edited by Mark Jordan
School House Rock
Mixed in with the Studio Coolio: Plaster Magic for the Uninhibited
and the Young at Art classes that are part of the Memphis College
of Arts Community Education series this spring is Strictly Memphis:
A Thirty Year History of Memphis Music.
Taught by Wilhelm Willi Gutt, a.k.a. Catman, host of WEVLs
Red Hot and Rockin radio show and curator of the Memphis Music
Hall of Fame, and Nona Bolin, professor of philosophy at MCA,
the course spans the early days of Sun Records to the death of
Stax. The class isnt just another textbook read-along; course
materials will include the best-known Memphis sounds from the
likes of Jerry Lee Lewis and more obscure artists like disco queen
Anita Wood, plus unreleased studio sessions and video footage.
And its more than professorial lectures, too; celebrity guests
are expected to visit the class to deliver their personal perspectives.
Bolin says they are considering four or five guests, and though
she wouldnt reveal names, she says that Willi has quite a list
The class will run Tuesdays, 7:30 to 9:30 p.m., from February
10th to March 31st (no class March 17th). The sessions will meet
at MCA, with a trip to the Memphis Music Hall of Fame. The 7-week
course, limited to 15 or 16 students, costs $200. Call the Memphis
College of Art for more information. Lauren Mutter
A Welcome Return
Last Wednesday night saw the return to Memphis of Those Bastard
Souls, the Grifters side project that has grown up around Dave
Shouses pseudonymous 1996 solo-record Twentieth Century Chemical.
Various lineups that were put together to support the record have
toured sporadically since its release but have only come to town
once: a late 96 Barristers show that too few people saw.
Last weeks show at the P&H kicked off a two-week tour that follows
the bands work on a demo at Easley with a lineup that includes
Dambuilders violinist Joan Wasser and members of the late Jeff
Buckleys backing band. A healthy weeknight crowd turned out to
see the band run through a good portion of Twentieth Century,
some new material, and Spaced Out from the Grifters latest,
Full Blown Possession. The show left little doubt that the Souls
next record is something that should be hotly anticipated. Unlike
Twentieth Century, which was recorded almost entirely by Shouse,
the follow-up will include the whole band, which did the impossible
by improving on an already excellent record. Wassers playing
lends the bands sound a determined and haunting lilt, wrapped
around beautifully Bowie-esque hooks, complete at times with
baritone sax. The Souls, in other words, have a sound so thick
you could cut it with a knife. Hopefully it wont be another year
before they return. Jim Hanas
Handy Nominees Announced
The nominees for the 19th annual W.C. Handy Awards were announced
last week, with the late Luther Allison receiving the most nominations
with six. Allison, who died last August, was nominated for best
blues song, contemporary blues album, guitarist, contemporary
male artist, and band-of-the-year honors. Allison also received
a nod in the Handys top category, Blues Entertainer of the Year,
which he has won the past two years.
The complete list of nominees:
Entertainer of the Year: Luther Allison, Ruth Brown, B.B. King,
Rod Piazza, and Bobby Rush.
Band of the Year: the B.B. King Orchestra, Joe Louis Walker &
the Bosstalkers, the Luther Allison & James Solberg Band, Rod
Piazza & the Mighty Flyers, Roomful of Blues, and the Holmes Brothers.
Contemporary Blues Male Artist of the Year: Luther Allison,
Charlie Musselwhite, Rod Piazza, Joe Louis Walker, and Smokey
Contemporary Blues Female Artist of the Year: Marcia Ball, Deborah
Coleman, Debbie Davis, Sista Monica, Koko Taylor, and Toni Lynn
Soul/Blues Male Artist of the Year: Johnny Adams, Mighty Sam
McClain, Little Milton, Bobby Rush, and Johnny Taylor.
Soul/Blues Female Artist of the Year: Ruth Brown, Denise LaSalle,
Ann Peebles, Irma Thomas, and Lavelle White.
Traditional Blues Male Artist of the Year: Carey Bell, R.L.
Burnside, David Honeyboy Edwards, Corey Harris, and Smoky Pryor.
Traditional Blues Female Artist of the Year: Rory Block, Tracy
Nelson, Ann Rabson, Annie Raines, and Shelia Wilcoxson.
Acoustic Blues Artist of the Year: Corey Harris, Alvin Youngblood
Heart, Keb Mo, Kelly Joe Phelps, and Philadelphia Jerry Ricks.
Best New Blues Artist: Chico Banks, Chris Beard, Super Chikan,
Andrew Jr. Boy Jones, and Johnny Yard Dog Jones.
Best Guitarist: Luther Allison, Ronnie Earl, Anson Funderburgh,
Big Jack Johnson, Duke Robillard, and Joe Louis Walker.
Best Harmonica Player: Carey Bell, James Cotton, Sam Myers, Charlie
Musselwhite, and Rod Piazza.
Best Keyboardist: Marcia Ball, Charles Brown, Floyd Dixon, Johnnie
Johnson, David Maxwell, Pinetop Perkins, Honey Piazza.
Best Bassist: Sister Sarah Brown, Aaron Burton, Johnny B. Gayden,
Calvin Fuzz Jones, and Willie Kent.
Best Drummer: Ray Killer Allison, Jimi Bott, Sam Carr, Sam Lay,
and Willie Big Eyes Smith.
Best Instumentalist Other: Clarence Gatemouth Moore (violin),
Kaz Kazanof (saxophone), Sonny Rhodes (lapsteel guitar), Roomful
of Blues (horn section), and Eddie Shaw (saxophone).
Contemporary Blues Album of the Year: Luther Allisons Reckless,
Long John Hunters Swingin From The Rafters, Rod Piazzas Tough
& Tender, Joe Louis Walkers Great Guitars, and Smokey Wilsons
The Man From Mars.
Soul/Blues Album of the Year: Johnny Adams One Foot In The Blues,
Ruth Browns R + B = Ruth Brown, Solomon Burkes The Definition
of Soul, King Ernests King Of Hearts, Bobby Rushs Lovin A Big
Fat Woman, Mighty Joe Youngs Might Man, and the Holmes Brothers
Traditional Blues album of the Year: Carey Bells Good Luck Man,
Corey Harris Fish Aint Bitin, the Jellyroll Kings Off Yonder
Wall, Snooky Pryors Mind Your Own Business, and Ann Rabsons
Music Makin Mama.
Comeback Blues Album of the Year: Jimmy Burns Leavin Here Walkin,
King Ernests King Of Hearts, Eddie Kings Another Cow Is Dead,
the Jellyroll Kings Off Yonder Wall, Philadelphia Jerry Ricks
Deep In The Well, and Freddie Roulettes Back In Chicago.
Acoustic Blues Album of the Year: Ann Rabsons Music Makin Mama,
Corey Harris Fish Aint Bitin, John Mooneys Dealin With The
Devil, Kelly Joe Phelps Roll Away Stone, and Philadelphia Jerry
Ricks Deep In The Well.
Reissue Blues Album of the Year: R.L. Burnsides Acoustic Stories,
James Harmans Extra Napkins, Jesse Mae Hemphills Feelin Good,
Mississippi Fred McDowells The First Recordings, and Jimmy Rogers
The Complete Chess Recordings.
Blues Song of the Year: Eddie Clearwaters Dont Take My Blues,
Jimmy Burns Leavin Here Walkin, Joe Louis Walkers Low Down
Dirty Blues, Luther Allisons Livin In The House Of Blues,
and Smokey Wilsons The Man From Mars.
The Blues Foundation will present the Handy Awards Thursday, April
30th in a ceremony at The Orpheum. n Mark Jordan
Local Boys Done Good
The Flyers former music editor helps write a different chapter
in the history of Sun Records.
by Mark Jordan
[Bear Cat] was a big song. The first hit with a Sun label on
it. I made maybe five, six hundred dollars off of it. Sam made
a bit more than that. But Sam [Phillips] wouldnt hardly tell
anyone I made the first record for him that got a hit until about
three years ago. Theyd put us on panels together and he never
did mention it. But Id always come back and say, Sam didnt
tell you that I made the first record.
He was an arrogant bastard. He is today. Back then he had a big
car, it was maybe a foreign car, a Bentley, and hed boast about
the money he made that got him his car. I said, Yeah, but if
it hadnt been for me, he wouldnt have had that car. Rufus Thomas, from Sun Records: An Oral History
ith his own parking space on his own downtown street off Beale
where he can park his own big car, Thomas neednt worry about
his place in music history, especially now that hes got his account
of Suns first hit down for the record.
Written by former Flyer music editor John Floyd, Sun Records:
An Oral History is one of the first releases in a new series of
music books from Avon Books called For the Record. Edited by respected
music journalist Dave Marsh a former Rolling Stone editor and
current music reviewer for Playboy and the author of biographies
on the Who and Bruce Springsteen the series attempts to tell
the music stories untold and half-told through the artists
own words, often using lengthy quotes with little or no editing.
It is no small tribute to Memphis that two of the first three
titles in the series involve the citys rich musical heritage.
The first For The Record book was Sam and Dave: An Oral History
by Marsh and Sam Moore, who with his late partner Dave Prater
made up one half of the legendary Stax duo.
Part of Avon Books For the Record series and written by the Flyers
former music editor John Floyd, Sun Records: An Oral History tells
the stories of 13 artists and producers who worked at the legendary
label. Another title in the series chronicles the career of Stax
duo Sam and Dave.
Unlike the Sam and Dave book, which is told entirely from Moores
perspective, Floyds book on Sun tells the story of the legendary
label through the voices of 13 artists who were intimately involved
in the labels progression.
I set out with a list of maybe 30 or 40 people pretty much
everyone who was still alive and then set about trying to find
them, says Floyd. Some of them were really easy, like Billy
Some people just werent interested, like Sonny Burgess;
he just didnt care about it. He said that in the past and this
is something that Riley also said he felt two things: These
hot-shit writers come to their houses and pump them for information
and then go back to New York and make a million dollars on the
book and they dont make a penny. Also, Burgess and all these
guys feel like theyve been misquoted by all these writers. I
dont know if thats true. At this point everyones memory is
While not the definitive book on Sun (for that, Floyd recommends
Colin Escotts Good Rockin Tonight, which he says was pretty
much in my hand the entire time I was writing and researching
my little thing), Sun Records: An Oral History is an excellent
supplement to the accepted history, full of entertaining stories
and unique perspectives from many who were intimately connected
with the label. Among the 13 people Floyd ultimately interviewed
for the book are the well-known personalities Rufus Thomas, Little
Milton, Scotty Moore, Jim Dickinson, producers Roland Janes and
Jack Clement, and Billy Lee Riley, as well as lesser-known Sun
artists Rayburn Anthony, Johnny Powers, W.S. Holland, Quinton
Claunch, and Malcolm Yelvington.
Obviously, with people like Jerry Lee, Carl Perkins, and Johnny
Cash not in there, it leaves something to be desired, Floyd says.
Marsh wasnt really concerned about not getting those people.
He just kind of wanted to let the people you could get to talk
go on at greater length, and since youre not editing the quotes
or paraphrasing, you hopefully get a feel for how they talk, how
they tell stories or the inflections they use.
The book traces Suns progression from a money-making lark started
by former deejay Sam Phillips to a pioneering blues label to the
cradle of rock to its decline in the early 60s as a failing studio
suffering the neglect of an owner who has gone on to bigger business
Looking back, Floyd realizes some readers may believe he was too
hard on Phillips role in the decline of Sun. Its just frustrating
that Phillips didnt seem interested in carrying on the legacy,
he says. It would have been nice if he had been able to continue
the amazing work he did for nine or 10 years. But really it doesnt
matter. What he did do was plenty. Its like Carl Perkins. You
know the guy had a very brief period of greatness, but when your
brief period of greatness is that fucking great, you can retire;
youve done plenty. Youve done more than the average man or woman
can do. Take a seat. Have a beer. n