Dr. Alfred Brown’s club called The Plexx in an old decrepit shopping center on E. H. Crump Boulevard in Memphis is one of the few places in the city where authentic old-school live blues and soul can be heard, but on the Friday night before Halloween, things took a slightly different turn, as veteran blues singer Jewel Jones was backed by the 4 Soul Band, consisting of some of Memphis’ best young musicians, including Lloyd Anderson on bass and drummer Otis Logan. While it’s common to think of there being something of a musical divide between young and old, the consummate talents of these young musicians enabled them to fit in perfectly with the older blues and soul offerings of Ms. Jones. Veteran Memphis drummer Willie Hall was in the crowd as well, and it was a great night of Memphis music off the beaten path and away from the tourist crowd
On a rainy Friday night, after I had eaten dinner at AC’s Steakhouse in Hernando, Mississippi, I was driving back into Memphis looking for some live music, preferably blues or soul. Coming in on Elvis Presley Boulevard, I had stopped briefly at Club Superior in South Memphis, a place that at least in the past has sometimes featured live blues on weekends, but seeing three young teenagers coming out of the door just as I pulled up convinced me to look elsewhere, at least on this particular night. So I decided to head down Crump Boulevard and check on a place called The Plexx, a venue owned by a local doctor, Dr. Alfred Brown, where my friend Larry Chambers from Ecko Records told me that sometimes I could find live music. Since he told me that, I had periodically checked the place out on Friday nights, but invariably found it dark and locked up. I almost didn’t check it on this particular night either, but I finally did, and for the first time, found the parking lot absolutely loaded with cars. Better yet, when I got out, I could hear the boom of the bass drum and the thump of the electric bass out on the parking lot. Admission was $5, and I soon saw that not only was there a live band, the Juke Joint All-Stars, but a large horn section as well, and a man named Melvino was fronting the band and singing when I got there. The occasion turned out to be his birthday/anniversary party, and the joint was filled with his friends and area musicians, including legendary Memphis drummer Willie “Too Big” Hall, famous for his work with the Bar-Kays, Isaac Hayes and the Blues Brothers. After the Juke Joint All-Stars performed, a man named Anthony Turner performed with his band as well, and then a group who billed themselves as Gerard and Friends performed two funk tunes with Willie Hall on drums. Randy “Wildman” Stewart, a DJ from WMPR in Jackson, Mississippi had also come up, and performed a version of Ben E. King’s “Stand By Me”, and Bertha Payne, Butch Mudbone and an amazing singer named Joyce Henderson all performed. Payne’s song “It’s Friday Night” was appropriate for the occasion as far as mood, although by the time she performed it, it was Saturday morning, and Joyce Henderson’s 1 AM reading of “Wang Dang Dula” brought down the house. After her performance, the horns left, and I did as well, although I could hear that things were continuing inside. Out on the parking lot, another club down the shopping center was just getting started, and a group of teenagers was starting to argue in the line waiting to be admitted, and I figured it was time to go. Still, it was an amazing night of of the best Memphis soul and blues in an out-of-the-way spot that isn’t always open, but is always worth investigating on Friday nights.
380 E E. H. Crump Blvd
Memphis, TN 38126