Whenever I have friends visiting from out of town, I point out the neon glow of the Sun Studio sign, the jewel that's the Stax Museum of American Soul Music, and the '50s glory of Sam Phillips Recording Studio.
Then I head down Peabody Avenue, where I show off the Church Health Center, which, for the last two decades, has been a saving grace for hundreds of local musicians (and plenty of non-playing industry professionals, including me).
The Church Health Center provides medical care for the uninsured and, via programs at the Hope and Healing Center, offers preventative help to a phenomenal number of Memphians.
This month, Memphis musicians are giving back to the Church Health Center with Rock For Love, a benefit organized by Makeshift Music.
J.D. Reager, Makeshift's mouthpiece and a member of the Hope and Healing Center, was hanging out with his friend Marvin Stockwell when the idea for the benefit materialized.
"J.D. and I became friends because he played bass on the third Pezz record," says Stockwell, Pezz's longtime guitarist, who spends his daytime hours working as public relations manager for the Church Health Center. "I'd been thinking about a benefit show, and then he brought it up."
"I know a lot of folks who have had their butts saved by the Church Health Center," Reager says, "so when we started putting it together, it quickly blew up into this multifaceted event."
Snowglobe, The Subteens, Holly Cole, Jump Back Jake, Two-Way Radio, The Third Man, Joy Whitlock, and Pezz are all slated to play Rock For Love, which will be held at the Gibson Music Showcase on Friday, July 27th.
All those groups and more — including Shabbadoo, Dragoon, Black Sunday, The Secret Service, Antique Curtains, The Glass, and vocalists Cory Branan, Blair Combest, Susan Marshall, Paul Taylor, and Amy LaVere — have recorded tracks for Makeshift 5, a compilation CD which also benefits the Church Health Center.
"It's a great cross-section of the music scene," Stockwell says. "We wanted as broad a group of bands as possible, and we ended up with all varieties of rock-and-roll. It's extremely gratifying for me in particular, because I've been able to combine the two things I'm most passionate about."
"We put out feelers all over town and recorded a fair amount of tracks at Unclaimed Recordings," says Reager, who credits Makeshift founder Brad Postlethwaite and his co-workers, Greg Faison and Jeremy Graham, for seeing the project to fruition. "Other stuff trickled in through the mail or via various meet-ups and drop-offs. The CD and show ended up getting sponsored by Ardent Studios, the Center City Commission, TCB Concerts, and other companies, and [screen printer] Sasha Barr has donated 100 percent of his time and printing."
"People who wouldn't normally collaborate have a common interest, which is supporting a charity that helps so many of them," says Stockwell, also noting event components such as a photo booth manned by aristo-rappers Lord T & Eloise and a silent auction run by blogger Rachel Hurley, plus the Live From Memphis video crew and Rocket Science Audio's guerrilla engineer Kyle Johnson, who will combine forces for a DVD release of the benefit concert.
"The show itself has become much bigger than the one we set out to organize. People have really come out of the woodwork to support it, which underscores how local musicians feel about the Church Health Center and about the national health-care crisis," Stockwell adds, noting that the number of uninsured Americans has nearly doubled since the Church Health Center opened its doors.
During the benefit, musicians will have an opportunity to sign up for the Musicians Healthcare Plan, an initiative offered by the Memphis and Shelby County Music Commission and Church Health Center.
"I don't know of any other market that supports their musicians like this," says Antonio Parkinson, board chairman of the music commission.
For more info on the Church Health Center, visit ChurchHealthCenter.org. For more on Makeshift Music and the Rock For Love benefit, go to MySpace.com/MakeshiftMusicMemphis.com. To learn about the Musicians Healthcare Plan, go to MemphisMusic.org.