I know it's the beginning of Elvis Week, but if you want to bask in some classic musical Americana of a different stripe, the Live At the Garden Summer Concert Series is offering one of its finest shows this week. New Orleans hipster/piano man Dr. John, who inherited the Crescent City piano tradition from the late Professor Longhair, is no stranger to Memphis audiences after hosting the past two Handy Awards ceremonies, but he'll be the featured attraction this time around. He'll be joined by N'awlins mainstays The Dirty Dozen Brass Band, who gained new cultural currency when they were embraced by the jam-band nation, and the always-great Mavis Staples, the former Stax artist who gave a strong performance last time she was here when she "opened" for Sonic Youth, of all acts, on one of the stages at the 2001 Beale Street Music Fest. These three roots-music stalwarts join forces for "Mardi Gras At the Garden" at the Memphis Botanic Garden Thursday, August 8th.-- Chris Herrington
It's hard being a Memphis rock band. Little grows in the shade, you know, and Sun Studio has cast a mighty long shadow. Since those shaking-crazy days half a damn century ago, the world has had some pretty high expectations for Bluff City artists, and who can really measure themselves alongside Billy Lee Riley, let alone Elvis Presley, Roy Orbison, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, or Johnny Cash. The rockabilly explosion only lasted a few short years, and its stars are, at once, the least emulated and the holiest of all the saints in the rock-and-roll church. Memphis should have a whole festival devoted to nothing but that rocking hillbilly sound. Libertyland should construct Disney-lite extravaganzas around it. But year after year, it takes a backseat to the blues. Jackson, Tennessee, hometown of Carl Perkins and the Rockabilly Hall of Fame, has picked up the slack with an annual festival devoted to that crazy hillbilly sound. Saturday, August 10th, ace sax man Ace Cannon will be tooting his own horn, Bill Haley's Original Comets will (you guessed it) rock around the clock, and Sun Studio's legendary guitar hero Sonny Burgess will sing about red-headed women. And oh, yes, there will be Elvis impersonators. Best of all, Wanda Jackson will be in the house. And who is she? Let's just say it would take a helluva lot of leather to make the Shangri-Las sound half as tough as Jackson did when she sang "Riot In Cell Block Number 9." Location: Carl Perkins Civic Center, 400 South Highland Avenue. While in Jackson, vintage-guitar nuts (and aren't all rockabilly fans?) might want to visit Player Guitars next to Casey Jones Village. It's your best bet for fondling a guitar you'll never be able to afford since Rod and Hank's closed shop on Main Street.
Or if you've got the rockabilly itch but can't get out of town, you can head down to the Lounge Friday, August 9th, where Burgess and his band The Pacers will be giving an early show. --Chris Davis