On Sunday at the Delta Fair & Musical Festival, there will be a performance by the ReEntry Band, a group made up of inmates from the Shelby County Penal Farm, and that will be followed by a performance by The Peacemakers, a group made up of Memphis Police Department officers.
“It shows the axis of reality,” says Andrew Taber, the former director of Corrections. “It’s a cops and robbers concert.” The ReEntry Band was started about a year ago as a pilot project. Taber points out that the maximum stay at the Penal Farm is six years. “All of the inmates are coming back to the community,” he says. The ReEntry Band was designed to help along the rehabilitation process as well as send the audience a message about making good decisions and that everybody deserves a second chance.
Taber laughs remembering the initial auditions for the ReEntry Band, describing it as American Idol-esque. But the group started out strong with founding member Eric Gales, the celebrated blues guitarist. Other notable members have included blues artist Willie Covington and Koopsta, a onetime member of Three 6 Mafia.
The 11 members perform everything from Al Green to ZZ Top, and they appear frequently at civic events. Taber says the reaction to the group has been good, what he calls “pleasantly surprised.” One of the group’s most memorable performances was its debut at last year’s Delta Fair when they followed the emo-ish rock group Boys Like Girls. Says Taber of the pairing, “It was a real dichotomy there.” — Susan Ellis