Millennium Madness Drill Team & Drum Squad #MMHF13

The Millennium Madness Drill Team and Drum Squad is a Memphis-based youth organization that provides opportunities for young people to be involved in drill team dancing and drumming, and is one of only a few such organizations that still involve young men as drummers, sadly. Although Memphis has a number of majorette teams and drill teams, the overwhelming majority of them don’t have drummers and do their routines to prerecorded compact discs. Millennium Madness travels the country, entering and winning a number of competitions against drill teams from many different cities. Their performance at this year’s Memphis Music and Heritage Festival held the audience spellbound.

Memphis’ Inner City Drumming Traditions With The Baby Blues Drumline #MMHF13

Drums and drumming have played a tremendous role in the cultural life of Memphis’ inner-city Black communities, throughout most of the 20th and 21st century. The popularity of drumlines in urban Black neighborhoods is of uncertain origin, but probably derives from Blacks serving as drummers in the US Army during the Civil War and in state militia units afterwards, the use of drums by fraternal organizations such as the Independent Pole Bearers Society, and possibly even rural fife-and-drum bands associated with Labor Day, Juneteenth and the Fourth of July. What is certain is that by 1969, Memphis had begun having events called majorette jamborees, at which a squad of female majorettes performed dance routines to beats provided by a squad of young male drummers. Originally sponsored by schools, drumlines were soon organized by community organizations and community centers as well, and the drumming and dancing traditions of inner city Memphis were immensely popular until the late 1980’s or so, but unfortunately there has been a decline in the popularity of drumlines in Memphis over the last 20 years, as majorette groups have learned that they can design their routines to compact discs. So it is entirely appropriate that drumlines like the Baby Blues are highlighted at the Memphis Music and Heritage Festival, since this is another Memphis cultural tradition that is endangered. The Baby Blues are one of the last remaining Memphis drumlines that is not affiliated with any school, and is one of the city’s best, easily rivaling drumlines whose members are much older. They frequently appear in unexpected places, like Church Park during Africa in April, or Clarksdale during the Juke Joint Fest, and they always draw a crowd.

BJ Danz Majorette Jamboree @ Elliston Baptist Academy, Memphis

There was supposed to be a cook-out and basketball tournament at Westside Park in Frayser, but when I got there, I found that there was no cook-out, and nothing but a few little kids on the ball court. So I drove down to the BJ Danz Majorette Jamboree at Elliston Academy in Southeast Memphis. Unfortunately, majorette jamborees aren’t what they used to be in Memphis. There’s no longer any competition for drummers, because almost none of the drill teams or majorettes have drummers at all. Most of the girls dance to CD’s that they give to the DJ, so there’s really no longer difference between majorettes, drill teams or dancers in Memphis. On a good day, one group might work out with a drumline, and today, Bellevue Middle School brought their drumline to provide the motivation for their majorettes. Otherwise, it was a rather boring jamboree.

Memphis Black Expo 2013 at the Cook Convention Center

The Memphis Black Expo is held each year in February at the Cook Convention Center downtown. It features fun activities for kids, exhibits from local businesses, a car show, a dance and majorette competition, and live performances from gospel groups, rappers and singers.