News Column

The Commercial Appeal, Memphis, Tenn., Bob Mehr's Memphis Music Beat column

August 7, 2014

By Bob Mehr, The Commercial Appeal, Memphis, Tenn.

Aug. 07--Crescent City crooner Aaron Neville is coming to Overton Park.

The Levitt Shell has announced plans for its annual fundraising concert to be headlined by Neville, the falsetto-voiced he-man of New Orleans R&B. The Shell's "Stars in the Park" event is a ticketed show that helps fund the venue's free concert programming

The concert by Neville will take place at 8 p.m. on Oct. 25 -- two weeks after the conclusion of the Shell's free Orion fall concert series. Tickets for the show are $25. They go on sale to the general public on Aug. 22 at

The "Stars in the Park" event is sponsored by First Tennessee, Roadshow BMW and the Levitt Pavilions.

Generous Legend

Smooth-singing soul man John Legend is known as one of the truly good guys in the music business. This week, he further enhanced that reputation with a $30,000 donation to the Soulsville Charter School.

Legend is no stranger to Stax and the Soulsville campus. Early in his career in the mid-'00s, he came and visited the school, which was then still operating in the Stax Music Academy building. "He performed for the students of the charter school and interacted with them," says Soulsville communications director Tim Sampson. "He talked about how he had grown up in much the same circumstances as them and had come from a disadvantaged background. He told them how much he appreciated the hard work they were doing at school. He really gave them a great pep talk."

Flash forward nearly 10 years later, to 2014: Legend, now a well-established superstar and head of his own charity effort, "The Show Me Campaign", reached out to officials with the Soulsville Foundation.

"We were approached earlier this spring and were informed that he wanted to make a donation," said Sampson. "So we presented him with some options."

Legend's gift will help fund the Soulsville Charter School's newly expanded music program. As a gesture in return, the rehearsal facility at the Stax Academy has been renamed "The John Legend Practice Room."

"We think it's great that once he became really successful, he remembered us and decided to make this donation," says Sampson. "It's important to have the support of someone so high profile. We really haven't gotten that kind of support, the way we thought we would have. Hopefully, this will capture the attention of other people in the music business and they'll follow suit."

Dickinson on Ry

Southern California guitar master and international musical explorer Ry Cooder is the subject of a forthcoming box set from Rhino Records. The label is putting out a seven-disc set focusing on Cooder's soundtrack work in the 1980s and 1990s. The music slated for inclusion comes from soundtracks to the films "The Long Riders", "Alamo Bay," "Paris, Texas," "Blue City," "Crossroads," "Johnny Handsome" and "Trespass."

For Memphis music fans, the release is worth noting as one of Cooder's closest collaborators on a number of his film scores was the late Memphis pianist and producer Jim Dickinson. Dickinson -- who coproduced several of Cooder's seminal '70s albums -- figured prominently on nearly all the soundtracks included in the upcoming collection.

The box set will be out Sept. 30 at record stores (with a list price of $42.98), and a digital version will also be available.

Grammy Gathering

Over the past few years, the Memphis chapter of the Grammys has been staging an annual conference in September, a kind of educational symposium and business tutorial for aspiring artists, producers, engineers and others in the music business.

These events, dubbed "Grammy GPS: A Road Map for Today's Music Biz" have largely focused on helping indie labels and musicians. Recent keynote speakers have included rapper Talib Kweli and Sub-Pop label head Jonathan Poneman, among others.

This year, the event returns on Sept. 27 at the Stax Museum and Music Academy, but will be rebranded as "GRAMMY futureNOW." According to organizers, the change in name will coincide with a subtle shift in focus. The programs and panels will be "utilizing new media tools to enhance fan engagement, developing new revenue streams and exploring ways indie artists can improve their online presence, marketing and financial well-being."

For more information or to register for the event, go to

American Dedication

A reminder that this Wednesday, as part of Elvis Week festivities, Chips Moman and the American Studios band will finally get some long-overdue recognition with the unveiling of a Shelby County Historical Marker near 827 Thomas.

The address -- at Thomas and Chelsea Avenue -- is the site of the former American Recording Studio, the place where Moman and the band cut Elvis Presley's crucial 1969 "comeback" sessions and recorded dozens and dozens (roughly 120, depending on the source) of chart hits between 1962 and 1972. The unveiling event will take place at 2 p.m.Memphis television personality Dave Brown will serve as emcee, and various guests -- including Moman and the band members -- are scheduled to attend (the American band will also play a concert at 8 p.m. that night at Graceland).

One of the event's organizers, Eddie Hankins, says a special area will be set up near the marker for fans to come and watch the unveiling. "We will have tents, chairs -- with limited seating -- fans to stir up the air a bit, cold water on hand in order to try to make people comfortable on what looks to be a hot August afternoon."

Meantime, this Friday, Hankins, who hosts WEVL's "Down the Alley" show, will dedicate his broadcast (from 10 a.m. to noon) to focusing on American's soul music contributions in the '60s and '70s.


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Source: Commercial Appeal (Memphis, TN)

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