News Column

Late pianist and singer honored with brass note on Memphis' Beale Street

July 22, 2013

YellowBrix

July 22--Every table was packed and every spot at the bar was taken at B.B. King's Blues Club as Di Anne Price was posthumously awarded a place on the Beale Street Brass Note Walk of Fame Sunday.

Price, a gifted pianist and sultry singer, played four nights a week at the Molly Fontaine Lounge.

She died in March of liver cancer, but Douglas Barkley, a close friend of hers, said, "She didn't want sadness, she wanted celebration."

Fans, friends and family stayed true to her wish Sunday as they shared their favorite memories of the late jazz and blues musician.

"I think the world would be such a great place if everyone could follow her example," Barkley said.

Joyce Cobb, a longtime friend and local jazz legend herself, said when she first met Price, she looked like she was ready "to fly her way into stardom."

One night, when Cobb filled in for Price, she realized the piano was completely in the dark, save for one candle.

"I thought only Stevie Wonder and Ray Charles could do that," Cobb said. "She truly blessed us with her music. Music came from her every fabric. She touched us all, made us feel loved and gave us places to see her."

Mayor A C Wharton made a surprise appearance to show his appreciation for Price's soulful music.

"Everything she did wasn't merely a song, but there was a story deep, deep behind it," Wharton said. "She loved every note, every chord."

Price's brother-in-law, Richard Boyington, said sometimes other musicians would watch her play piano to try to get some insight into her unique style.

"She'd maybe then 'take them downtown,' as we say it," Boyington said. "She always stressed 'Be yourself. Don't play it like I play it, play it like you play it.'"

Although she didn't garner as much fame during her life as other jazz greats, Boyington said she wasn't one for any fanfare.

"Her focus was on bringing joy and happiness to those in front of her," he said.

Price's brass note marks the 128th awarded since the program began in 1986.

"It's a reminder every day of those that went before us and helped build the industry," said Dean Deyo, president of the Memphis Music Foundation.

In addition to the brass note, Price was also honored with a portrait, which was unveiled at Itta Bena restaurant above B.B. King's.

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(c)2013 The Commercial Appeal (Memphis, Tenn.)

Visit The Commercial Appeal (Memphis, Tenn.) at www.commercialappeal.com

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