He may not be a household name but chances are you know his music behind many hits. Mabon ‘Teenie’ Hodges contributed to that distinctive Memphis sound and co-wrote many of Al Green’s soul classics like “Take Me to the River,” “Love and Happiness,” “Full of Fire” and “Here I Am.”
Born in 1942 into a Germantown, TN family of 12 children, Hodges performed as a teenager alongside his brothers Leroy and Charles in an R & B band called The Impalas. Later, he played guitar on various sides for Willie Mitchell’s Hi Records and by 1965 became a central member of the Hi Rhythm Section, the label’s studio band. Throughout the sixties and seventies, he performed with artists like Syl Johnson, O.V. Wright, and Otis Clay. That’s his guitar grooves on Ann Peebles’ classic “I Can’t Stand The Rain.”
Hodges may have been small in stature but his talent loomed large. He was a professional musician for over fifty years and partnered up with a wide range of artists including Albert Collins, Sam Moore, Boz Scaggs, and, most recently, with Cat Power and her Memphis Rhythm Band. He also recorded with his nephew, the rap star Drake.
‘Teenie’ Hodges was the subject of filmmaker Susanna Vapnek’s documentary “Mabon ‘Teenie’ Hodges: A Portrait of a Memphis Soul Original.”
After performing at Austin’s South by Southwest music festival in March, Hodges fell ill with pneumonia. He died from complications from emphysema on June 22 at Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas, Texas. Mabon ‘Teenie’ Hodges was 68 years old.
If you want to hear Hodges’ music with his own group The Hi Rhythm Section as well as many Memphis greats on the Hi Records label, this box set is the place to start.
The Stax Museum of American Soul is hosting their Soul & Blues Brown Bag Music Series from June 23rd to 27th. At noon every day for a week, stop in and have lunch while you listen to some fabulous Memphis musicians like David Evans, The Daddy Mack Blues Band, Vaneese Thomas, and Steve Cropper–guitarist extraordinaire with Booker T. & the MGs!
The concerts are free and open to everyone, held in the amphitheatre behind the Stax Academy. Meals are not provided but you are welcome bring your own lunch. After the music, hang around for Q and A sessions with the artists.
Soulsville USA: The Stax Museum
926 East McLemore Avenue, Memphis, TN 38106
Phone: (901) 942-7685
The series is co-sponsored by the Memphis Public Library and their Explore Memphis program.
Memphis Public Library
The Four Way Restaurant
If you decide to have lunch afterwards, the nearby Four Way Restaurant is one of the best places in town for classic soul food. Don’t miss their fried catfish platter.
The Four Way Restaurant
998 Mississippi Boulevard, Memphis, TN 38126
Phone: (901) 507-1519
The Center for Southern Folklore is hosting a Memphis Minnie tribute, Friday, June 13th. Hear her bold, autobiographical songs come to life again in the hands of local musicians.
The Center for Southern Folklore
119 South Main Street, Memphis, TN 38103
Phone: (901) 525-3655
Born in 1897 as Lizzie Douglas in Algiers, LA and raised in Walls, MS, Memphis Minnie ran away from home at thirteen to sing for tips on Beale Street. After touring from 1916 to 1920 with the Ringling Brothers Circus, she returned to Memphis and became a well-respected blues artist at a time when there were few women performers. She and her husband Kansas Joe McCoy recorded for Columbia Records and moved to Chicago for wider exposure, playing Delta blues to urban audiences.
During the 1930s, Minnie toured tirelessly, mostly in the South, and recorded hundreds of records for several top labels. By the late thirties she was divorced and re-married, this time to Ernest Lawlars, known as “Little Son Joe.” Working from the 708 Club in Chicago, they often shared the stage with top blues artists like Big Bill Broonzy, Sunnyland Slim, and Tampa Red. In May 1941, Minnie recorded her biggest hit, “Me And My Chauffeur Blues.”
Dogged by declining record sales, fewer gigs, and failing health, Minnie returned to Memphis in 1957 to retire but she still made occasional radio appearances. In the rock era, she was rediscovered by groups like Jefferson Airplane and Led Zeppelin who recorded her songs and brought them to a new audience.
When Memphis Minnie died in 1973, she was buried at the New Hope Baptist Church Cemetery in Walls, Mississippi. Over two decades later, Bonnie Raitt paid for a proper headstone that was erected in 1996. Thirty-five family members attended including her niece LaVern Baker.
Her strong, independent spirit was an inspiration to singers to follow, including artists as diverse as Muddy Waters, Lucinda Williams, Big Mama Thornton, and Chuck Berry. As an ardent fan, Maria Muldaur gathered together other Memphis Minnie admirers including Rory Block, Ruthie Foster, and Bonnie Raitt, to produce an album of her songs called “First Came Memphis Minnie.”
We all know him as Howlin’ Wolf but he was born Chester Arthur Burnett in West Point, Mississippi on this day in 1910. After serving four years in the army, Wolf settled in Memphis where he had a regular 15-minute radio show on West Memphis station KWEM. He played the blues as he learned it from Charlie Patton (guitar) and Sonny Boy Williamson II (harmonica.) In 1951, Wolf’s commanding vocals and aggressive playing style came to the attention of Sam Phillips who heard his radio show performances between the farm reports, weather updates, and local ads.
Phillips recorded several sides at his Memphis Recording Studios while Wolf became widely-known around town. A year later, Howlin’ Wolf moved to Chicago and began his long association with Chess Records. He persuaded Memphis guitarist Hubert Sumlin to also relocate to the Windy City, and their band turned out numerous Willie Dixon-penned classics like “Back Door Man,” “Spoonful,” “Little Red Rooster,” “Evil,” “Killing Floor,” and “Smokestack Lightnin’.”
This National Public Radio feature covers Chester Burnett’s career and how his music and larger-than-life stage persona influenced other artists.
NPR – The Blues of Howlin’ Wolf
Although functionally illiterate until his forties, Howlin’ Wolf was a savvy businessman and was successful enough to provide his bandmates with a steady paycheck, including health insurance. In 1962, Wolf toured as part of the American Folk Blues Festival, a music festival that showcased top blues performers like Muddy Waters, Sonny Boy Williamson, and John Lee Hooker to European audiences for the first time
Copyright Hip-O Records and/or Reelin’ In The Years Productions
There are many collections of Howlin’ Wolf’s fabulous music but this comprehensive box set is one of the best:
Filmed live for British television, these historic concerts include Howlin’ Wolf and Hubert Sumlin performing “Smokestack Lightning,” and the newly-recorded “Don’t Laugh At Me.” Stashed away in a vault, these broadcasts were not seen for almost 40 years!
As part of their Behind the Beat series, KPLU’s All-Blues host John Kessler and production manager Nick Morrison produce radio features on the history of jazz and blues music. This week’s topic is about the record considered to be the first rock n’ roll song, “Rocket 88” by Jackie Brenston & His Delta Cats.
KPLU – Behind the Beat
Twenty-one-year-old Jackie Brenston was Ike Turner’s saxophonist when he stepped up to sing the vocals on “Rocket 88,” recorded at Sun Studio in Memphis in March, 1951. Guitarist Willie Kizart’s distorted amp gave the tune a distinctive fuzzy sound that set the tone for rock music to follow.
706 Union Avenue, Memphis, TN, 38103
If you want to experience the joy of when blues and gospel music intersect, The Red Door Band plays the second Sunday of every month at the Calvary Episcopal Church, one of the city’s oldest and most prominent churches. Under the leadership of saxophonist David Lee, the band is made up of Memphis blues musicians Stella Payton, Verlinda Zeno, Dennis Falanga, Guy Venable, and Mike Forrest. They present gospel favorites like “Wade In the Water,” “People Get Ready,” “When the Saints Go Marching In,” and much more in a full Eucharist service.
Calvary’s priest, the Rev. Christopher Girata, hopes the unique services will attract new parishioners as well as people who simply love inspirational music. As a teaser, The Red Door Band played on News Channel 3 WREG Live:
The informal service, with its gospel and blues vibe, is held at 5:30 p.m. the second Sunday of every month.
Calvary Episcopal Church
102 North Second Street (at Adams)
Memphis, TN 38103
The Rev. Girata is also passionate about food, loves cooking, and blogs about his culinary creations at girata-kitchen.com. If you’re a foodie, too, check out his recipe for classic Italian chicken piccata,
complete with step-by-step instructions at:
For the third year, The Orpheum Theatre is offering its Classic Summer Movie Series. Originally built in 1928, saved from the wrecking ball and restored to its former glory in 1984, The Orpheum is a historic movie house located downtown at Beale Street. It’s a great chance to see all-ages films like “Casablanca,” “The Princess Bride,” or “Jaws” the way they were intended–on the big screen. If you like musicals and can belt it out with the best of them, sing along with “Grease,” “Mama Mia” or “The Wizard of Oz.” To enhance your movie experience, they are offering fun events in the lobby like trivia nights, costume contests, special guests, and pre-show concerts with the impressive Wurlitzer pipe organ. You can’t beat that!
Called “The South’s Finest Theatre,” The Orpheum presents concerts and Broadway touring productions, and is home to Ballet Memphis and Opera Memphis. This video covers their $5 million renovation to restore the theatre to its original elegance with its brocade draperies, gilded moldings, and enormous crystal chandeliers.
The Orpheum Theatre
203 South Main Street (at Beale) Memphis, TN 38103
Phone / Box Office (901) 525-3000
Since 2001, B.B. King has been an official supporter of Little Kids Rock, a non-profit organization that provides free musical instruments and instruction to children in 1,700 less-privileged U.S. public schools. Given the chance, many of these talented youngsters may rise to become the next King of the Blues.
It all started in 1996 when elementary teacher David Wish was frustrated with the lack of funding for music education at his New Jersey school so he created his own after-class program. Making sure kids still got a chance to explore music, David offered free guitar lessons to interested students. They were interested! The classes became very popular, and as more kids wanted to learn music, Wish and his volunteers saw the need to take the program to the next level. With support from music heavyweights like John Lee Hooker, Bonnie Raitt, and Carlos Santana, Little Kids Rock was born as a national program.
Since then, the organization’s Modern Band curriculum has inspired tens of thousands of students across the country.
Little Kids Rock
271 Grove Ave., Bldg E2
Verona, NJ 07044
Phone: (973) 746-8248
In this Fox Memphis story, teachers take part in a two-day workshop on how to teach the program: