(W.E. A.L.L. B.E. News Special)
Jimmie Lunceford, along with the likes of Benny Goodman and Benny Carter, was among the first to integrate his orchestra…Jimmie Lunceford was also the first to use electric guitar and electric bass in jazz…Another first occurred when The Jimmie Lunceford Orchestra became the first all-Black jazz orchestra to play the legendary and prestigious Paramount Theatre in New York…They had back to back booking engagements 6 weeks apiece and played to sold out audiences!!!
Inspite of all these amazing accomplishments and more, including being the most popular band leader of choice among African Americans as well as among legendary bandleader peers (Glenn Miller once said "Jimmie Lunceford Has The Best Of All Bands. Duke [Ellington] Is Great, [Count] Basie Is Remarkable, But Lunceford Tops Them Both.") during his lifetime, he remains forgotten about 60 years later by the jazz world and the community (Memphis) that he loved the most…However, three days in Oct. 19-21, 2007 has provided the catalyst for a long due renaissance celebration for one of jazz’s and the Memphis Sound’s most neglected sons…
The Jimmie Lunceford Jamboree Festival or JLJF was created by Ron Herd II a.k.a. R2C2H2 Tha Artivist and Artstorian…An artivist is one who uses his/her talents to actively promote and initiate positive change and bring awareness for humanity at large while an artstorian is a historian who uses his/her artistic talents to record and tell history in an creative and unorthodox fashion…
This was a time of discovery for Tha Artivist...He was just beginning to be immersed in the wonderful history and music tradition known by people around the world as jazz, America’s most unique artistic and freedom of expression contribution to the world which came from their most oppressed and repressed people, the descendants of African slaves…
As Tha Artivist, a natural scholar and historian, started to research more about Lunceford, he found out that he was not only a very popular music personality during his lifetime but was also a Memphis City School teacher back in the 1920s, Tha Artivist’s hometown!!!
This revelation hit Tha Artivist or Artstorian like a ton of cymbals!!! As he researched more he found out that Memphis holds an unique place in not only the blues, but also jazz music history…You see the Father Of The Blues, W.C. Handy, started out in Memphis, but many of his most popular songs that he penned on Beale Street has become jazz standards...One of Handy’s band members, the great trumpeter Johnny Dunne, was considered by many to be the greatest trumpet player in New York in the 1920s before the great Satchmo's (Louis Armstrong) arrival on the scene in the Fletcher Henderson Orchestra…By the way Louis Armstrong’s second wife was a Memphian who also had some jazz chops…Lil Hardin Armstrong was the band pianist for the great King Oliver Creole Jazz Orchestra…Lil discovered Louie when he came from New Orleans to play for his mentor (Papa Joe as he affectionately called King Oliver) in Chicago back in the early 1920s...As a matter of fact Lil was responsible for starting Louis on his phenomenal solo career…She was the one that told King Oliver or Papa Joe that Louis (who was terribly shy at the time ) was going quit his band to pursue a solo career…She was the one that got him the booking with the legendary Fletcher Henderson Orchestra and she was also the one that arranged the historic, landmark and revolutionary Hot Five And Seven recording sessions of the mid 1920s...If it weren’t for the intervening efforts of this visionary Memphian then Jazz as we know it would be entirely different…Another Handy Band alum, the great clarinetist Buster Bailey was also a key proponent in the Hot/Dixieland jazz clarinet sound and was a favorite musician of choice for Fletcher Henderson and other notable band leaders…Alberta Hunter another Memphian and Blues/Jazz great wrote important songs that introduced the world to the vocal gifts of Bessie Smith (Downhearted Blues)...She also was an unique song stylist herself being among the first to record vocals and songs with some of jazz’s and blues’ greatest instrumentalists such as Louie Armstrong and the mercurial Sidney Bechet…
However, what makes Jimmie Lunceford’s contribution to jazz even among these sure Giants very, very unique was the fact that he started music education in the Memphis City Schools...It could be said that Lunceford was the first to teach jazz in public schools…He basically started the first music education program in Memphis City Schools with money out of his own pocket and with donations from the North Memphis Community that surrounded Manassas High School…Manassas High School holds an unique place in Jazz History and lore…The seeds that Lunceford planted in the 1920s created a great harvest of superior musical talent for decades to come…People like soul great Isaac Hayes, jazz greats Booker Little, Charles Lloyd, George Coleman, Hal Maebern, Frank Strozier just name a few; legendary music educators such as Dr. Alan Goodrich and Prof. Emerson Able (who kicked Issac Hayes out of the high school band but ended up playing for his former student as a saxophonist for WattStax and the Isaac Hayes Movement)…Even music giants such as rocker Arthur Lee (whose daddy taught at Manassas High School and was a member of the Jimmie Lunceford Orchestra) and jazz diva Dee Dee Bridgewater (whose father, Matthias Garrett, was also a well known trumpet player and teacher at Manassas) have unique ties to the jazz powerhouse which Lunceford created maybe unknowingly so back in the mid 1920s!!!
So it is truly a shame to realize that Jimmie Lunceford has been neglected by the Memphis Community, a community through his educational efforts he has given so much to and where he is buried at in historic Elmwood cemetery for 60 years since his death…In spite of all of his success, Jimmie Lunceford would on numerous occasions come back to Memphis to perform free concerts for the students at Manassas High School and he would make himself accessible to the students to talk about their dreams and aspirations...He would also give large sums of money to create music education programs for kids to keep them out of trouble and to help them be productive and positive with their time…Unfortunately, it seems as if the Memphis City Schools in particular and U.S. Education in general has forgotten this lesson as many of Memphis’s public schools do not carry music and arts program…This is really a shame considering Memphis’ mythological place in American music history and popular culture…A true role model and hero in every sense of those terms it is also a shame that this man and his beautiful legacy lay buried in Elmwood Cemetery forgotten about…That is until now…
Although Tha Artivist had much respect for this Invisible Giant and Missing Chapter of the Memphis Sound, he always thought that someone with more resources and connections than he would come along to rectify this historical injustice in his hometown…However, years passed and nothing was done…Jimmie Lunceford doesn’t even have a brass note on the street (Beale Street) and in the town he helped to make famous…
Please read the following to see what eight weeks of wood shedding and making the impossible possible can do!!!
The symposium was held at Manassas High School where the great Jimmie Lunceford taught and formed the nucleus for his amazing band/orchestra…
Rhythm Is Their Business: Overton High School Jazz Orchestra performing at the 1st Annual Jimmie Lunceford Jamboree Festival Symposium at Manassas High School. (photos by r2c2h2)
The great Overton High (Tha Artivist’s Alma mater) Jazz Orchestra led by the wonderful Bro. Jeff Huddleston played signature Ellington tunes and other jazz standards in the spirit of Lunceford…They really were crowd pleasers for everybody stopped what they were doing including the several hundred students in attendance and started to nod their heads and tapped their feet in perfect unison…I couldn’t think of any better way to start the tribute to a man who actually initiated the first or one of the first jazz studies programs in the history of U.S. public schools…
SEATED FROM LEFT TO RIGHT: Elaine Turner, Preston Lauterbach, David Less, Prof. Emerson Able And Rev. Kenneth Whalum. (photo by r2c2h2)
Panel Discussion @ the 1st Annual Jimmie Lunceford Jamboree Festival Symposium @ Manassas High School...Our Distiniguished Guests Included Prof. Emerson Able; Mrs. Elaine Turner, founder of Mmephis Heritage Tours; Preston Lauterbach music jounralist for The Memphis Flyer who wrote the cover story about Jimmie Lunceford for the Flyer back in August; Music mogul David Less, the founder of Memphis International Records; Also featured was the well known Rev. Kenneth Whalum Jr. whose paternal grandfather, well known businessman and community leader Harold Whalum was one of Jimmie Lunceford's best friends...Harold Whalum actually died in a car crash after singing at Jimmie Lunceford's funeral 60 years ago...Not pictured above but who also participated was George C. Monger who recently became the youngest person ever to run for the Memphis City Council at 18 years of age. (photos by r2c2h2)
The panel discussions were just as lively as the music and featured distinguished Manassas alumni such as Mrs. Elaine Turner, historian and founder of Memphis Heritage Tours and Memphis music legend and educator Prof. Emerson Able…Other distinguished guests included David Less, co-founder with Prof. Able of the Beale Street Blues Festival and founder and ceo of Memphis International Records; Music journalist Preston Lauterbach who wrote the great cover story on Jimmie Lunceford for The Memphis Flyer; Political upcomer and budding music mogul George C. Monger who became the youngest person at age 18 to ever run for Memphis City Council; and last but not least the great Pastor Kenneth Whalum Jr. whose paternal grandfather the legendary Memphis Business and Civic Leader Harold Whalum was best friends with Jimmie Lunceford...As a matter of fact Harold Whalum died in a car crash after singing at Jimmie Lunceford’s funeral 60 years ago…
The accomplished panel stressed to the audience, mostly Manassas High School kids and some members from the greater Memphis Community, the importance of remembering Jimmie Lunceford’s legacy and the fact that he took the least and made the most and that he used kids from their high school and neighborhood to build arguably the greatest swing band ever…
The charismatic Pastor Whalum reminded the audience that Jimmie Lunceford was the Jay Z, Beyonce and Keyshia Cole of his time and that his biggest fans were African Americans as well as White…Pastor Whalum due to his unique familial connection to the Jimmie Lunceford saga also reminded the audience of how important it is to keep positive and progressive people around you...He told the audience of how in spite of his early struggles that Jimmie would also get great counsel and support from his grandfather, Harold Whalum, and that in turn Jimmie would offer the Whalum patriarch the same type of support and love…He also stated that his grandfather was the type who wouldn’t mind dying in service to a great friend or to humanity and that is what exactly happened...He also stated that why it is important for us in general and African Americans in particular to be our brother’s keepers as well as to be a shoulder to lean on because it takes a village to make things happen…Our condolences are with the Whalum family at this time with the passing of Rev. Kenneth Whalum’s namesake and his grandfather’s son the great Rev. Kenneth Whalum Sr. earlier last week (Monday Oct.22)…I am sure that Sr. is with his father and Jimmie in blue heaven…
Mrs. Elaine Turner, an authority on Memphis Black History, urged the audience to practice the African tradition known as Sankofa or looking back on the past for lost inspiration and knowledge in order to prepare for a better and greater present and future...She encouraged the audience to be active in discovering their roots and planting seeds of pride and self determination for the future generations to come…
George C. Monger supported the clarion call to honor Jimmie Lunceford’s living legacy by bringing back music and arts education to all of the Memphis City Schools…George also told people about the travesty of Jimmie Lunceford not having a brass note on the Beale Street walk of fame and reminded all in attendance that it is our duty to make this a reality…He also encouraged the youthful audience to get involved in local politics to bring about change because they are the leaders that they are looking for...He also told young people to not be a slave to materialism and to keep peer pressure at bay by doing the right thing and seeking and being in the right company.
Preston Lauterbach, David Less and Prof. Able basically told the audience to never forget Lunceford and to seek out as much as they can about the Man who taught at Manassas High School and who took a group of young Black males from North Memphis and made them into Superstars!!!
R2C2H2 Tha Artivist Presents Memphis Music Legend And Educator Prof. Emerson Able (left) With The First Annual Jimmie Lunceford Jamboree Festival Legacy Award...This award is a lifetime achievement award given to those who dedicated their lives to excellence in music and music education...The other honorees were Mrs. Kathryn Perry Thomas,well known Memphis City Schools Educator And Master of classical piano...She used to practice her classical piano while Jimmie Lunceford rehearsed the band at Manassas High School back in the 1920s; Legendary Jimmie Lunceford Orchestra Alum and jazz great Prof. Gerald Wilson, WHO RECENTLY WON TEACHER OF THE YEAR AT UCLA (2006) where he has taught jazz for 18 years...At almost 90 years of age he still leads his own big band and tours extensively...A gifted arranger and song writer, Prof. Wilson was also commissioned to write the 50th Anniversary Monterrey Jazz Festival theme song; Legendary Jimmie Lunceford Orchestra alum trumpeter Snooky Young who still plays trumpet in Prof. Wilson's band; Jimmie Lunceford Biographer and Jazz-o-phile Eddy Determeyer whose Rhythm Is Our Business (University of Michigan Press, 2005) was the first biography written about Jimmie Lunceford.(photo by George C. Monger)
Speaking of Superstars it was truly a treat to present Prof. Able (notable Manassas Alumni, exceptional musician and one of the proud and few legendary Manassas High School Band Directors) with one of the first ever Jimmie Lunceford Jamboree Festival Legacy Awards in the school where he helped to enrich an already historical and exceptional music tradition...The award recognizes those who have dedicated their lives to excellence in music and music education…The other four honorees were Sis. Kathryn Perry Thomas, Bro. Gerald Wilson, Bro. Eugene “Snooky” Young, and Bro. Eddy Determeyer…
Tha Artivist Pictured With Proud Manassas High Alumni from left to right Mr. Phillips, Mr. Rogers, Mr. Able And Ms. Turner. (photo by Devon Hill)
For an hour 11 people stood around one of the forgotten pioneers of The Memphis Sound’s final resting place in historic Elmwood Cemetery in South Memphis…
Rev. Gracie said the prayers over this sentimental, somber yet celebratory occasion…
Prof. Able, one of the greatest and most entertaining Memphis Griots a.k.a. storytellers and historians around , edutained the gathering with his invaluable information about pioneers in the Memphis sound in general and Jimmie Lunceford in particular…He also told a colorful story about the Great Cab Calloway causing a near riot in a popular Memphis entertainment venue some years ago…Prof. Able said that he got the real scoop from the great Cab Calloway himself when he saw him in a Broadway production in Memphis…Warren Burger, jazz fan and future U.S. Supreme Court Justice, was at the time a college student passing out pamphlets with Cab’s picture at the venue…Some White people took great offense and asked him what he was doing as a White man passing out booklets with a Nigger’s face on it…Warren took quite an offense to this and before anyone knew it a full scale riot was on…Prof. Able colorfully quipped that Burger fought the mob as if he was a Black man fighting for his life…
Local Gospel Music Great Bro. Julius Bradley also offered kind words of praise for a man who truly embodied the terms “educator” and “role model” and who served his community well through his love of music and teaching…
(photo by Teleka Trezevant)
After laying the wreath with the words “Thanks Mr. Jimmie Lunceford” inscribed on the banner (thanks Sis. Demarras Allen for donating and designing the beautiful wreath) on the grave of a true music master, Tha Artivist grabbed his trumpet and paid tribute by blessing the occasion with some hot jazz Dixieland music stylings in the spirit of Louis Armstrong…Everybody was definitely in a good mood after that!!!
Tha Artivst Blowing Black Gabriel Or Louie Armstrong Style At The Gravesite Of Jimmie Lunceford During The Wreathlaying Ceremony @ Elmwood Cemetery. (photo by Teleka Trezevant)
Also Thanks To Bro. Mike Maple For Shooting A Great Photo Of Tha Artivist In Action For The Memphis Commercial Appeal Article.
The guests included were well respected retired Memphis City Schools educator and classical pianist Kathryn Perry Thomas and jazz great and educator Prof. Gerald Wilson…Both of these amazing people were recipients of the first annual Jimmie Lunceford Jamboree Festival Legacy Award which recognizes a life dedicated to excellence in Music and Music Education… Also legendary Mississippi Educator and Civil Rights Activist Dr. Gene “Jughead” Young Called In And Offered His Respects And Support For Another Great Black Mississippian (Lunceford Was Born In Fulton, Ms On June 6, 1902)…
Manassas Alumni Association
Overton Jazz Orchestra
Bro. Tyrone Thomas And Hotwings Express
McEwen’s On Monroe
Sis. Callie Herd
Sis. Teleka Trezevant
Sis. Lizzie Taylor
Bro. Marvin Butler
Bro. Sudhakar Borra
Bro. Rufus Jones
Sis. Sabrina Burris
Bro. Ernest Taylor
Bro. O.C. Pleasant
Sis. Joyce Crawford
Prof. Emerson Able
Bro. Pastor Kenneth Whalum Jr.
Bro. Preston Lauterbach
Bro. Kathryn Perry Thomas
Prof. Gerald Wilson
Bro. Eddy Determeyer
Bro. George C. Monger
Sis. Laurie Deen
Sis. Annette Young~Pres. Of Manassas High Class of 1954
Sis. Michelle Purdy
Sis. Elaine Turner
Bro. David Less
Bro. Julius Bradley
Bro. Sylvestor Sartor
The Honorable Judge Bro. D'Army Bailey
Bro. David and Sis. Yvonne Acey
Bro. Brandon Hood
Bro. Ricky Richardson
Sis. Betty Mallott