“If You Love It, Do it Everyday”: Glenview Murals in Memphis

Glenview, a neighborhood of single-family homes along Lamar Avenue southeast of downtown Memphis was one of the first historically-white neighborhoods to open up to African-American residents. Their coming was not without controversy, as the first house purchased by a Black family was firebombed in the late 1940s. Over the next 20 years, the neighborhood became a fairly stable Black community, but the business district along Lamar has not fared as well, with many abandoned businesses.

Paint Memphis is a local non-profit which seeks to improve the look of neighborhoods by painting colorful murals on abandoned buildings in the city. They have done so twice in the Glenview area, and both times much of their work had a music theme. On a hot September Sunday I found images of the Mighty Souls Brass Band, Isaac Hayes, Rufus Thomas and Otis Redding among the bright murals along several blocks of Lamar. Other images included useful slogans like “Take the good with the bad. Everything has its season,” and “if you love it, do it everyday.” On the wall of a daycare was the slogan, “Show us the way to love,” and a block east of that, an image of Beale Street with the legend, “I love the blues, she heard my cry.” As an organization, Paint Memphis has not been without controversy. Many of the artists involved are not from the communities where the murals have been installed, and that has occasionally garnered controversy and even demands for removal. Occasionally, some have requested the removal of certain images that seem grotesque or bizarre. But the presence of so much artwork in public areas seems to have caused others not affiliated with Paint Memphis to add more slogans and images.

In the same area were slogans like “RIP George Floyd,” and “We Must Vote,” along with beautiful stylized images of jazz musicians on the boarded-up window of a building adjacent to Glenview Park. Also adjacent to the park was an old mural that read “Glenview” which looks as if it dated from the 1970s, but which seems to have been repainted.

Although the murals with their brilliant colors definitely bring cheer to a streetscape which had been quite drab, the large and historic Lamar Theatre still is a cause for concern. The building, which would make a wonderful live music club or venue, has been vacant for many years. Restored and opened, it could make a wonderful catalyst for a transformation of that stretch of Lamar Avenue into a destination for Memphians and out-of-town visitors alike.

Debut of the Lucky 7 Brass Band at Growlers

I got an invitation on Facebook a week or so ago from a musician friend, trombonist Victor Sawyer, to come to the debut performance of a new Memphis brass band called the Lucky 7 Brass Band, which was being held at Growlers, the former location of the Hi-Tone on Poplar Avenue across from Overton Park. Memphis has had a couple of other brass bands, the Mighty Souls Brass Band and the Memphorleans Street Symphony. But, because we are not a city that has Mardi Gras (or even the Cotton Carnival any more) and because there is no real second-line culture here, our brass bands are more concert ensembles, and none has the separate snare and bass drums that characterize the average New Orleans brass band, and they may include indoor instruments like a drumset, a keyboard or even an electric guitar or bass. In that regard, the Lucky 7 Brass Band was true to form, including an electric bass rather than a tuba, and a drumset rather than the traditional separate snare and bass drummers. But what it did bring to the table was more of the street edge that the Crescent City bands have, and a tight and clean ensemble sound. For their debut performance, which was all too short at just under an hour, they played cover tunes exclusively, but these ran the gamut from New Orleans standards to contemporary hip-hop, and a good-sized crowd came out (with the threat of bad winter weather hanging over Memphis) to cheer them on. The Lucky 7 Brass Band is one we will likely be hearing a lot more about in the future.

Lifting Up With The Mighty Souls Brass Band at Wiseacre Tap Room @WiseacreBrew

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Wiseacre Brewing Company is one of the new local microbreweries that have sprung up around Memphis, and they have started booking occasional live music on Saturdays. On February 7, the featured act was the Mighty Souls Brass Band, Memphis’ only local brass band, whose new album Lift Up was recently released on the non-profit Blue Barrel Records label, distributed by Archer Records.. The Mighty Souls played to an overflow crowd that spread out onto the decks and parking lot behind the building, featuring mostly songs from the new album, including the gospel-tinged composition “Saints” by drummer Tom Leonardo. The Gulf Coast Shrimp food truck from Southaven was purveying shrimp poboys and other cuisine appropriate to the occasion.

Keep up with the Mighty Souls Brass Band:


The Mighty Souls Brass Band at @HueysRestaurant in East Memphis

Although I was still somewhat tired from several days of Clarksdale’s Juke Joint Festival, when I saw that something called the Mighty Souls Brass Band was playing at Huey’s in East Memphis Sunday night, I had to go down and check them out, as I hadn’t even known that Memphis had a brass band at all. The Mighty Souls tend more toward the traditional New Orleans brass-band repertoire rather than the hip-hop attitude and swagger of the younger New Orleans bands like TBC or Hot 8, but they are musically competent and enjoyable, including some friends of mine such as Tom Lenardo on drums (at least in their indoor incarnation) and Tom Link on tenor saxophone. I have yet to see them on the street, but their club set was quite enjoyable.