COMMENTARY: SHERMAN WILLMOTT'S SPRING CLEANING 

COMMENTARY: SHERMAN WILLMOTT'S SPRING CLEANING

After two Pulitzer nominations, an offer from President Bush to write White House concert reviews, and an editor accusing me of being a gadfly (Will someone please tell me if that’s a compliment?), here’s a follow-up on my award-winning stories from the last six months:

1) Radio Round-up (October): Air America joined the talk radio fray in Memphis on 680 AM. While something has been needed to quell the far right bias of the Memphis talk radio airwaves, when is enough negativity enough already? I say two negatives do not make a positive. Ban ‘em both--I’ll trade Rush and Franken for just radio static any day!

Smooth Jazz 98.9 is now Power 99, a hip-hop lite top 40 station--a bit late to the hip-hop world and without any edge at all, for sure.

Longtime Rock 103 bozos Drake & Zeke are no longer on Rock 103 . In an ironic twist of gargantuan proportions, Zeke is now bashing Rock 103 and Clear Channel on his web site “for sucking the life out of what was once one of the best rock stations in America”(!) and soon to be on yet another classic rock radio station, 98.1 (Memphis is now blessed with twice as much bad classic rock--three times if you count the Arkansas station that bleeds onto 102.3). 98.1 has a major format change coming this Friday while this week they have been playing vintage Def Leppard album sides. Oh, boy, I can’t wait.

WYPL 89.3, the Library Channel will soon begin featuring beaucoups of Memphis music in a move to bring music back to the forefront of this newly charged 100,000 watts of power station.

Satellite Radio: Five weeks after my piece on the coming of satellite radio, Mel Karmazin shocked the entertainment industry by becoming Sirius Radio’s CEO, legitimizing the new industry--at least for many in the investing community. The addition of Karmazin (as well as Howard Stern) allowed for a very successful re-capitalization of Sirius that sent Sirius on a massive spending binge to acquire the most popular radio programming available. Between Sirius and XM, new deals have since been signed with NASCAR, NCAA, PGA, Eminem & 50 Cent (Shade 45 Hip Hop channel) as well as many other entertainers and sports leagues. Both companies are furiously competing against each other and leaving traditional commercial radio to grab at the local crumbs left behind. In Memphis, Sirius has created a 24/7 all-Elvis station at Graceland, and XM has been broadcasting from high-profile special events like the Blaxploitation movie poster exhibit opening at the Stax Museum.

Savvy On the Fly readers would have gained 6% by buying XM stock in October or 41% by investing in Sirius. Sirius rose from $3.75 the day my column ran in October to $7.95 in December--more than doubling in less than two months! (Clear Channel, the biggest loser to satellite radio, is surprisingly up 8% since October).

2) Memphis’ senior photographer Ernest Withers‘ (January) new book Negro League Baseball is out, and he will be signing copies at Davis-Kidd Thursday, March 31 at 6:00 p.m.

3) Graceland (December) is still standing and is now sharing shelf space with American Idol stars. Robert Sillerman has added the American Idol show to his growing intellectual property company Sports Entertainment Enterprises (CKXE). After purchasing the rights to the King and Idol, Sillerman’s company stock has gone from 8 cent to $24.07 in three months. We pronounced this deal a major coup for Jack Soden, and Lisa Marie should be very happy with her licensing deal so far. Many shrewd Elvis fans can now make money (and have!) by investing in the King while idolizing him as well!

4) David Gest (December) continues to try to feed the hungry, although with only modest success. While Gest’s restaurant list was reduced to just the one Gus’ downtown location, on Easter he again offered free food to those willing to brave the elements. Unfortunately a rush of people into the restaurant (food fight?) caused the management to call the police and prematurely shut down the giveaway. Fans of Gest’s fabulous music productions will be sad to hear he does not seem interested in hosting another gala in Memphis. The man who originally brought Gest to town, John King, continues to add Memphis radio programs to his www.Tigeradio.com web site.

5) Viva L’American Death Ray (February) will play again April 7 at the Hi Tone. Monsieur Jeffrey Evans has briefly returned from Europe but is doubling back for the Barbican Festival in London Sunday April 3rd.

6) Memphis in May (December) did not book any crappy ‘70s rock re-treads (excepting the r&b of War and K.C. and the Sunshine Band) and focused on Memphis and roots music for their best line-up in years--albeit one with no “must sees.”

7) The Memphis Music Commission (November)never did do that web site they promised back in October. They did create less transparency in their new non-profit though. Oh, well, you can’t have it all.

I look forward to much more Memphis music muckraking in the next six months. Pay attention and make some money too. An On the Fly bonus?É

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