Memphis Music and Heritage Festival 2014

photo by memphissamiam1, Flickr
photo by memphissamiam1, Flickr

Held over the Labor Day weekend, this colorful festival takes place on Main Street in downtown Memphis. It’s the best block party you’ll attend all year! For two days a wide variety of cultures take to the streets with people enjoying local music of every kind along with cooking demonstrations, storytelling, folk art, and dance shows throughout the day. This year, five stages will feature back-to-back entertainment from Elmo & the Shades (blues), Sonny Burgess (rockabilly), Susan Marshall (soul), Moments of Joy (gospel), Ray Harper (country), Los Contradores (Latin), and many more talented regional artists.

photo by
photo by

Always entertaining, blues/soul/funk singer Bobby Rush is in the spotlight this year with a headlining concert on Saturday and an on-stage feature interview.  Originally from Homer, LA, Bobby Rush has been on stage since the early fifties when he put together a band that included slide player Elmore James. Over the decades, Rush has recorded over two dozen albums and has received a shelf full of awards, including “Best Male Soul Blues Artist” at the annual Blues Music Awards. Known for his double entendres and energetic performances, Rush is always a crowd-pleaser.

This free festival is sponsored by the Center for Southern Folklore which proudly celebrates the culture of Memphis and the Delta region.

The Center for Southern Folklore

123 South Main Street, Memphis, TN 38103
Phone: (901) 525-3655


Happy Birthday, Isaac Hayes

photo by zonia di fotographia
photo by zonia di fotographia, Flickr

One of the key figures at Stax on stage and off, Isaac Hayes, was born today, August 20, 1942 in Covington, TN. Raised by his grandparents, Hayes began singing in church at age five and eventually taught himself to play several instruments–piano, organ, and saxophone–before later moving to Memphis for club gigs. That versatitlity and a talent for songwriting and producing helped him become one of  the architects of the Memphis soul sound at Stax. After working in the house band for artists like Otis Redding, he began writing hits with his partner Dave Porter. The two became a creative powerhouse, crafting over 200 songs, many of them becoming classics for Sam & Dave (“Soul Man,”), Carla Thomas (“B-A-B-Y”), and Johnnie Taylor (“I Had a Dream”).


Hayes launched a solo career in 1967 with “Presenting Isaac Hayes,” but it was his distinctive wah-wah guitar-fueled “Theme From Shaft” that made him a household name across America and all over the world. Can ya dig it?

The title track from the 1971 blaxploitation film “Shaft” soundtrack went on to win an Academy Award for Best Original Song. Not only was it a memorable hit but Isaac Hayes was the first African-American to win an Oscar in that category.

When his music career waned, Hayes shifted to acting and was a regular on “The Rockford Files,” and had roles in movies such as “Truck Turner,” “Hustle & Flow,” and “Escape From New York.” In 1997, Hayes became popular to a new generation of fans when he provided the voice of Jerome “Chef” McElroy, one of the characters on the cartoon TV series “South Park.” Chef was an immediate hit and even though he was a school cafeteria worker, he often broke into song like this raunchy track from Chef Aid:

In 2002, Isaac Hayes was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He was in ill health on August 10, 2008, when he collapsed at his home in Memphis and died from a stroke ten days before his 66th birthday.

Stax Museum of American Soul Music
926 East McLemore Avenue
Memphis, TN 38106
Phone: (901) 942-7685

8/19/66-Memphis, TN


As they say “out of the frying pan, and into the fire”.  The most volatile stop of the tour, and right in the heart of the bible belt.  The Beatles faced protests and death threats.  Even the Memphis City Council considered cancelling the shows as they felt rather than having “municipal facilities be used as a forum to ridicule anyone’s religion.”

2 shows at the Mid South Coliseum.  4:00 PM and 8:30 PM


During the evening performance, someone threw a firecracker or cherry bomb up on stage when The Beatles were performing the George Harrison song “If I Needed Someone” 1:10 in.

Immediately the other three Beatles looked over at John to see if he had been shot.  There’s an audio recording of both shows that have surfaced within the past few years and you can hear the explosion during the aforementioned song.  Interestingly enough, The Beatles don’t miss a beat…

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Elvis Week 2014

photo by Kyleigh Pitcher, Flickr
photo by Kyleigh Pitcher, Flickr

For Elvis Presley fans, this is a high holiday from August 9th to 17th, with all sorts of Elvis-themed events, including tribute artist contests, costume pub crawls, an all-Elvis parade, and even an Elvis Mafia reunion. There are lots of chances to put on that bell-bottomed jumpsuit and feel like The King.

3734 Elvis Presley Boulevard
Memphis, TN 38116
Phone: (901) 332-3322

This year, there’s a new event called Elvis A Capella that features the country’s top a cappella groups with their vocals-only versions of Presley’s biggest hits. The fun starts Friday, August 8th and runs for a week, capping off with The Ultimate Elvis finals Thursday, August 14th, 7 p.m., at the Orpheum Theatre.

photo by John Dreyer, Flickr
photo by John Dreyer, Flickr

One of the don’t-miss events is the Images of the King Tribute Artist Contest which attracts the best from around the world like Shawn Klush, Dean Z, and Cody Slaughter. Resemblance to the original is uncanny. (Which, of course, is the point.)

A new short film about Elvis’ days at Humes High School will premiere during Elvis Week. It’s called “Nobody” and takes us back to when Presley was just a talented shy kid at the back of the room, before fame and fandom. The lead cast members and writer-director William Bryan will be there to answer questions after the screening.

In April of 1953, a few months before he graduated from high school, Elvis Presley performed in the annual talent show held at Ellis Auditorium in downtown Memphis. He was listed number sixteen of 22 acts (as ‘Elvis Prestly’) and stunned everyone in the audience with his rendition of Teresa Brewer’s ‘Till I Waltz Again with You.`(He never recorded it.) He received more applause than anyone else that night and won first prize, returning for an encore. Elvis and his classmates say this stand-out performance was true beginning of his rise to stardom.

photo by Caroline Pratt, Elvis Fans of Nashville
photo by Caroline Pratt, Elvis Fans of Nashville

Humes High School is still standing and operating as a school. The building was constructed in 1924, and  was placed on the list of National Register of Historic Places in 2004 due to its connection to Elvis.

Humes High School
659 North Manassas Street
Memphis, TN 38107
Phone: (901) 416-3226

photo by Railroad Jack, Flickr
photo by Railroad Jack, Flickr

Elvis was always a snappy dresser so if you want to see where he bought all those fabulous clothes when he was young, visit Lansky`s. This is where he first came up with his distinctive pink and black combo.

The Lansky Brothers, Bernard and Guy, had an eye for cutting-edge fashion and they outfitted Elvis for his high school prom and later for his appearances on the Dorsey Brothers Show and Ed Sullivan.

149 Union Avenue (at the Peabody Hotel)
Memphis, TN 38103
Phone: (901) 529-9070


Whether you have an interest in fifties fashion or you are a tribute artist who wants to have the right look, the book “Clothier to the King” covers the bold and iconic clothes Elvis bought from Lansky.

photo by Mike Freeman, Flickr
photo by Mike Freeman, Flickr

After moving from Tupelo, MS and living in a series of boarding rooms and apartments, in September, 1949, Vernon Presley moved his family to the Lauderdale Courts, a 433-unit public housing project on the north end of downtown Memphis. (They lived in apartment 328.) Elvis would practice his guitar in the basement laundry room and he played in a band with four other boys from Lauderdale Courts. It is still maintained in period detail with fixtures and furnishing from 1951 and you can tour the historic landmark. Elvis may have left the building but you can still visit his bedroom!

photo by Roadtripper
photo by Roadtripper

Lauderdale Courts
252 North Lauderdale
Memphis, TN 38105
Phone: 901-523-8662

photo by Thomas Hawk, Flickr
photo by Thomas Hawk, Flickr

Located in what has become the trendy South Main Historic District, the Arcade Restaurant was one of Elvis Presley’s top hangouts. His favorite booth is near the back of the restaurant. Built in 1925 by the Zepatos family, it is one of the oldest family-owned businesses in Memphis. You can still order the fried peanut butter ‘n banana sandwich just like Elvis liked.

photo by C-Monster, Flickr
photo by C-Monster, Flickr

The Arcade Restaurant
540 South Main Street
Memphis, TN 38103
Phone: (901) 526-5757

Sun Studio

No trip to Memphis is complete without a tour of Sun Studio. A young truck driver from Tupelo, MS walked into Sun on the evening of July 5th, 1954 to record three songs and one of them, “That’s All Right,” changed music history. He and his band mates, guitarist Scotty Moore and bassist Bill Black, recorded the less-inspiring  “Harbor Lights” and  “I Love You Because” before launching into Mississippi bluesman Arthur Crudup’s 1954 song. Producer Sam Phillips knew a hit when he heard one and released the single 14 days later (with the B-side “Blue Moon of Kentucky”) and it went on to launch Elvis Presley’s recording career.

Sun Studio
706 Union Avenue
Memphis, TN, 38103
Phone: 800-441-6249

photo by Memphis CVB, Flickr
photo by Memphis CVB, Flickr

It’s not much more than a three-minute photo op but everyone has to have their picture taken with the Elvis Statue. An original statue was erected in 1980 but over-zealous fans tore off bits and pieces of the guitar strings and the jacket fringes. That statue is now located in the lobby of the Tennessee Welcome Center on Riverside Drive. The one currently standing at Beale and South Main was erected in 1997. Sculptor Andrea Lugar depicts Elvis as he would have been on Beale Street in 1955, exposed to a melting pot of music styles.

Elvis Statue
Beale Street at South Main
Across the street from the Hard Rock Cafe


Keep up with all the festivities with the handy Elvis Week app, for iPhone or Android.

photo by Joe Spake, Flickr
photo by Joe Spake, Flickr

If you can’t be there in person, Sirius Radio’s All-Elvis channel is covering the events live.

Thousands of devoted fans from all around the world take part in the annual candlelight vigil at the gates of Graceland. It’s a solemn march to mark the anniversary of Elvis’ passing on August 16, 1977. It began as an informal gathering the year after his death and has grown in popularity over time to become a highlight of Elvis Week.

The procession passes into the Meditation Garden to his grave site where his parents, Gladys and Vernon Presley, also lie buried. Along the way, people make respectful shrines, leaving flowers, teddy bears, wreaths, and heartfelt notes to celebrate Elvis Presley’s life and legacy.

photo by Joe Spake, Flickr
photo by Joe Spake, Flickr

Big News For Big Star

Music Mainline



Albums available September 2
Packaging to include new liner notes by R.E.M.’s Mike Mills

Memphis’ prestigious Stax Records will reissue two seminal albums by one of the most influential bands: #1 Record and Radio City by Big Star.  Both releases, which have been out of print as individual CDs in the U.S. for many years, will be remastered from the original analog tape sources, and are due out September 2 2014.

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