Oakhaven High School Hosts a Band Showdown

001 Central High School Band002 Central High School Band003 Whitehaven High School004 Whitehaven High School Band005 Whitehaven High School Band006 Whitehaven High School Band007 Whitehaven High School Band008 Whitehaven High School Band009 Whitehaven High School Band010 Whitehaven High School Band011 Central High School Band012 Central High School Band013 Whitehaven High School Drumline014 Whitehaven High School Bass Drummers015 Whitehaven High School Bass Drummers016 Whitehaven High School Drumline017 Whitehaven High School Band018 Whitehaven High School Band019 Talladega College Band020 Talladega College Band021 Mitchell High School Band022 Oakhaven High School Band023 Mitchell High School Band024 Mitchell High School Band025 Mitchell High School Tubas026 Mitchell High School Majorettes027 Mitchell High School Band028 Oakhaven High School Band029 Oakhaven High School Drumline030 Mitchell High School Drumline031 Mitchell High School Band032 Mitchell High School Flags033 Oakhaven High School Band034 Oakhaven High School Band035 Oakhaven High School Band153 Central High School Drumline167 Mitchell High School Drumline169 Oakhaven High School Drumline173 Mitchell High School Majorettes
Like everything else associated with Memphis’ traditional inner-city neighborhoods, the city’s marching band culture has been adversely affected by the depopulation of these areas and their schools, but something of a marching band culture still remains in certain schools. Oakhaven High School is a band program that has been showing some success in recent years, and in November they sponsored a Band Showdown, featuring competition between the bands and drumlines from Central High School, Whitehaven High School (always Memphis’ largest high school band), Mitchell High School and Oakhaven High School, as well as an exhibition appearance by the band from Talladega College in Alabama. The event was fairly well attended, and all of the bands made a decent impression, although my opinion was that Whitehaven was clearly the winner.

Memphis Football: Whitehaven at Melrose in the Mound

437 Melrose Stadium438 Whitehaven at Melrose439 Whitehaven at Melrose441 Whitehaven at Melrose444 Whitehaven High School Band445 Whitehaven at Melrose448 Melrose High School Band450 Melrose High School451 Whitehaven at Melrose452 Melrose Cheerleaders455 Melrose High School Band456 Melrose High School Band457 Melrose High School Band458 Whitehaven at Melrose459 Whitehaven at Melrose460 Melrose High School Band461 Whitehaven High School Band462 Whitehaven High School Band464 Whitehaven High School Band465 Whitehaven High School Band468 Whitehaven at Melrose727 Melrose Tailgaters
Despite Memphis’ well-deserved basketball reputation, Memphis is also traditionally a strong football town, particularly at the prep level. People turn out to see both the ball game, and also the battle between the bands and drumlins as well, and certain stadiums are historic locations for Memphis Black high school football, such as Booker T. Washington Stadium in South Memphis or Melrose Stadium in the center of Orange Mound. On Friday, September 19, 2014, I went out to the latter stadium to see the game between Whitehaven High School and the Melrose High School Golden Wildcats. Both schools brought their marching bands to the game, which isn’t always the case in Memphis these days, but Melrose seems to have declined in numbers in recent years, and its band, though it sounded good, was far smaller than I remembered in the past. Whitehaven, on the other hand, is one of the city’s premier high schools, academically, athletically and musically. Its band marches more than 100 members, and looks and sounds better than many colleges. The football game was a runaway for Whitehaven, but the band battle was more evenly matched, although I would have to give Whitehaven the advantage there too. Both bands pleased the crowd by playing a number of current hits, including Memphian Snootie Wild’s “Yayo”.

The Whitehaven Sounds of Perfection against the Central Sound of Midtown at Crump

Friday night I headed down to Melrose to see the Melrose and Kirby game, but I discovered when I got there that Kirby High School had not brought their band to the game, and since I had already seen Melrose this year, I headed on to Crump Stadium to see the Central/Whitehaven game. Both of these schools have relatively large bands this year, and both were in full battle mode all night. Central’s band is known as the Sound of Midtown, and is a young program that seems to be on the right track. Whitehaven, known as the Sounds of Perfection, is an incredibly-large high school band that could easily rival many colleges, and is one of the best high-school bands in the country. Unfortunately, perhaps because of the tense, close football game, there was no “fifth quarter” afterwards, with Whitehaven’s band leaving the stadium immediately after time had run out.

Melrose Homecoming 2011 in Orange Mound, Memphis

Toward the end of the third quarter of the Melrose High School homecoming game, I realized that I needed to head on out of town if I wanted to get to Pine Bluff, Arkansas by 5 PM for the UAPB/Southern game, so I walked back to my car and rode out. 

Melrose Homecoming vs. Whitehaven in Orange Mound, 2011

Melrose High School had their homecoming game against Whitehaven on Saturday in Orange Mound, and not only was the weather perfect for football, but the atmosphere was like a college game, with both sides of the stadium packed, and two of the best high school marching bands in the stands. Across the street at the Orange Mound Community Center, the Melrose Class of 1981 was having a tailgate/picnic with a DJ, and when the bands weren’t playing, the sounds of Frankie Beverly and Maze and Willie Hutch drifted across the street along with the smells of barbecue. A perfect football day, except that Melrose was down 49 to nothing at the half.