue Note022 Blue Note
Jazz is the forgotten piece of the Memphis music puzzle. People who are familiar with Isaac Hayes, Al Green or Otis Redding have likely never heard of Frank Strozier, Booker Little, Joe Dukes, Jamil Nasser, Sonny Criss, Charles Lloyd, Harold Mabern or Phineas Newborn Jr. Yet the histories of jazz, blues and soul are interwoven in Memphis. A young Phineas Newborn Jr played on some of the early Sun blues records. Free jazz saxophonist Frank Lowe played with Con-Funk-Shun in the early 1970’s. Isaac Hayes’ first LP was a jazz trio record with Duck Dunn and Al Jackson Jr, and elements of jazz would be present in all his career. Much of our city’s jazz history springs from one particular high school, Manassas High School in North Memphis, which was home to Jimmie Lunceford, Jimmy Crawford, Frank Strozier, Booker Little, Harold Mabern and George Coleman, and much of that great legacy was the result of an incredible musician and band director, Emerson Able, who recently passed away. So when Johnny Yancey told me that there would be a jam session at the Blue Note on Beale Street in honor of Mr. Able, I decided to head down there, and found the club filled to overflowing. An all-star group of musicians was on stage, including Bill Hurd on saxophone, Sidney Kirk Sr. on piano, Sidney Kirk Jr on drums, Ralph Collier, Johnny Yancey and Mickey Gregory on trumpets and others. At least part of the purpose was to raise funds for instruments for the Manassas band program, and if it proved nothing else, the amazing Thursday night of music proved that Memphians will turn out to support authentic jazz in an accessible, welcoming environment. The jam sessions will continue to be held on the first Thursday of each month.

Blue Note Bar & Grill
341 Beale St
Memphis, TN 38103
(901) 577-8387