Just a little more than three years after he was appointed president of the Memphis & Shelby County Music Commission (and later, president of the Memphis Music Foundation, a private, nonprofit offshoot), Rey Flemings has flown the coop to work for Justin Timberlake's organization. Sources say that Flemings stepped down from his post a month ago, although no official announcement has been made and Flemings continues to be listed as the organization's president on the joint commission/foundation Web site, MemphisMusic.org. Word has it that Flemings hopes to run the rumored Stax Records relaunch, along with Timberlake and his stepfather Paul Harless. Reached by cell phone, Flemings declined to comment on the situation.
It's easy to say that the music commission will be better off without him. During his tenure, Flemings did little more than bring a portion of the New Orleans-based Voodoo Fest to town, post-Katrina. He failed to follow through on most of his original goals, which included plans to digitally distribute music by local artists, relocate a major music conference to Memphis, or even create a viable, timely, and artist-friendly Web site. Even the commission's involvement with the Voodoo Fest came under scrutiny earlier this year, when organizers said that the city failed to ante up some $50,000 pledged as a sponsor of the event.
Whoever takes the job, however, will face a Sisyphean task: keeping local government, musicians, and the private sector on the same page about the future of Memphis music while honoring its past; bringing industry, beyond recording studios, to town; and balancing the needs of mega-successful homegrown artists like Three 6 Mafia with those of up-and-comers from every genre.
WEVL-FM 89.9 deejay Hayden Jackson has also left some mighty big shoes to fill. Since the Memphis Beat host moved to Chicago, Jeffrey Evans of The Gibson Bros. and '68 Comeback fame has been filling in on the microphone. "I'm trying to have a little fun and stay on this side of the F-word," jokes Evans, who describes his radio persona as "a composite character of inspirational people like Dewey Phillips, the Geeker in Your Speaker (George Klein), and the Mojo Man, a guy I'd hear on WOHO in Ohio, where I grew up."
Evans, who has also pinch-hit on WEVL's popular Friday night show Rockhouse, says that deejaying on air has been somewhat of a revelation. "Your record collection takes on a whole new meaning when you share it with somebody. There's nothing like having a captive audience who you can share stuff like Moms Mabley doing 'Abraham, Martin, and John,'" he happily notes.
Shangri-La Records employee Andrew McCalla -- who spins records at local clubs under the name Buck Wilders -- is likely to get Jackson's slot full-time, however. "In clubs, I'm trying to make people dance. On WEVL, I'll get to play more Memphis stuff -- gospel and everything," says McCalla, who lists late WDIA morning host Rufus Thomas as his favorite Memphis deejay of all time.
In the meantime, Evans is gearing up for Gonerfest III, slated for September 28th through 30th at the Buccaneer Lounge and the Hi-Tone Café (Evans and Ross Johnson will also conduct special tours of Sun Studio on Saturday, September 30th). Tickets for the three-day fest are now available at Goner Records or via Goner-Records.com.
Other news: Producer Doug Easley just cut an album with singer-songwriter Willy Mason at Longview Farms studio in Massachusetts, to be released on Astralwerks later this year. Scott Bomar recently wrapped demo sessions with longtime Justin Timberlake cohort Matthew Speaks (aka Matt Morris) and drummer Willie Hall. The trio recorded at House of Blues, Young Avenue Sound, and Ardent. Lucero's latest, Rebels, Rogues & Sworn Brothers, is scheduled to drop on September 26th. Produced by David Lowery and Alan Weatherhead at Sound of Music studio in Richmond, Virginia, the album features Memphis keyboard player Rick Steff, who plans to tour with the group this fall. Look for Lucero at the New Daisy Theatre on October 28th.