Established on January 31, 1979, the museum began quite modestly by Sid Graves, director of Clarksdale’s Carnegie Public Library, as a showcase for the history of blues of the area. Graves originally housed his collection of blues memorabilia in a room of the Myrtle Hall Elementary School on Highway 61 and he took everything home with him at the end of the day. He only had few visitors at first but it gradually grew in popularity and moved to the Clarksdale Library in 1981. When the library was tight for space, Graves stored the display in the trunk of his car!
In 1988, rock guitarist Billy Gibson and his band ZZ Top accidentally discovered the museum and felt so passionate about the collection having a more permanent home that they began raising funds for the project. They sold “Muddywood” guitars constructed from fallen boards found at Muddy Waters’ old house.
Enough money was eventually raised to move the museum in 1999 to its to its current location, a former railroad passenger depot that dates back to 1926. About an hour’s drive from Memphis, the Delta Blues Museum is the world’s first museum dedicated to the blues, and it’s loaded with music displays and artefacts. Where else can you see Otis Spann’s keyboard, Super Chikan’s homemade guitar, or the shack where Muddy Waters lived on the Stovall Plantation!
Stop by for cupcakes on Friday, January 30th and on Saturday, January 31st, there will be performances by the Delta Museum Band, a special guest appearance by harmonica master Charlie Musselwhite, and a screening of the music documentary “Take Me to the River”
(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay was released this week in 1968. Soul singer Otis Redding recorded the basic tracks at Stax Studios three days before his death in a plane crash on December 10, 1967 at Lake Monona, near Madison, Wisconsin. The song was completed by co-writer and guitarist Steve Cropper, and released posthumously in January, 1968.
The tune came about in August, 1967 when Redding was sitting in a rented houseboat in Sausalito, California and started writing lyrics to the first verse of the song. While touring to back up his album “King & Queen” with Carla Thomas, he scribbled more lines for the song on napkins and hotel stationery. When Redding returned to Memphis, Steve Cropper helped finish the song in the studio with the Stax house band, Booker T. & the M.G.’s. The distinctive whistling at the end fade was recorded after Redding’s death by Sam “Bluzman” Taylor, his bandleader. It is considered the most famous whistling in any song.
Initially, there were concerns the song had too much of a pop feel for Redding but “Dock of the Bay” went on to sell more than four million copies and brought Otis the greatest success of his career. The single went on to win two Grammy Awards: Best R & B Song and Best Male R & B Vocal Performance and became a classic song. We can only imagine how many more hits Redding would have had in the next phase of his career if had lived!
If you are a blues fan, all roads lead to Memphis this week. Hundreds of blues musicians come from all over the U.S. and the world to take part in this annual five-day event, held January 20th to January 24th this year. Performers for the challenge are chosen by local blues societies to compete in three categories: Best Band, Best Solo/Duet, and Best Self-Produced CD–all for cash, prizes, and industry recognition.
Last year, over 250 acts competed in semi-finals in the clubs on Beale Street so expect an explosion of the blues this year, too.
Since the IBC is a showcase for new talent, many of today’s top blues artists competed in the past, including Tommy Castro, Eden Brent, Albert Castiglia, Susan Tedeschi, Delta Moon, Diunna Greenleaf, Zac Harmon, Larry Garner, Super Chikan, and more. Here is a list of this year’s participants, many of whom will be the stars of tomorrow:
Welcome to Part One of our two-part review round-up featuring some of Omnivore Recordings’ releases from late 2014!
Just when one thinks the Big Star well has run dry, Omnivore Recordings surprises with a treat of the magnitude of Live in Memphis (OVCD-107). On October 29, 1994 at Memphis’ New Daisy Theatre, Big Star founding members Alex Chilton and Jody Stephens, were joined by Jon Auer and Ken Stringfellow of The Posies for an overflowing set of Big Star classics and covers in front of an appreciative hometown audience. The debut of this band lineup on April 25, 1993 was preserved on the Zoo Records album Columbia: Live at Missouri University 4/25/93; the concert of October 29, 1994 was billed as Big Star’s farewell U.S. performance. It turned out to be anything but – the band continued to tour together for another 16 years until Chilton’s untimely death in…
Born January 8, 1935, Elvis would have been 80 today. Most of us can’t picture him in some sad Tupelo retirement home; we think of him immortalized at the peak of his swaggering youth and his amazing talent. (That voice!) If you are in Memphis this week, there are many events celebrating The King of Rock n’ Roll’s birthday.
Graceland is party central for most of the festivities including music tours, guest speakers, a gospel concert, and a double feature screening of Jailhouse Rock and Viva Las Vegas.
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, including his bedroom.
Humes High School, where Elvis Presley attended from 1948 to 1953, 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.
In April of 1953, a few months before graduation, 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. His classmates say this stand-out performance was true beginning of his rise to stardom.
Humes High School
659 North Manassas Street
Memphis, TN 38107
Phone: (901) 416-3226
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.
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 enjoyed.
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.
If you are on an Elvis pilgrimage, your trip should include a visit to his birthplace in Tupelo, Mississippi. Hop in your pink Cadillac with the top down and travel in style.
Located about a hundred miles from Memphis, this little Southern town in northeast Mississippi is where Elvis spent his formative years, learning to play guitar and listening to a melting pot of American music–country, blues, and gospel. There are several events around town to commemorate his birthday.
You can visit Presley’s boyhood home, a two-room shotgun shack built for $180 by his father Vernon where the family lived for about three years. It’s still standing in the original spot! Also featured is a church Elvis attended and sang in, The Assembly of God Pentecostal Church, and a statue portraying Presley at thirteen.
This year, The Tupelo Community Theatre presents the one-act play “Graceland” by playwright Ellen Byron. The story takes place in June, 1982 as two women, Rootie and Bev, vie to be the first in line the day Graceland is opened to the public. As they wait for the gates to open, the two fans share their life stories and how much Elvis means to them.
Tupelo Community Theatre
201 North Broadway Street
Tupelo, MS 38804
Phone: (662) 844-1935 http://www.tct.ms/
Elvis may have left the building forever but you can still experience what it was like to attend one of his concerts thanks to tribute artist David Lee. Lee is ranked in the top 10 in the world and he captures the spirit of The King on stage.