There are several Mr. P’s Hot Wings locations in the Memphis area, and at least some of them feature live music, but I wasn’t aware of the new location in Olive Branch, Mississippi, so when I heard they were having a live music event, I made plans to head down there with a friend. The band for the occasion was called the Lyrics Band, and they provided soulful backing for two superb vocalists, Stephani McCoy and Tierney Jackson, the last of which was a new name to me. There was also a DJ, as well as a spoken word artist and a rap group whose name I never caught, but the whole event was quite a lot of fun.
Memphis has exceptional talent in all sports, but our city is particularly known for basketball, and much of this is due to the frequency and quality of street ball in the city. Each summer, the Orange Mound neighborhood sponsors a basketball tournament at a neighborhood park that pits the best hoopers from the neighborhood against each other. Although the competition can be fierce, it’s always nothing but good fun and good food. This year, Memphis R & B artist Iyse Gibson also performed a couple of songs for those who weren’t in the thick of the game.
To be a moderately-sized city, Lafayette has a fairly large number of music stores, including two independent record shops owned by the same owner. The E & S Music & Video Store is owned by the same owner as House Rockers, and specializes in rap and R & B music. Unfortunately, when I swung by there on Friday morning, they hadn’t opened yet.
E & S Music & Video
214 E Willow
Lafayette, LA 70501
When I walked into the Acadiana Center for the Arts for the James Hunter show, I was amazed at the size of the crowd milling around in the lobby, where they were selling beer and wine. James Hunter being British, I had not expected that there would be all that much familiarity with him in Lafayette, but whether there was or not, the theatre was nearly full, seemingly mixed between people who were die-hard James Hunter fans like myself, and people who routinely support all Acadiana Center for the Arts events regardless of whether they know the artist or not. And as amazing as James Hunter is on records, he is an even more amazing and enthralling performer, as he is friendly and witty and enjoys interacting with his audience. His band is impeccable, with the kind of tightness and precision that James Brown demanded of his performers. Most of the songs were originals, and the one or two covers he did were obscure,including one from the old Five Royales. I was moderately disappointed that he did no songs from the People Gonna Talk album at all, but that album is, after all, eight years old, and there was too much good music to be disappointed for long. After a brief intermission, Hunter did a much-abbreviated second set, and the show had ended by 9:30 PM.
First lady of Memphis soul Carla Thomas and her brother Marvel Thomas made rare Memphis appearances on Saturday night July 13 at the 40th Anniversary Concert of the Memphis chapter of The Recording Academy at the Levitt Shell. They performed several songs that had been written or made famous by their father, the late Rufus Thomas. Rufus and Carla’s unexpected meeting with Jim Stewart as Stax Records was moving into the old Capital Theatre on McLemore Avenue led to the label embracing the recording of Black music instead of the country and rockabilly they had intended to record, and thus changed the whole history of Memphis music.
Madjack Records artist Susan Marshall is yet another past president of The Recording Academy’s Memphis Chapter. Her performance at the 40th Anniversary concert at the Levitt Shell included appearances from two other great Memphis vocalists, Wendy Moten and Stephanie Bolton.
Cool neighborhood record stores used to be a fixture in nearly any Black neighborhood, but times are tough, and they’ve all begun to vanish from the landscape. Yet Dayton, Ohio’s 14 Karat Gold Record Store is a throwback to that earlier era, catering to the residents of Dayton’s West Side with a well-stocked selection of blues, gospel, R & B and rap. Though the store is clearly a survivor, nothing quite prepared me for the utter desolation that has enveloped West Dayton, even though I’m from Memphis and used to grimy urban scenes. Past the massive Desoto-Bass Courts housing project were blocks of bombed-out looking buildings. Along Gettysburg Avenue, nothing was all that much better. Even the fast food restaurants were largely closed. Given the sad state of the area, it’s even more amazing that 14 Karat Gold has managed to hold on. Here’s hoping they continue to make it.
After a day of largely traditional blues, the younger members of the Jackson-based Smooth Funk Band brought something of a change of pace with their blend of soul and R & B. It set the appropriate mood for the sun setting over the hills to the west of the festival grounds.
Da Twinz are an R & B and rap duo from the Mitchell Heights area of Memphis who have been performing together since they were 5 years of age. However, I had not heard of them prior to their performance at the Tate Street Block Party on Saturday, 6/8/13.