Wednesday, July 17, 2019

DittyTV Steps Up To Major Radio Markets & Beyond

Posted By on Wed, Jul 17, 2019 at 5:48 PM

  • Courtesy DittyTV
Local heroes DittyTV, who have steadily grown their online music television streaming presence since 2014, made a major leap forward this week when they announced a new partnership with the New York-based Krantz Media Group/KMG Networks (KMG), which specializes in marketing audio-only content, chiefly in what is still broadly called "radio."

“DittyTV is the most robust video channel in the world dedicated to the diverse and growing Americana and Roots music categories,” said Gary Krantz, CEO of KMG. “Americana continues to grow exponentially and is the passionate choice for 18-34 and 25-54-year-old adults that are under-served by mainstream media, yet highly desired by brands and advertisers. KMG is very excited to build success with several projects in the works for all forms of radio and podcasts”. And while DittyTV already features a 24/7 Ditty TV audio channel, at, plans are now being made for daily and weekly podcasts, event and awards show coverage, and more.

I spoke with DittyTV CEO Ronnie Wright to see just what this meant for the company, and what new ways we could expect to hear its content in the future.

Memphis Flyer: So how did this partnership come about?

Ronnie Wright: Gary was pretty persistent, so we double checked with some mentors that we have before we decided to pursue it. It turns out this guy's been in radio his whole career. It's all about radio and audio. He reached out to us independently, and a couple people we know actually went to college with him. So they go way back. That gave us a level of comfort. He's identified this Americana movement and this under-served market. He knows how to monetize audio-specific assets.

What specifically does that mean, in terms of how people will hear your stuff?

There's a couple things he's gonna help us with, which is getting a radio, or audio-only version of DittyTV on something like Sirius XM or iHeart Radio. It would be its own channel where you could listen to Ditty on some other platforms, other than our own. And then there'll be a revenue split on advertising that they sell. That's one thing he does. And another thing that's growing are podcasts. Basically, what he does is bridge the licensing agreements, and then he has the advertising connections and machine to connect advertisers with our content. And we've already created a lot of our content, and we're sitting on it. So we have a 24 hour broadcast, and we already have an audio version of it, where I just strip out the video. If you go to, it's already live. You'll see all of our podcasts, and you can just listen to the audio. So Gary thinks we can get on other platforms and make some money out of licensing, and or selling advertising. And ironically, he says on the radio market, there's still people listening and people making money. Even on traditional terrestrial radio, AM and FM. They're still buying content. So what we're talking about putting together is a weekly Americana & Roots wrap up or countdown, something like that. And we'll produce a two or three hour show that we then syndicate to all these radio stations.
  • Courtesy DittyTV
It sounds like this will be a big move for you all in the domestic market. I know you're already pretty big internationally.

Yeah. And from our standpoint, it's just building general brand awareness. The more places we can get, whether it's on an app or a radio station, or iHeart radio, the better. Gary thinks there's a lot of opportunity with the audio-only part of our thing that we really have to explore. I've always been more interested in the television part of this. But he's right. All our teleprogramming is very easily turned into podcasts or radio programming. And since audio is cheaper to produce, there's so many more opportunities that we can create. So we're expanding our footprint into the radio podcast world, be it satellite or terrestrial. And we're thinking about specifically producing a radio show, which we've never really done before. But we have all the rights to the music. So there's no reason we couldn't just put together an audio version of what we're already doing.

What is KMG bringing to the table in this partnership?

Gary's got a lot of connections in the industry, with larger names in the Americana Roots world. He thinks we could get guest hosts and guest DJ's. Kinda like XM shows that have celebrity co-hosts. And since we're  a lot better at producing content than selling, he can help us with that. So it could open some doors. He's gonna do this whole market analysis. And our first goal is to get on a high profile radio network, like Sirius or iHeart. Just to raise visibility. And once we turn that corner, other things will come more easily. And it would be the same broadcast that we're already doing.

Will DittyTV continue to stick with Americana and roots music?

With satellite channels, it's usually genre driven. When it comes to Americana-Roots, whatever you want to call it, I think what Gary is realizing, which is what we realized, is there's a big smart global group that likes this stuff. They like the fact that it's not mainstream country. They like the fact that it's not pop music or electronica. There's a place for what we're curating on more platforms, so more people can get to it. If you like it on your television, why not stream it in your car? Or on your XM radio? Or on your iHeart app? And with DittyTV, the goal is not necessarily to make a lot of money, the goal is to be sustainable, self sustainable, and be a real resource and help emerging artists. If we grow, we can make a bigger impact. It would be great to triple the staff. Or to have an RV on the road, covering festivals, with a whole other camera crew.

I know you've recently opened a retail shop as well, Vibe & Dime, on South Main Street. What other new projects are cooking at Ditty?

We also formed a non profit, called the Ditty Foundation. Everything we produce goes back to the artist. We give them all the media for free, we promote the albums and the tours.

And we also just released DittyTV 2.0. We have a brand new app for all the set-top boxes like Apple TV, Fire TV, Roku, Tivo, and now you can watch all the shows on demand, which is new. We'll always have the live 24/7 broadcast, but now you'll be able to pick your favorite shows. And we have so many episodes! You can also get daily news segments. And by the end of next week, we're gonna have our mobile apps. So you'll have all those same capabilities in an iPhone app and an Android app. The radio only, the on demand, the live broadcast. We're super excited about that.

And we're super excited about partnering with KMG. I think Gary really appreciates the entrepreneurship that's gone into DItty so far, the challenges that we've had to overcome. So hopefully DittyTV will be coming to a radio dial near you soon.

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Friday, July 12, 2019

The Secret Room at the Lamplighter: Grand Opening On Saturday

Posted By on Fri, Jul 12, 2019 at 1:16 PM


It was so like a dream. "We were in the old house. You were there, and you, and you...And we saw this door we'd never seen, so we opened it — and found a whole other room, that had been there under our noses all these years!"

Except it wasn't a dream. It was only yesterday and I was getting a tour from Laurel Cannito, who, along with Chuck 'Vicious' Wenzler, took over the Lamplighter Lounge last year after longtime owner Ann Bradley decided to retire. Looking a little mischievous, Cannito motioned me to a door I'd never seen and threw it open. And there it was: the Secret Room.

"It's like Harry Potter, isn't it?" she said, looking rather proud of her bar and the team that helps her run the place. "The room's always been here, but we haven't always been connected. This used to be a TV repair shop in the 60s. And then it was a bookstore. And then it was a ball point pen repair place. We've always said, 'Oh, wouldn't that be neat to turn into a venue space?' So, we recently acquired it. We have great landlords. They worked with us to help get it attached and everything. Then we did a lot of the construction work after we put it onto our lease."

Thomas pours a PBR - JUSTIN FOX BURKS
  • Justin Fox Burks
  • Thomas pours a PBR
The Lamplighter Lounge, of course, is the long-adored dive on Madison Avenue that some say is the the oldest bar in Memphis. Despite the smallish space of the original lounge, the new owners removed the pool table last year and began hosting bands with increasing frequency. The vibe was always great, but it could get a bit cramped.

Now, the Secret Room more than doubles the size of the place. Entering from a door on the south end of the bar, you see an unassuming functional space that (gasp!) even includes a green room for the bands. What's more, the new room marks the return of the beloved pool table. Cannito is happy to have it back. "Miss Anne sold the pool table before we bought the place, so we didn't choose to get rid of it," she says, now visibly relieved at its return.

In addition to some few finishing touches like stringing lights, she'll outfit the new room with more bar-like amenities soon. "The original jukebox is still here by the bar, and we got that working again. But there on left is a new old jukebox that we are gonna get working for the Secret Room. Yep, double jukebox. You just need a jukebox in every room. That door over there is the customer door. And this door behind the bar is gonna be split in half and have a bar top on it so we can sling drinks from there."

Aside from such touches, the Secret Room will remain fairly sparse. "It'll be a little bare bones. It'll be not so much a raw space, but a malleable space. I like performance art. I would love to have more of that, like performance art and puppetry and dancing, or even the aerial stuff that's been around. Next month, we're doing a pop-up boutique every Sunday, because me and some friends have a bunch of clothes that we're trying to get out into the world. Stuff that's really nice, but it's just not our style anymore. And then, I have some friends in Asheville who are part of a professional circus. I could get them here at some point. It just expands our ability to help encourage creativity around town, give it a space," says Cannito.

And of course there will be music. "We already have music of all kinds, like the old time string band, soul bands, rock bands of all kinds, and rap and DJs and 80s nights. It's so nice. I want this to be the kind of space where every kind of music can find a place. And having the Secret Room is going to be really good for that. I think it'll bring even more types of music and even more bands. Because not everybody wants to set up in the small room and just play for people who drink. It'll help a lot with the intentionality of it."

To that end, the Secret Room will be having its inaugural show this weekend, Saturday, July 13th, featuring some of Midtown's favorites: Louise Page, Faux Killas and Rosey. Remarked Cannito of the latter band, "They're so, so good. When they finish a song, there's just a silence as the audience tries to process what they've just heard."
Discover the Secret Room this Saturday, to see and hear it for yourself.

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Thursday, July 11, 2019

Super Low Releases Self-Titled Debut at B-Side

Posted By on Thu, Jul 11, 2019 at 4:12 PM

Tiger Adams (left) and John Lewandowski of Super Low
  • Tiger Adams (left) and John Lewandowski of Super Low

Bluff City fans of melodic pop songs with jangly guitars, ear-worm hooks, and layers of piano, strings, and piano have new reason to rejoice: Memphis-based Super Low will release their self-titled debut album at B-Side inside Minglewood Hall on Friday, July 12th.

Formerly China Gate, Super Low has undergone a name change and some lineup shifts, but the core of the band remains. Singer/guitarist Tiger Adams leads the band, with support from drummer John Lewandowski, bassist Conner Booth, and a rotating cast of additional musicians. It should be noted, also, that Adams’ Super Low is not to be confused with fellow Bluff City band, Super-Lo, which includes members of the now-legendary Memphis punk outfit The Klitz.

In advance of the upcoming album release show, Super Low has debuted two singles from the upcoming album, “Unlimited Data” and “Runners Up.” The singles are sunny and warm, with bright guitars and impeccable arrangements highlighting the band’s penchant for instrumental hooks — like the catchy organ fill in “Runners Up.”

“Unlimited Data” is manna from heaven for listeners who appreciate layers upon layers of clean electric and acoustic guitars. Think Scottish indie rockers Camera Obscura, but with a Southern man in glasses and baseball cap behind the microphone instead of Camera Obscura’s Tracyanne Campbell. Another comparison that comes to mind is French garage-pop wunderkind En Attendant Ana, the undisputed break-out stars of Gonerfest 15. As with En Attendant Ana and Camera Obscura, on Super Low, the rhythms are up-tempo, the melodies are memorable, and the layers of guitar are seemingly unending. Put simply, this is pop done right.

The upcoming concert at B-Side will kick off a tour with stops in Nashville, Baltimore, Atlanta, and New York.

Super Low perform at B-Side, Friday, July 12th, 9 p.m.

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Wednesday, July 10, 2019

ORUÃ: Brazilian Band Wows Lafayette’s, Backs Built to Spill

Posted By on Wed, Jul 10, 2019 at 2:05 PM

  • Karin Santa Rosa
  • ORUÃ

Boise, Idaho, rockers Built to Spill released their fan-favorite album Keep It Like a Secret some 20 years ago, in 1999, which is why Doug Martsch, the maestro behind the band, is currently touring the album in celebration of the landmark anniversary. Hey, 20 years is a long time for a rock band. Built To Spill made a stop in Memphis at Overton Square’s Lafayette’s Music Room on Tuesday, July 9th, and Martsch proved that his riffs and all-along-the-neck runs are as crisp and fresh today as they were 20 years ago. One thing, however, was notably different. Martsch was supported, not by the usual cast of bearded and Fender-wielding Idahoans, but by rock trio ORUÃ, hailing from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, who pulled double duty as both members of Built to Spill and the opening band. And, to put it simply, they brought the house down. 

But first, some history: Martsch is Built to Spill. His idiosyncratic playing style, penchant for Fender gear, trademark high-and-lonesome vocals, and long instrumental digressions form the backbone of the band’s identity. What’s more, Martsch has stated in many interviews that his original plan for the band was to employ a constantly rotating cast of support musicians as his backing band. However, sometime between There’s Nothing Wrong With Love (1994) and Keep It Like a Secret, a permanent lineup began to coalesce — at least until 2015’s Untethered Moon brought in new members. Those members were absent Tuesday night, but their shoes were filled admirably by ORUÃ. 

  • Karin Santa Rosa
  • ORUÃ

The first opening act was keyboard player/comedian Wet Face, whose arpeggiated piano runs and electronic beats were a vehicle for his charismatic antics and rapid-fire witticisms. Wet Face is worth checking out, but ORUÃ, who played next, was the break-out star of the evening.

Don’t get me wrong — Built to Spill put on a wonderful show as they played Keep It Like a Secret in its entirety, albeit out of sequence and with welcome additions from other albums. ("Time Trap" and "Broken Chairs" were highlights, as was "I Would Hurt a Fly" from Perfect From Now On.) But the boys from Brazil surprised me. I had no idea what to expect, so my defenses were nonexistent, leaving me open to be obliterated (in the best possible way) by their psychedelic, jazz-influenced onslaught. They put me in mind of California-based party rockers Oh Sees (formerly Thee Oh Sees), but any comparison fails to do ORUÃ justice. Including myself, there were three WEVL DJs present at last night’s show, and we all shared one takeaway: “This band is incredible! What was their name again? Could you understand them?”

The vocalist sang in a high lilt, in what I assume was Portuguese. Language barrier or no, I was transported. Their set passed by all too briefly, making Built to Spill’s — by any reckoning the main course — feel like dessert. Adding to the impressive feat of their live show, the members of ORUÃ (sans drummer, who, I assume was icing himself down after his set) played a game of musical chairs with their instruments when it came time for Martsch to take the stage. The Brazilian band’s guitarist and vocalist climbed behind the drum kit; their bassist proved himself to be equally proficient with guitar and glass slide guitar.

All in all, the concert, from start to finish, was a treat. And yes, Built to Spill still rocks pretty dang hard. 

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Thursday, July 4, 2019

The Other Red, White & Blue: Orquesta Akokán Brings Cuba's Finest

Posted By on Thu, Jul 4, 2019 at 6:43 PM

Orquesta Akokán
  • Orquesta Akokán
Old Glory isn't the only red, white and blue we can celebrate this weekend. That other revolution, nearly 200 years after the United States', may have shaken up the traditional stew of influences that always made Cuba a musical dynamo, but the island's deep lineage is as powerful as ever today. Orquesta Akokán, appearing at the Levitt Shell on Saturday, July 6, is proof positive. Touting a Grammy Award nomination for "Best Tropical Latin Album," and making the "Best Of" lists of numerous media outlets, the big mambo sound of the band is catching on fast. And it was all spurred on by a record cut live to tape over a three-day session at Havana’s hallowed state-run Estudios Areito, one of the longest operating studios in the world.

The album was produced by Jacob Plasse and arranged by Mike Eckroth, and I recently had a chance to ask Plasse about the album's genesis and how it spawned the current juggernaut touring band.

Memphis Flyer: Cuban music is fascinating because it's hard to wrap my head around the syncopation and the timekeeping, as a musician. I enjoy the way it mystifies me.

Jacob Plasse: I can definitely relate to that. Because I'm not Cuban, and I learned Cuban music coming from jazz. So it took me a long time and a lot of embarrassing gigs of getting lost, rhythmically, before I felt comfortable. And still, I feel like I can always get better. Some of the things you do are so simple, but to get them right, really in the pocket — it's very apparent in Cuban music the degree that you are or are not in the pocket. If you look at rock bands, like the Rolling Stones, things can be a little loose, and that's cool. That' s part of the style.

That is not the case with Cuban music. There is no “one”. Like the fourth beat is really one. In rock music you have a bass drum hitting on the one. In Cuban music, everything hits on the four. Mambo music less so than other types of Cuban music, which kind of makes it easier, but still even that too. The congas hit on the four, the bass hits on four, usually the piano or the guitar is accenting four.

With historically rich recordings and projects like the Buena Vista Social Club, it seems the Cuban musical scene has a keen appreciation of its past, that there's a great continuity with music of the 40s or earlier.

Not exactly. I'm not really a historian, but I think the most important event in Cuban music is the Cuban Revolution. Before that there was so much interaction between New York and Havana, and after that things split in two. You can hear things sort of change. Then a big part of mambo music actually happened in Mexico, and had to do with the Mexican film industry. Perez Prado came out of that. Basically, after the revolution the American recording music isn't as important; it can't go to Cuba and record.

So then the Cuban thing becomes nationalized, and what the Cuban government, Fidel and the Communist Party, wanna promote is not music like mambo, which is coming out of the casinos. That became frowned upon, so it sort of disappeared in a way. Other styles become more prominent. This big band sound that is so American falls heavily out of favor in that period.

Yet the old traditions were preserved enough for things like the Buena Vista Social Club to come together.

Well, I think in time the government gradually let all that come back. Because it was a money and cultural cash cow. And Buena Vista helped a lot of people become familiar with Cuban music. I think our music is pretty different than Buena Vista. It's very much related, it's still Cuban music, but with the instrumentation, the sounds, it's definitely a different thing.

Yet without the Buena Vista, I wonder how much interest people would have in my group. And that was how I was exposed to a lot of Cuban music too. It was a great starting point. And I fell in love with it and learned about all these other things. I think the Buena Vista is wonderful for what it's done for people's understanding of the music.

How do you understand Cuban music's cultural importance? What do we get from Cuban music?

What I love about Cuban music is its unification of what people can dance to and what's art music. It's all very advanced, harmonically and rhythmically, and yet people can dance to it. The way into all this is through dance. And if you listen to some mambo stuff, like Perez Prado and stuff, there's often a lot of dissonant harmonies. Those Perez Prado recordings from the 60s are weird! It's like nothing else. And full of pretty advanced ideas that you find more in film music or something. But because it's couched in these African dance rhythms, people can understand it and it's a gateway in.

How did Orquesta Akokán come to be?

Me and Mike Eckroth and singer José "Pepito" Gómez all lived in the New York area. And I had a musical, and Mike and Pepito had played sometimes in my band, Los Rancheros. So we knew each other from the New York scene. And then we started writing these songs. Mike especially is incredibly knowledgeable about this style and this time. He has a doctorate in Cuban music, if you can believe it. So we wrote these songs and tried recording them in New York. It was okay, but it wasn't anything earth shattering.

And then Pepito, the lead singer, was going down to Cuba. He's actually kind of a famous timba singer, which is a modern style of Cuban music. He said, 'Why don't you come down? And why not bring the arrangements, maybe we can work on the tunes.' And then he said, 'Let's book a studio!'

Then all of a sudden we were recording an album with all these legends of Cuban music that Pepito and Cesar had assembled. So Orquesta Akokán was sort of a recording project, and making records is what I do for a living, but this one, for some reason, everyone loved. Dap-Tone ended up releasing it, then they really wanted us to tour. So we became a touring band. And now it's this whole business or something. It's really incredible. The band sounds great and people are really receptive, which is wonderful.

How did the recording sessions in Cuba take shape?

Me and Mike and Pepito just wanted to make a cool album. It's not easy to get everything through production in Cuba, because there are these variables. But Cesar Lopez, our saxophone player, arranged it all. Recording it, we had this wonderful studio the size of a gymnasium in central Havana. Nat King Cole recorded there. All the legends. So you walk in there and you feel special. Like no recording studio I've every been at that. That room is really special. And that's really all you need.

What kind of scene and sound should people expect when they show up at the shell Saturday?

People should expect to dance. There's nothing like a really killing rhythm section live. The record comes alive in so many ways when we play it. It has a new energy to it. Those rhythms are meant to be felt and heard in person. There's a connection that happens that doesn't happen otherwise. 

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Friday, June 28, 2019

Back To The Future: Memphis Concrète Connects With The Avant World

Posted By on Fri, Jun 28, 2019 at 3:39 PM

  • Theo Anthony
  • Matmos
When I moved to Memphis from New York in the late ’80s, I experienced many musical epiphanies daily. Yet I always yearned a bit for the downtown no-wave scene that the Big Apple offered. Nowadays, though, it's a different story altogether, and this weekend's events are causing me to pinch myself. Can I combine the joys of Memphis life with all the edginess of loft life in Williamsburg? Are my musical colleagues truly mixing and mingling the local avant garde with the wider world of envelope-pushers out there? Have I died and gone to heaven?

One answer in the affirmative is the Memphis Concrète festival going down all weekend at Crosstown Arts. Masterminded by synthesist Robert Traxler and launched in 2017 by a small tribe his fellow electronic devotees, the festival has gone from success to success ever since. One sure sign of this was when I happened upon my neighbor, who exclaimed, "Are you going to Memphis Concrète? Matmos is coming!"

Indeed, Matmos is a much respected group in the electronic world, and their presence at the festival is indicative of its rapidly growing international reach. For the past quarter century, Matmos has developed a unique sound that blends the experimental with the danceable. Well known for conceptual albums based around single-themed sample sources (e.g. household objects, surgery sounds, a washing machine), their latest album Plastic Anniversary is built on sounds that, in one way or another, originate from plastic.

Other highlights of Memphis Concrète include Moor Mother, aka Camae Ayewa, who has worked with the venerable Art Ensemble of Chicago, Rapoon from the United Kingdom, who mix music concrète and drone, the very industrial Pas Musique, and Tavishi, who explores immigrant and queer identities through sound.

Naturally, plenty of local experimentalists will be featured as well, including Optic Sink, Jack Alberson, Linda Heck, and Ihcilon. Some of the artists will also gather at a pre-festival show on Friday, June 28th at the Lamplighter Lounge. (See below for the full Memphis Concrète lineup).

Saturday 6/29:
10:05-11:05 pm: Matmos
8:45-9:45 pm: Rapoon
7:55-8:25 pm: Mykel Boyd
7:10-7:40 pm: Optic Sink
6:25-6:55 pm: Max Eilbacher
5:45-6:15 pm: MPX
3:55-5:45 pm: Tron movie w/ live score by Argiflex + Careful Handling
3:30-3:55 pm: Noiserpuss + Belly Full of Stars
3:00-3:25 pm: Mike Honeycutt + bihl

Sunday 6/30:
9:05-10:05 pm: Moor Mother
8:00-8:45 pm: Pas Musique + Shaun Sandor
7:00-7:45 pm: Tavishi
6:20-6:50 pm: Outside Source
5:40-6:10 pm: Artificer
5:00-5:30 pm: Paul Vinsonhaler
4:20-4:50 pm: Jack Alberson
3:40-4:10 pm: Linda Heck + Pas Moi
3:00-3:30 pm: Ihcilon + Jack the Giant Killer

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Charlie Daniels Talks 40 Years of “Devil”

Posted By on Wed, Jun 26, 2019 at 1:22 PM

You know the story. The Devil went down to Georgia, looking for a soul to steal. And he would have gotten away with it, too, if it weren’t for that ace fiddle player, Johnny. As a cultural touchstone, “The Devil Went Down to Georgia,” which just celebrated 40 years of fiddle-playing in the American collective unconscious, has attained incredible heights; I knew the song before it even occurred to me to wonder who wrote or recorded it. That musician, of course, is Charlie Daniels, and he and his band will perform at BankPlus Amphitheater at Snowden Grove, Friday, June 28th. In advance of the concert, I spoke with Daniels over the phone about his session work with Bob Dylan, diversifying his writing, and the staying power of “The Devil Went Down to Georgia.”

Charlie Daniels
  • Charlie Daniels

Memphis Flyer: A radio DJ friend of mine told me you got your start as a session musician. Is that true?

Charlie Daniels: Yeah, when I first came to Nashville, I used to do quite a few sessions. I never really fit the style of a what a Nashville player would be. I came off the road after 13 straight years of playing bang-slam rock in clubs, but there were certain sessions I sat in on — Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Marty Robbins. But the day-to-day thing, I was not really a “session player.” So sometimes that part of my career gets a bit overblown, I think because of the magnitude of some of the things I did play on. I did three Bob Dylan albums. That was part of my career, definitely.

Which Dylan albums did you play on?

[I played on] Nashville Skyline, Self Portrait, and New Morning.

That’s a great spread. Nashville Skyline is one of my favorite records.

You know what? I was only supposed to play on one session. I was fairly new to town, and Bob Johnston was the guy who brought me down there, who was producing the record. I said, “I would love to play on one of Bob Dylan’s sessions.” A lot of people think [Nashville Skyline] was the first album that Bob did in town. It was at least the third one he’d done here, and they’d put together the nucleus of a studio band for him. They always used ’em when he came to town. This time, the guitar player they had used was already booked on what would be the very first session. So Bob Johnston said come on down and play the first session, and the other guy will come on after you.

So I went down and played the session, and I was packing my guitars up and getting ready to leave. Bob Dylan asked Bob Johnston, “Where’s he going?” Bob Johnston said he’s leaving, we’ve got another guitar player coming in. … And Bob Dylan said nine words that would change my life: “I don’t want another guitar player. I want him.” That was the beginning of something very wonderful for me, because Bob was always kind enough to put the names of the musicians who played on his records on the back of the album. … It cut a lot of corners for me.

You put out a couple of books recently?

I didn’t know I could write, to be honest. But a friend of mine who worked with us at the time said, “You write story songs. Why don’t you write stories?” I was on the road one time, and I went in the motel room and took some paper and I sat down and started writing. I have a song called “Uneasy Rider,” and I wrote the story of it. And I found out, well, this is fun. So I started doing that.

It sounds like you’ve got a few tricks up your sleeve. Does it keep it interesting and fun for you to change it up that way?

I was born in 1936, and it was way, way before television, so it was radio for me. And at that time, there weren’t many radio stations, so they had to follow the mandate of the FCC and they had to do something for everybody. They had to serve the whole community, which meant playing a lot of different kinds of music. So I got everything. It was such a variety. I went through the big band era, the Frank Sinatra-type era with the crooners. I was exposed to so many kinds of music when I was a kid, I developed a wide taste in music and I developed a wide taste in a lot of things. So I like spreading out a little. … I might write anything. I just finished a novel, my first one.

I bet that keeps you from getting bored.

Well, yeah. … You see people who never ever push the envelope or do anything outside of convention, and there’s so much life out there.

The Charlie Daniels Band
  • The Charlie Daniels Band

You have an incredibly long career. Do you think you’re able to stay relevant by shaking things up the way you do?

Well, I think so. Of course, I sound like I’m some sort of rebel, and I’m really not. It just happens naturally. I mean, I do stick to my guns. I have lines I’m not willing to cross and things I’m not willing to do. It’s cost me a time or two, as far as money is concerned. It ain’t cost me as far as how I feel about what I do. … I have never cut a hit record with any people other than my band. I’ve had record company people. I tried it one time. I let them talk me into it, and I had a studio band. They players were great, but this is a lifetime to me and it’s only one session to them, one song. I want guys with me who the music means more to than just one paycheck.

If you get people who have been playing together a long time, you get almost a telepathy, a short-hand communication.

I’ve got people who’ve been with me for 40 years. My personal roadie has a hearing impairment, and he’s a very good lip-reader. I can look at him and move my lips, and he knows what I’m talking about. Those are things you develop over the years. It’s not something that happens overnight.

While we’re talking about things that have been around for a while, you had some big anniversaries in May. What is it, 40 years for “The Devil Went Down to Georgia”?

To be honest with you, I have something maturing at one point or another all the time. I never thought too much about “The Devil Went Down to Georgia,” and all of a sudden, it was like 40 [years]. Especially for my generation, the age of 40 is supposed to be the line of demarcation for something. It’s where we go from being a young person into middle age. The age of 18, when you’re a kid means a lot. Of course, we all know what 21 is, and the next one is usually around 40. It just hit me a little more than all the previous ones had. But what hits you so much is the viability of the song today.

It’s truly amazing to have a tune like that that stays. And of course we do it every show.

The Charlie Daniels Band performs with Travis Tritt, The Cadillac Three at BankPlus Amphitheatre at Snowden Grove, Friday, June 28th, 7:30 p.m.

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Friday, June 21, 2019

A 'biSOULtennial' Playlist For the Ages From Stax Museum

Posted By on Fri, Jun 21, 2019 at 2:43 PM

Classic singles from the heyday of soul music at Stax - COURTESY STAX MUSEUM OF AMERICAN SOUL MUSIC
  • Courtesy Stax Museum of American Soul Music
  • Classic singles from the heyday of soul music at Stax
We're seeing a lot of ways to honor the history of Memphis in this, its 200th year, but few are as fun as the Memphis biSOULtennial Countdown, sponsored by the Stax Museum of American Soul Music. It began with a special listening event and discussion at Crosstown Arts last month, where panelists Dr. Charles Hughes (Rhodes College), DJ Eddie Hankins (WEVL-FM), Tonya Dyson (Memphis Slim House), Kameron Whalum (Stax Music Academy artist in residence), and Jared Boyd ("The Daily Memphian") discussed two selections from their personal top ten Memphis soul tracks from 1957-75.

Not content to leave it at that, Stax opened up an online ballot so everyone can pick their own favorites from that period. Anyone who wishes to voice their choice can still do so before June 30th.  To that end, Stax created a 200-song playlist on Spotify to review all the ballot selections, which may be the greatest outcome of the entire undertaking. Covering songs from nearly every major artist, studio and label from that era, it's a must-listen for any fan of classic soul. Because they limit every artist to only five songs, mega-hits by the likes of Al Green, Isaac Hayes, or Otis Redding sit alongside lesser known gems by the Premiers, Wendy Rene, or the Astors.

Yes, your faithful correspondent has voted, and, in the interest of encouraging all readers to do the same, I post my ballot below. Feel free to comment on my selections below, or simply go vote for your favorites and be heard! The embarrassment of riches to choose from made this a near-impossible task, but I hunkered down and tried to select the best of the best. It was painful to bypass some personal favorites, like "Candy" by the Astors, or the Premiers' "Make It Me," but ultimately I had to ask myself: "Is this really better than 'Love and Happiness'?" Fortunately, there's even a spot to write in your own favorite if it's not listed.

Try it yourself, and revel in the knowledge that we live in a land littered with such gems. Then be sure to visit the Levitt Shell on Saturday, June 29th, to hear the young players from the Stax Music Academy bare their musical souls, bringing many of these classics (and some originals) to life before your very eyes and ears. 

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Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Bonnaroo 2019, The Coolest On Record, Is Still Red Hot

Posted By on Tue, Jun 18, 2019 at 5:47 PM

The Avett Brothers put on a lively show on the Which Stage Friday afternoon. - BIANCA PHILLIPS
  • Bianca Phillips
  • The Avett Brothers put on a lively show on the Which Stage Friday afternoon.
The 18th annual Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival was a sell-out this year, thanks to a varied lineup featuring everything from jam band Phish to rapper Cardi B. Although most of the larger acts this year limited their photographers to large-name media outlets, the Flyer did get into the photo pits for the sax-playing DJ Griz, emo rapper Juice WRLD, folk rockers The Avett Brothers, songwriting legend John Prine, and — most importantly — comedy rap trio The Lonely Island. They put on a hilarious 12:30 a.m. show Sunday morning that was part-comedy skit/part-rap show, complete with a Justin Timberlake puppet singing "Dick in a Box." Take a gander at our slideshow below for more...

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Ceremony To Celebrate Johnny Cash Statue By Mike McCarthy

Posted By on Tue, Jun 11, 2019 at 6:50 PM

Mike McCarthy with his clay sculpture of Johnny Cash, before casting. - DAN BALL
  • Dan Ball
  • Mike McCarthy with his clay sculpture of Johnny Cash, before casting.
Wednesday, June 12 at 5:00, Memphis will finally behold the culmination of years of planning and painstaking work, with the unveiling of a statue of a young Johnny Cash. The larger-than-life likeness at 999 South Cooper will stand only a few feet from where Cash played his first paid performance at Galloway Church with Luther Perkins and Marshall Grant in December, 1954.

I spoke with Mike McCarthy, better known for his underground comics and films, about the process of making his original vision a reality, and his experience with working in the new medium of sculpted clay.

Memphis Flyer: How did this all come about? Many people don't even realize that Johnny Cash played at what was then called Galloway Church.

Mike McCarthy:  So seven years ago, I thought to myself, 'Cooper-Young needs a Johnny Cash statue. And Galloway Church needs to be saved.' Then I met this strange cast of characters that took me on this journey that, seven years later, amounts to a statue.  I'm extremely happy. And maybe I'm amazed, to quote Paul McCartney. Because I can't believe that it actually happened. These things take time. At one point, we were in a moment of crisis where, if I didn't do the sculpture myself, it wasn't gonna happen. And frankly it was an honor and a privilege, and I would have done it for free. Many people don't even know I did it. They think I'm affiliated with it, but they don't understand that I actually sculpted it. At the end of the conversation, they're like 'Wait a second, you actually sculpted it?'

I have said that Memphis is under-statued. And it's becoming more under-statued. So why don't we replace these statues or create new statues that are rockabilly-oriented, blues-oriented, 70s rock-oriented. Create an entire milieu of Memphis music history with statues, so American Dream Safari, say, can drive by that. We need more statues of historical musical legends in Memphis. That's why I helped start Legacy Memphis. Then, when I became the sculptor, I stepped down from that nonprofit. From the beginning, our motto was 'Every neighborhood has a hero.'

You usually work in other media. How did you rise to the challenge of sculpting?

Thirty-five years ago, I had a sculpture class at the [then] Academy of Art with John McIntire, and you can read about him in Robert Gordon's It Came From Memphis. After I read that book, it all made sense to me, the beauty of the man who is John McIntire. When you move here from Mississippi to do your thing, you'd be best off just being quiet and soaking it all in, and go ahead and do whatever someone like McIntire says.

So I had that experience, and I knew I was up to the task of this project. I sculpted it in oil-based clay in my living room for about ten months. It was here in my house over Christmas. We strung Christmas lights on it. For me, having a piece of public artwork that supersedes anything I thought I would ever be able to accomplish, after coming from film and comics and other underground things I've done, is very gratifying.

I tend to be very philosophical about these things. Having something that was spawned out of my living room, that my kids were around and watched take shape, and can still go see after I'm gone, is wonderful. They'll always be able to drive by that statue, and that means a lot.

How did things proceed once you finished the clay sculpture?

Then it was cast into bronze at the Lugar Foundry. One of the nicest things to occur out of all this is my friendship with the Lugar family, with Andrea and Larry. I'm sure the Flyer readership is very familiar with their statues: Chief Seattle at the zoo, Bobby Blue Bland downtown by the Chisca Hotel, Elvis on Beale Street. When I went out to see the statue at the foundry in Eads the other day, I was extremely gratified. I'm very happy to have worked with all these people to have made this happen.

Johnny Cash Statue & Historic Marker Unveiling, Wednesday, June 12, 5:00-7:00 pm, 999 South Cooper; with refreshments and music by Roy Cash and Thomas Gabriel (Johnny Cash's oldest grandson).

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Monday, June 10, 2019

Mempho To Showcase The City's Finest Alongside National Legends

Posted By on Mon, Jun 10, 2019 at 4:46 PM

  • Eric Allen
  • MEMPHOFest
Living in Memphis, it's necessary to imagine one's self enjoying a cool October day; sometimes that's the only thing getting you through the roasting summer months. As of today, you can imagine with even more vivid detail, as the lineup for this year's Mempho Music Festival is revealed. And it ranges from renowned bands we don't see enough of, like the Wu-Tang Clan or the Raconteurs, to bushels of local talent, like the crew of local all-stars joining in a Sun Records tribute.

The fest is October 19th-20th at Shelby Farms.

“We are very excited to welcome both Jack White and Brandi Carlile to this third year of the Mempho Music Festival. They are both multi Grammy Award winners and among the most popular and relevant artists today,” said Boo Mitchell, spokesperson for the festival. White, of course, first made his name with Meg White as the White Stripes, before going on to found the Raconteurs. They'll soon be dropping their first album in 11 years.

Ghostface Killah and Raekwon of Wu-Tang Clan.
  • Ghostface Killah and Raekwon of Wu-Tang Clan.
Meanwhile, Wu-Tang Clan has long given a nod to Memphis, in both their sampling of old school grooves and their sessions at Royal Studios as recently as 2015. But at that time, the only performance was by Wu-Tang's Ghostface Killah and Raekwon, not the whole crew, which, despite losing key members, has persisted since 1992 in a career marked by innovation. 

Beyond an appearance by erstwhile Memphian Valerie June, much local talent is sprinkled throughout the schedule, including DJ Paul from Three 6 Mafia, Lord T. & Eloise, Marcella & Her Lovers, Mark Edgar Stuart, and more. A tribute to Sun Records will include Jerry Phillips, Jason D. Williams, Amy LaVere, Will Sexton, David Brookings, John Paul Keith, Lahna Deering, Seth Moody, George Sluppick, and Graham Winchester in the band.

VIsit the Mempho website for more details on the scheduled artists and other activities planned for the two day festival. 

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Friday, June 7, 2019

It’s Bonnaroo Time! Previewing Next Week's Fun

Posted By on Fri, Jun 7, 2019 at 10:32 AM

  • Nathan Zucker
In just a matter of days, the small Tennessee town of Manchester (pop. 10,642) will be invaded by 80,000-plus fanny pack-wearing millennials (and a few old hippies still looking for a good time) for the 18th annual Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival.

The fest, which runs from June 13-16 this year, takes place on a 700-acre farm in Manchester and tends to bleed out into the surrounding area. Just pop into the Manchester Walmart on any given day during Bonnaroo, and you’ll be hard-pressed to find any shoppers not wearing a brightly-colored cloth 'Roo wristband.

The lineup this year leans more heavily toward newer, younger acts than it has in previous years — the major exception being a double set by Phish on both Friday and Sunday nights. Other headliners include the ever-present-on-the-festival-circuit, white-guy-rapper Post Malone (Saturday night) and the ever-present-on-the-festival-circuit, Latinx rapper Cardi B (Sunday night).

The Bellingham, Washington-based EDM duo Odesza will bring their haunting electropop beats to the stage on Saturday night, and Friday night will close out with a performance actor/hip-hop DJ Childish Gambino (aka Donald Glover).

Other highlights on Bonnaroo’s massive lineup: saxophone-playing DJ Griz, folk rockers The Avett Brothers, The Lonely Island (the comedy trio featuring Andy Samberg), emo rapper Juice WRLD, and singer-songwriter Brandi Carlile. Oh, and the 72-year-old songwriting legend John Prine will be there (#NBD).
  • Nathan Zucker
All of this (and performances by more than 100 other musicians) takes place on five stages spread throughout the farm. Besides the music, Bonnaroo features parades (an out-of-season Mardi Gras parade, a mermaid parade, and a gay pride parade), a Roo Run 5K, plenty of outdoor yoga classes, a mini sandy beach oasis (minus the ocean), a massive blow-up water slide, a Ferris wheel, and much more. Stay tuned for a post-festival recap on this blog, once all the dust settles.

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Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Automusik Has All The Answers

Posted By on Tue, Jun 4, 2019 at 2:59 PM

  • Automusik
I recently received the most cryptic message of my career, a text from an unidentified source that simply read, "Obey imperative: Automusik words about Automusik images about Automusik." Of course, light bulbs immediately went off in my head. Images of world domination by the music generation entity known as Automusik flashed before my eyes. A warm, comfortable wave overpowered me as I slumped in my seat and acquiesced to the flow of information.

As it turned out, the injection of data directly into my neocortex that followed served as an important reminder: Of how, in 2004, a new group came into being that did not make music with vibrating instruments but with electronic noise machines called "synthesizers." It was as if the previous half century of popular music had never happened, swept away by the wonderful machinery invented by Automusik. As soon as I remembered that, the rest of was easy.

Automusik Can Do No Wrong, the film of the group that invented a music known as "electronik," will be screening in a week's time, thanks to the willing vessels at Indie Memphis. Before 2004, no one thought to pursue such a thing as machine-generated music. Thank goodness for Automusik.

As the group of three celebrity machine-servicers proclaim in the film:
Our music exists in an entirely self contained unit for the production and advancement of of acceptable representations of generally appealing reference waves which are synthesized in a manner that is both pleasing and disturbing and will allow for Automusik to become an object of sexual invitation and achieve a state of popularity within the prevalent attitudes of the current musical customs.

"And then we dance to them," one adds.

Such are the insights the group shared with director Phil Johnson fifteen years ago, when the film debuted. Hailing from somewhere between Aberdeen and Adelaide, Johnson is an elusive character today. When a bit of sleuthing revealed that he was holed up in Belize with tech eccentric John McAfee, I was able to get a message through. The only reply from Johnson was that "The best decision I made with Automusik Can Do No Wrong was to feature myself prominently. Having completed it, I had nothing more to say. That is all." Then a link appeared: "Would you like to know more?"

After a quick transfer of cryptocurrency, a dark web link was anonymously texted to me via WhatsApp. I followed. The Automusik platform engaged me enthusiastically with the words, "Our musik is krafted as a wholly original and inimitable werk. Please see your phone's autokomplete for all other queries." Curious, I began to text myself the answers.

The words to the left were created entirely by my device, although I'm not quite sure how the word "Automusik" kept appearing sporadically through the process. But the platform was right: no further queries were needed. For the rest, I needed only view the film, which documents the group's rise from obscure German origins to complete saturation of the U.S. market.

The special effects budget was huge for this effort, ultimately creating the illusion that this multimillion-dollar production was shot on a shoestring. The true scale of the venture is revealed through the writing credits alone, as writers the caliber of C. Scott McCoy, Scott Moss, and Talbot Fields are not cheap. Allusions to other rock blockbusters like Purple Rain or Rattle and Hum can also cost hundreds of thousands of dollars in licensing alone. These expenditures are why Automusik Can Do No Wrong makes us happy.

Go see this groundbreaking film, winner of the 2004 Indie Memphis Film Festival Hometowner Best Feature, while you can. Not only will you rediscover the rush of early-aughts Memphis, when anything seemed possible, you'll fall in love all over with the endearing charm of a band beloved by billions. In their own words, "We are highly sexy. Automusik is sexier than you. The subject of your current affection is Automusik. You should be lucky to see us because we are celebrities. Und you and all these are nobodies. That is why you paid to be here."

Automusik Can Do No Wrong (15 Year Anniversary Screening) will be shown at the Malco Powerhouse Cinema Grill and Bar on Tuesday, June 11, 7:00-9:00 pm.

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Friday, May 31, 2019

North Mississippi Allstars Shine for Capacity Crowd at Levitt Shell Opener

Posted By on Fri, May 31, 2019 at 3:17 PM

Cody & Luther Dickinson
  • Cody & Luther Dickinson
The Orion Free Music Concert Series kicked off its summer season last night with a stellar homecoming for the North Mississippi Allstars. Now in its 11th year of free concerts at the Levitt Shell, the series has a tantalizing lineup for every Thursday–Sunday between now and July 21. And it's hard to imagine a better inaugural show than what the Allstars delivered.

One could just barely maneuver through the crowd on the fringes of the shell's seating area, so dense was the sea of humanity in attendance. Though the forecast had threatened rain, there was only the coolness of a storm that never was. And in that idyllic corner of Overton Park, Luther and Cody Dickinson, with a shifting cast of band members, gave everyone a guided technicolor tour of the region's history of rhythms and riffs.

Now, a generation after Jim Dickinson, Sid Selvidge, Lee Baker, and Jimmy Crosswaith (and many others) used their Memphis Country Blues Festivals, also at the shell, to build a bridge between the counterculture and North Mississippi blues artists, the musical hybrid they championed is an institution of sorts. The Allstars presided over a loose-limbed expression of city pride and good will from all walks of life; if Dickinson the Elder proclaimed that “world boogie is coming,” one could safely say last night that world boogie had arrived. 
More than just the blues was celebrated through the set. Shardé Thomas, inheritor of her grandfather Othar Turner's legacy of fife and drum corps music, joined the band for some songs. Jimmy Crosswaith himself was on hand, bringing with him the good ol' hippy values of peace, love, and understanding, and a healthy serving of traditional folk, on both washboard and more idiosyncratic percussive inventions. Cody, for his part, took up the washboard as well, but with a tweaked approach involving his deft use of effects pedals. “It sounded like tap dancing on amphetamines... with echo!” exclaimed longtime music fan Jeff Green.

Cody's multi-instrumentalism shone during an extended drumless jam between the brothers involving fluid dual-guitar harmonies that built into a rocking crescendo. And stylistically, the band's rock and blues originals sat comfortably with their takes on old chestnuts like “Shake 'Em On Down” or “Down By the Riverside,” with the latter featuring finely layered gospel harmonies from the brothers and guest singers.

As Luther notes on the band website, “I think it’s our responsibility to the community that brought us up to protect the repertoire. To keep the repertoire alive and vibrant. That’s what folk music is about. It’s an oral history of America. My dad and his friends, they learned from Furry Lewis and Gus Cannon and Will Shade and then taught those songs to us. It’s important for us to write songs and experiment and do other things, but playing our community’s music in a modern way is what Cody and I do best. I think it’s what we were meant to do.”

Revel In Dimes
  • Revel In Dimes

The night seemed reluctant to end, with the encore extending well past the scheduled wrap-up time of 9 p.m. True lovers of music and leisure could well have simply stayed put in the grass, as it will all begin again this evening and carry on through the summer. Revel In Dimes will take the stage tonight, followed by River Whyless tomorrow and Memphis' own Talibah Safiya on Sunday. For the summer series' full schedule and details on the artists, visit the Levitt Shell events page.

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Thursday, May 30, 2019

Weekend Shows Celebrate A Quarter Century of Goner

Posted By on Thu, May 30, 2019 at 4:29 PM

Eric Friedl and Zac Ives of Goner Records - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • MIchael Donahue
  • Eric Friedl and Zac Ives of Goner Records
Scan over the provenance of bands signed to Goner Records and you'll see a polyglot of international performers, hailing from Sydney, Tokyo, Toronto, Montreal, Leipzig, London, and Dunedin, New Zealand. There are acts representing both Melbourne, Australia, and Melbourne, Florida. Not to mention other domestic burgs like New Orleans, Minneapolis, Atlanta, Los Angeles, Chicago, and, naturally, Memphis. Goner is very much a hometown player.

This year, the label and store are celebrating their 25th Anniversary with a weekend of hot music. It starts on Friday, appropriately enough, with Jeff Evans, Ross Johnson, and Walter Daniels, all of whom helped foster the scene out of which Goner arose, followed by that national treasure, Jack Oblivian. On Saturday, we have upstart country with the Flamin' A's and the strange-o-billy of Bloodshot Bill. Sunday's first show will feature a screening of Mike McCarthy's Sore Losers, followed by the Tokyo terrors that started it all with Goner's first release in 1993, Guitar Wolf. New Orleans' own Royal Pendletons, beloved by many a Memphian, will have a rare reunion performance after that, and the evening will see more from Tokyo with the Let's Go, and Big Clown from Memphis.

The span of such bands, both geographically and stylistically, is remarkable, but quite in keeping with the eclectic vision this label has pursued. The store, too, get's widespread appreciation, including another nod last December from Rolling Stone magazine as one of the country's ten best record stores.

With all that in mind, I reached out to Goner's founder and co-owner Eric Friedl to delve into how this all came to be, who makes it tick, and how it came to be a global mini-empire.

Memphis Flyer: I just read in Bob Mehr's great profile that you moved here with the express purpose of opening Shangri-La Records with Sherman Willmott.

Eric Friedl: Yeah. It was basically like 30 records. It was pretty amazing. And actually our big windfall was the WLYX sale. They closed down Rhodes' radio station and sold all their vinyl and we got like a thousand records. So that was really the start of the store.

When you met Sherman, you guys must have been into records already. But did you have retail experience or business experience?

No. Sherman had the idea to do the flotation tanks thing [with customers floating in salt water solution]. That was his big moment of “Ah-ha, Memphis needs to relax!” And he was only thirty years ahead of his time. But he realized even if you have an active massage/flotation tank place, nothing's really happening. It's dull. So, the record store idea was a side thing to the flotation tanks. And it kind of went from there. I don't know why he asked me. We had done a little fanzine together, I think? So we had kept in touch and we had kept up with the music and stuff.

Before Goner, Shangri-La set a local precedent of a label connected to a record store. That's not very common is it? Stax did that of course, and there are other examples, but...

It's weirdly happening now, the other way. Labels are opening stores. I think it makes sense. You're in the middle of everything and the bands are hanging out at the store, and you're like, these guys need a record. But doing it more as a full time thing, I don't think it's that common.

Do the two sides of the business enhance each other?

Luckily for us, they've complemented each other. When one has been going bad the other one has been going good. I can't really say one or the other is the moneymaker. It's varied. It is hard, because we wanna tell people about the label, but we also wanna tell them about the store. People who are into the label stuff don't care that we've got a original Abbey Road record in. So it's kind of tough to balance sometimes.

But my thing has always been about serving the customers. If they wanna buy Adelle records, that's fine. We've got Adelle records. We're not probably gonna put out that record on our label. Someone else will do that. That's not really our spot. But in terms of retail, if someone's coming looking for it, I wanna have it to sell, or be able to get it for 'em. That's just basically being a record store.

The Goner label is really well-curated, and incredibly eclectic. It goes way beyond punk. You and [Goner co-owner] Zac [Ives] must have pretty diverse tastes.

Even stuff that we put out, we wouldn't necessarily say, 'This is what I'm listening to.' We don't have a master plan. Things fall in our lap and we go, 'This is good, we should put it out.' We don't go, 'Is this gonna alienate our Reatards fans?' You know, the people that like fast punk rock stuff. We're like, 'There's room for everybody. Just throw it out there.' Some things are easier to sell than others, for sure. But we've been lucky. People that pay attention to the label are generally pretty open minded, and that's a big part of it.

Is the label just you and Zac making the decisions?

Yeah, for the most part. But some punk rock singles put out in the last year or so have been more Alec [McIntire] and Cole [Wheeler] and John Hoppe's thing. We put out singles by Crown Court and by Boss. It's aggressive, straight ahead punk rock kinda stuff. And that was from their angle, which is fun. It's cool to have other input on it too.

John Hoppe has been with us the longest. He moved down from Kalamazoo, and he has tons of experience selling records, and really took over the behind the scenes stuff, running the register and everything. That really helped us out a whole lot, especially when things get hairy, like during our festival or other busy times. He has a really good knack for that. And we've had a few other people coming though that have really helped out. Charlotte Watson from Nots helped out for a while. But basically our crew right now is John, Alec McIntire, who plays with Hash Redactor and Ex-Cult, and Cole Wheeler. And everybody has kind of their angle, doing mail order or retail sales, or keeping the label stuff together. There's plenty to do. We're always scrambling, doing twenty jobs at once and trying to keep track of it. It's always a challenge.

That's one of the weird things. All the articles make it all about me, and I really haven't done anywhere near everything. It's been teamwork. To the point where I will start something, and then realize I'm way over my head and realize that everyone else has already realized that and has picked up the pieces or put it together. But if you work close enough for long enough, that's sort of how things happen. We all complement eachother real well.

There were rumors that last year's Gonerfest would be the last, but it's still rolling...

Yeah, we always think about taking a break. And then we start getting excited about bands coming to town, and people are asking about it and it sort of assembles itself again and you realize, 'It's happening! It's gonna drag you along, like it or not!' It's a lot of fun, and every year it's amazing. The fact that people will come to Memphis, year after year, multiple times, to come to this festival in September is awesome. These people from Australia that keep coming, they could go anywhere in the world, but they're going halfway around the world just to come to Memphis. I think it's great.

You guys have quite an international reach and profile.

Yeah, it's cool. Before the first little Buccaneer show we did, we were driving over and realized there was a guy I'd never met, a guy from Italy, walking down the street. He had a tiny little label in Italy, but it was worth it to him to come all that way to the Buccaneer to see these bands. I realized there's people from all over the place that get into this stuff. And they really get a kick out of coming to Memphis. They love it. 
Guitar Wolf from Nagasaki, Japan
  • Guitar Wolf from Nagasaki, Japan

I guess the international reach was there right from the beginning, when you started with that Guitar Wolf release in 1993.

Yeah. We had a bunch of Japanese bands at first. International bands that were touring in the 90s when I started doing that stuff. The 5678's, Guitar Wolf, Teengenerate, and Jackie and the Cedrics came over here and were in that scene. There was a festival in Bellingham, WA, Garage Shock, that was kind of the headquarters for that stuff at the time. And that's where I saw Guitar Wolf. Garage Shock pioneered putting these kinds of festivals together. I went to a couple of those and I'm sure that left some kind of mark on what we could do and how to do festivals.

Were you early adopters of the internet?

Yeah, we got lucky on that. I had a bulletin board, and that is really the engine behind Goner and the appeal of everything. We had the Goner bulletin board, which is still up. You could see a direct drop off as soon as Facebook came into the picture, but before that, people that wanted to yack about this stuff would get on our bulletin board and post stuff, see what we were doing, find out about shows, and that kind of thing. So the bulletin board was the main thing. I had a site that I sold records off of, pretty early. Peggy from the Gories had some of their records she wanted to sell, and I helped her do that. So we were in the middle of it when nobody knew what was going on.

Really, the bulletin board had a huge reach. It still kinda does. Like it'll pop up. Somebody will have some topic on there about aspirin or something, and the Goner board will pop up because people are talking about it. Instead of going to Bayer's site, no one's gonna go there, there's no action there. They might have the information, but it isn't gonna pop up in the Google algorithm, so the Goner board will pop up in regards to aspirin or something. It recently popped up as the number one Google search result for Michael Jackson jokes. Not something to be really proud of, but when the Michael Jackson movie came out we were back in the spotlight.

When did you start that bulletin board?

You know, it crashed and we lost a bunch of it, but it was probably going by '95, something like that? There might be stuff from the 90s still. I'll have to do the internet archive thing and see if anything's there. Yeah, it was pretty early and pretty interesting, the people that went through there. We've had songs written about it, about crashing it and trying to destroy it, all kinds of stuff. It still is pretty interesting. I think the only real thread that kind of maintains itself is 'defunct Memphis restaurants that we miss.' People look for some restaurant and the Goner board pops up so they'll post something.

So well before the brick and mortar store, you were doing a brisk business?

Yeah. I didn't have a whole lot of records that I was selling, but a couple hundred, you know. I'd do orders from distributors and sell it out of the apartment. So that was there to move into a brick and mortar type of thing. There was a demand for it and it made sense to do it. Greg [Cartwright] had the space [Legba Records] and was moving, and said, 'You guys should take this over!'

How great that Guitar Wolf is still going strong, and Jack Oblivian is still going strong. You've got these threads connecting to the very first days of the whole thing.

It was weird when we realized that all this was coming together, we were like, 'We have to put together a weekend.' We don't need to do more than one festival a year. This was more like a bunch of shows thrown together. But I think it works. All the shows are great and people are excited about it.

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