Ross Rice fronted Human Radio, one of the most successful Memphis bands of the late ’80s and early ’90s, which signed to Columbia Records and became one of the few Memphis acts to land on MTV during the music-video heyday via the band’s wry single “Me & Elvis.” With an alt-pop sound that bridged the commercial and college radio scenes of the day, Human Radio’s rise ended up being ill-timed, though. The band debuted nationally just before a Nirvana tidal wave changed the major-label rock landscape. But if the band’s big moment wasn’t quite as big as it could have been, Rice still settled in as one of the most diverse talents in his era of Memphis music, making his mark as a songwriter, producer, solo recording artist (releasing a 1997 debut, Umpteen, via Steve Earle’s label), and live performer, where he presided over popular, frequent “Ross Rice Band” gigs at the Midtown Blue Monkey before relocating to upstate New York several years ago.
Rice is still up north but returns home this week to headline the main stage at the Cooper-Young Festival, where he’ll be preceded by locals such as the hard-rockin’ Tiger High, the gospel performers Darrel Petties & Strength in Praise, Beale Street stalwarts the Patrick Dodd Band, and rootsy openers the Memphis Dawls and Side Street Steppers. The free, all-day neighborhood festival will have two other music stages, one manned by representatives of the Visible Music College and another located at the Memphis Drum Shop. Rice’s set is at 5:15 p.m.