Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Dec. 20, 2008 From 12pm-3pm~Join Us For The 1st Annual Jimmie Lunceford Legacy Awards @ Java, Juice & Jazz...

What: The First Annual Jimmie Lunceford Legacy Awards Event (Part Of The Jimmie Lunceford Jamboree Festival Series)
When: December 20, 2008
Time: 12pm-3pm
Where: Java, Juice & Jazz
1423 Elvis Presley Blvd 38106

Admission: *FREE*

Contact: Ron Herd II & R2C2H2 Tha Artivist

*Presenting The 2009 Jimmie Lunceford Legacy Awards Honorees*
1.) Dr. Alan Goodrich
2.) Larry Lee
3.) Hank Crawford
4.) George Coleman
5.) Howard Grimes
6.) Rev. Ronnie Williams

Live Entertainment, Rare Jimmie Lunceford Orchestra Footage, & Panel Presentation

Great Tasting Food @ Affordable Prices...

Artwork From Tha Artivist Wil Be Available Purchase...

So All You Jazzy Hep Cats Come Join Us!!!

The Purpose Of Jimmie Lunceford Jamboree Festival:

To Honor And Bring Awareness To The Forgotten And Impressive Legacy And Achievements Of Jimmie Lunceford, The First High School Band Orchestra Leader/Conductor In The History Of The Memphis City Schools…Lunceford, A Fisk University Graduate, Was Hired As A Teacher Of English,Spanish And Physical Education At Manassas High School Back In The 1920s...He Also Served As The School's Baseball And Football Coach...He Started The First Memphis City Schools' Band/Orchestra With Money Out Of His Own Pocket And Donations From The Community...

He Later Took His Band Of High School Students And Turned Them Into A Professional And Popular Local Memphis Band Known As The Chickasaw Syncopators…

In the early 1930s Lunceford took his band to the legendary Cotton Club in Harlem, NY to take over as the house band for Duke Ellington and Cab Calloway…The group eventually became known as The Jimmie Lunceford Orchestra…The Jimmie Lunceford Orchestra would regularly broadcast live from the Cotton Club gaining a huge national audience…Jimmie Lunceford would constantly beat the great swing bands of his era in numerous “battle of the bands” contests including those led by Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman and Chick Webb…The Lunceford Orchestra Was Known For Their Amazing Ensemble Play, Singing , Choreography And Overall Showmanship...They were known as The Harlem Express because of their huge African American following and was the top draw act at the world famous Apollo Theatre for 10 years...The Lunceford Orchestra was considered by many including Glenn Miller and Miles Davis to be one of if not the best swing band ever!!!

Unfortunately, Jimmie Lunceford (after dying under mysterious circumstances on July 12, 1947 in Seaside, Oregon) has been forgotten by many in the Memphis Community for 61 years and counting…

Jimmie Lunceford, the essence of a true teacher, never forgot about Memphis or Manassas High School and would constantly come back to talk to students at Manassas High School and hold free concerts despite being one of the most popular bandleaders in the country, Black or White…

The purpose of this event is to bring awareness about Jimmie Lunceford and to instill community pride in the achievements and accomplishments of a native Memphian who never forgot Memphis…Jimmie Lunceford’s remains are interred at the famous Elmwood Cemetery along with his wonderful legacy...We @ the Jimmie Lunceford Jamboree Festival look forward to changing that same old sad song & swinging a new brighter tune!!!

Please Visit The Official Jimmie Lunceford Jamboree Festival Website:

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

10/12/08~W.E. A.L.L. B.E. News & Radio Special: 2nd Annual Jimmie Lunceford Jamboree Radio Program...

One Full Year On The Air!!!

October 2008's Theme Is "Our Time!!!"

Listen To The Show Now:

Back By Jazz Swinging & Lindy Hopping Demand!!!

"Jimmie Lunceford Has The Best Of All Bands. Duke [Ellington] Is Great, [Count] Basie Is Remarkable, But Lunceford Tops Them Both."
-- Legendary Swing Band Leader Glenn Miller

"Jimmy Lunceford Was Buried Here In Memphis. The Spot He Occupies Should Have Something Of A Special Significance. ...He Took A Group Of Relatively Unsophisticated Memphis Colored Boys And Welded Them Into An Organization Which Scaled The Heights Of Musical Eminence. ... He Presented Something New In The Way Of Musical Presentations By Negro Orchestras."
--Legendary Memphis Educator And Syndicated Columnist Nat D. Williams

W.E. A.L.L. B.E. News & Radio Is Honored To Present

The 2nd Annual Jimmie Lunceford Jamboree Festival Radio Program...

We @ W.E. A.L.L. B.E. take pride and honor in honoring a true gentleman whose creative genius and legacy knows no boundaries...James Melvin Lunceford was considered by many to be among jazz's greatest swing band leaders...His Orchestra was nicknamed 'The Harlem Express' because of their overwhelming popularity with the African American community of the 1930s & 40s...His fame also extended beyond that proud community for he was also recognized by the larger national and international audiences as well...

Leading a band composed of his former high school students from the future Jazz Mecca Manassas High School (where he became the Memphis City Schools' first high school band director , amazingly starting a world class band with little start up money or any support from the school system) and his college buddies from Fisk University, Lunceford's Orchestra eventually became the house band for the legendary Cotton Club in storied Harlem, NY...The band became wildly famous because of their exceptional stage shows and the weekly live radio broadcasts from the club that were heard throughout the entire U.S....

Please join us in learning more about a man who owned and flew his own plane at a time when Blacks were not allowed to attend flight schools in the U.S....Learn more about a man who never forgot his teacher roots and would spend generous sums of money to start and support music education programs throughout the country to fight juvenile deliquency and dropout rates...Learn more about the former star athlete and ambitious teacher who became a movie star and a headliner & legend in his own time before dying under mysterious circumstances at the young age of 45 a little over 61 years ago...Learn more about the efforts currently being done to restore this man's rightful place in the jazz pantheon and to ensure his legacy of perseverance, creativity, education and hope lives on in our youths and greater community for generations to come...

Please Join Our AllStar Line-Up Which Includes People Who Knew Lunceford And Played With Or For The Jazz Great As Well As Those Inspired By His Genius...They Are The Following:

1.) Manassas High School Class of 1932, Legendary Memphis City Schools Teacher, Pianist & 2007 Jimmy Lunceford Legacy Awardee The Late Sis. Kathryn Perry Thomas

2.) Memphis Music Legend & 2007 Jimmy Lunceford Legacy Awardee Bro. Emerson Able

3.) Jazz Great, Jimmie Lunceford Orchestra Alum & 2007 Jimmy Lunceford Legacy Awardee Bro. Gerald Wilson

4.) Pioneering Jimmie Lunceford Biographer & 2007 Jimmy Lunceford Legacy Awardee Eddy Determeyer

5.) Award Winning Journalist & Music Enthusiast Bro. Preston Lauterbach

6.) Music Fan And Public Servant The Honorable U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen

To Learn More About Jimmie Lunceford & The Jimmie Lunceford Jamboree Festival Please Visit:

Check Out The Original Jimmie Lunceford Orchestra In Action!!!

Get Involved

As Always You Can Catch Tha Artivist Presents…W.E. A.L.L. B.E. Radio Live Every Sunday By Clicking On The Following Link:

Please Be Our Invited Guest By Calling Us Live @ 646-652-4593 Or E-mailing Us Your Questions And Comments @ r2c2h2@gmail.com

As Always Please Spread The Good News!!!


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Never Forget...My Blue Heaven...

Blue Heaven
Rediscovering Jimmie Lunceford.

For The Memphis Flyer

This is our year of musical remembrance. Stax is 50. The King's been gone for 30 years. Forty years ago this December, Otis Redding and four harmonious young Memphians known as the Bar-Kays died in a plane crash.

This year also marks an anniversary for another giant of our city's musical past — one that won't draw legions of shrine-building visitors to Memphis or inspire reunion concerts or documentary films. Sixty years ago on July 12th, the swing orchestra leader Jimmie Lunceford died — either by a heart attack or poisoning depending on whom you believe — while signing autographs in a record store on a tour stop in Seaside, Oregon.

Despite the lack of recognition in the City of Good Abode, Jimmie Lunceford represents a legacy that has meant as much to Memphis music as more recent and celebrated figures. The man who once beat Count Basie, Benny Goodman, Fletcher Henderson, and others in a battle of the big bands now lies buried, mostly forgotten, in Elmwood Cemetery.

It can be difficult to quantify the success of an artist who died before Billboard charts began to define musical success. Sheet music outsold records for most of Lunceford's career, spanning 1930-1947, and a musician made a name and a living on the road then.

"Lunceford Had The Best Of All Bands"

Lunceford's peers and competitors, however, knew what they were up against. No less an authority than Glenn Miller — himself leader of a top-shelf swing outfit until his plane vanished crossing the Atlantic during WWII — summed it up: "Jimmie Lunceford has the best of all bands. Duke [Ellington] is great, [Count] Basie is remarkable, but Lunceford tops them both."

He spent barely three years of his life here, from 1927 to 1930, but began a tradition of public school music education that pipelined talent to the Memphis scene for generations to come. Not only is Lunceford overlooked in our storied history, his legacy of education is absent from the civic discussion surrounding the revival of our once vital music industry.

"He Had A Very Good Effect On The Students Here"

The Memphis City Schools have churned out professional musicians like Penn State has linebackers. Players diverse in style and age, like former Ray Charles Orchestra music director Hank Crawford and renowned jazzmen Phineas Newborn Sr., his sons Calvin and Phineas Jr., cerebral horn-blowers Charles Lloyd and Frank Strozier, and soul men Booker T. Jones, Isaac Hayes, David Porter, the Bar-Kays, Earth, Wind and Fire vocalist Maurice White, and members of the vaunted Hi Rhythm section, among dozens of others, all came through Memphis public school music programs.

This legacy, unparalleled in any urban school system nationally, began in 1927 when Lunceford landed at Manassas High School, fresh from Fisk University in Nashville.

Ninety-two-year-old classical pianist Kathryn Perry Thomas — one of three living graduates of Manassas' class of 1932 — is the last surviving Memphian to have played music with Lunceford. She recalls Lunceford's presence on campus. "I was going to school when he was there," she says. "He had a very good effect on the students there. He taught football, baseball, and music."

The First Memphis City School Orchestra

Lunceford had no budget for a music program. In fact, he wasn't hired as a music teacher at all, but instead as an instructor of English and Spanish and coach of the Manassas football and baseball teams. The school had no instruments, no music curriculum, no idea what music education could do for the community. But like the football coach that he was, Lunceford brought a group of young men together, motivated them, equipped them — with help from community donors — and refined them as a unit. He named them like a football team too, drawing on local history: the Chickasaw Syncopators.

"Manassas had the first orchestra of any school in the city with Mr. Lunceford," Thomas says. "He was a good disciplinarian, a good teacher, and the students just had a fit over him. Lunceford played sophisticated jazz. I used to practice with them."

The Chickasaws included drummer Jimmy Crawford and bassist Moses Allen, Manassas students who continued playing with Lunceford's orchestra longer than any other players. Two of Lunceford's Fisk pals, pianist Ed Wilcox and saxophonist Willie Smith, also had joined up by 1928. These four comprised the nucleus of the Lunceford band through the early 1940s.

The orchestra had come to the attention of the press by early 1930. The Chicago Defender, a national African-American newspaper, wrote that Lunceford's 11-piece band included musicians who sang and doubled on different instruments.

Chickasaws Define New Sound

The Chickasaws recorded a two-sider on their leader's 28th birthday, June 6, 1930, at the Memphis and Shelby County Civic Auditorium (then located at Main and Poplar) for Victor Recording Company. Allen, the band's bass player, preached with tongue firmly planted in cheek through "In Dat Mornin'."

He goaded the trumpet solo:

"Oh, Gabriel, I want you to go down this mornin', I want you to place one foot on the land and the other foot on the sea; I want you to blow that silver trumpet calm and easy ... I imagine I can see him bust the bell of that trumpet wide open."

The flipside, "Sweet Rhythm," could have served as the Lunceford anthem, in both name and sound. (These early recordings can be heard at http://www.redhotjazz.com/chickasaw.html.)

The Lunceford sound distinguished itself in a crowded field of talented swing bands with its two-beat syncopation, a sonic ancestor of what came to be known as the "Memphis sound" heard in the 1960s and 1970s in Stax Records' trademark echophonic rhythm and in the laid-back Willie Mitchell groove of Hi Records.[image-2]

"When he left Manassas, those who had finished went with him. He became famous with that orchestra," Thomas recalls.

More importantly for the city, orchestras became standard in public schools. Manassas hired a replacement for a position that hadn't existed previously: band director.

Lunceford's band officially turned pro in late 1930 and hit the road, changing their name to the Jimmie Lunceford Orchestra because the Chickasaw Syncopators didn't resonate with national audiences.

"Rhythm Is Our Business"

Though the band would gradually grow to 18 musicians at the time of Lunceford's death, their double-duty as players and entertainers distinguished the orchestra throughout its existence. Lunceford biographer Eddy Determeyer states that the orchestra "pioneered the use of choreography in black music."

On stage, members of the Lunceford orchestra tossed their instruments in the air in unison, danced and sang interchangeably, as the leader — decked in white tails and his glowing grin — conducted. Their uptown vocals can be heard on recordings like "My Blue Heaven" and "Rhythm Is Our Business," a Lunceford composition that later served as the title of his biography.

Between 1930 and 1947, Lunceford's group challenged the giants of jazz, Ellington and Basie, for orchestral supremacy. They drew raves for their showmanship and instrumental ensemble work and returned to Memphis for one-nighters at Beale Avenue Auditorium at Church Park. Lunceford remained friendly with Memphis, wooing Crystal Tulli, a teacher at Booker T. Washington High School whom Lunceford had met at Fisk. They married in 1934, the year of Lunceford's arrival at Harlem's Cotton Club, known then as the greatest nightclub in the world.

Renewing Personal Remembrances

Local appearances stirred up the Bluff City. The African-American Memphis World newspaper reported that tickets to Lunceford's August 1944 show sold out in hours. Visits usually included a reception at the home of a prominent citizen. One concert preview said that Lunceford looked forward to "renew[ing] personal remembrances."

Among those remembrances renewed were the students at Manassas. "He would come over to the school each and every time he would play Memphis," recalls Emerson Able Jr., who took Lunceford's old job as Manassas band director in 1956. "His band would perform for the [Manassas] student body, and our band, the Little Rhythm Bombers, would play for him. This is where most of us, as students, saw him. He would bring the big band over to Manassas and perform."

Forgetting Jimmie

[image-4] Memphis music, if you believe what you read, is a story of iconoclasts, renegades, and visionaries whose disdain for rules and conformity forged original sounds. Lunceford doesn't fit into the pantheon of gritty working-class heroes who embody the Memphis sound, though. The big-band Lunceford sound required discipline, education, polish, and a collective approach to performance. For this reason, it seems, he's been overlooked in Memphis music history.

In Goin' Back to Memphis, James Dickerson wrote of the period Lunceford spent in the city, "Throughout the twenties, Memphis music underwent significant changes. The sophisticated blues of the teens ... were replaced on Beale Street by its long-neglected country cousin, the down-home blues."

Lunceford bucked the more celebrated trend of unsophisticated down-home blues in Memphis, as he groomed a group of city school kids into a jazz orchestra later noted for its precision and technical ensemble work.

Dickerson suggests that the bandleader's urbanity sacrificed his soul: "I am sure black activists would today consider Lunceford an Uncle Tom. He led his orchestra with a long, white baton and dressed elegantly but I don't think he was being accommodating to white society so much as living out a fantasy of how society should conduct itself. Considering his disdain for any deviation from his strict Protestant behavior, it is not surprising Lunceford left Memphis at the first opportunity."

Dickerson offers no facts upon which to base any of these observations, including the false understanding of Memphis as a city without religion. Nor does he account for Lunceford's choice to be buried in a city the bandleader supposedly couldn't wait to leave. Ultimately, Dickerson prefers to tell the Memphis music story in a way that doesn't grasp the complete picture.

Similarly, the over-quoted music producer Jim Dickinson explains the upward thrust of Memphis music history in terms of "racial collision." Robert Gordon wrote in the influential It Came From Memphis, "The forces of cultural collision struck thrice in the Memphis area, first with the Delta blues, then with Sun [Records], then with Stax," thus excluding Lunceford, who was no Delta bluesman and had died before Sun or Stax came into being, from the discussion.

"My Blue Heaven"

Today, barely a trace of Lunceford remains in the city. Imagine the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown without Willie Mays or the courtyard of Graumann's Chinese Theatre in Hollywood without the imprints of Jimmy Durante's nose or Marilyn Monroe's hands. Our own walk of fame down on Beale Street feels just as empty thanks to the omission of Lunceford.

A historical marker in front of Manassas High School commemorates alumnus Isaac Hayes, but there's no public display of affection for Lunceford, the onetime king of swing.

Finally, locals trying to learn about the life of Lunceford would be hard-pressed: The acclaimed biography Rhythm Is Our Business isn't available at local bookstores or any public or college library.


Jimmie Lunceford, a healthy, teetotaling, non-smoker, dropped dead at a personal appearance in Seaside, Oregon, on July 12, 1947. The official cause of death was a heart attack, though his bandmembers claimed that the owner of the café where the band lunched had taken exception to serving the group of African Americans. Several of them complained of illness after their lunch and speculated that they had been poisoned.

Lunceford's Memphis funeral procession traveled up Wellington Street (now Danny Thomas Boulevard) to Mississippi Boulevard. You could have seen it pass from the front porch of Lunceford's last Memphis residence at 678 E. Iowa Avenue (now E.H. Crump Boulevard), as it crossed that street and turned up Walker toward Elmwood Cemetery. Fans lined the streets along the route.

After a star-studded New York funeral service attended by top black entertainers Pearl Bailey, Bill "Bojangles" Robinson, and Noble Sissle, the Memphis ceremony brought out his inner circle. Fisk classmates served as pallbearers, while Lunceford's father, brothers, widow, and in-laws stood out among the reported thousands who stacked the mahogany casket with flowers.

Nationally syndicated columnist Nat D. Williams, himself an educator in the Memphis City Schools at Booker T. Washington High, eulogized Lunceford in his weekly "Down on Beale Avenue" column, offering still poignant views on the man's meaning to Memphis:

"Jimmy Lunceford was buried here in Memphis. The spot he occupies should have something of a special significance. ... He took a group of relatively unsophisticated Memphis colored boys and welded them into an organization which scaled the heights of musical eminence. ... He presented something new in the way of musical presentations by Negro orchestras."

Williams praised Lunceford's commitment to his race. While other great African Americans abandoned their people, so Williams wrote, "Lunceford and many others like him chose to remain at home, and with their people. [His death] should have meaning in inspiration and guidance to others. If we permit it, Lunceford's burial in Memphis can mean this."

Very special thanks to Eddy Determeyer, author of the Lunceford biography Rhythm Is Our Business, who supplied key facts and photographs for this story.

See Also...
The Official Jimmie Lunceford Jamboree Festival Website

W.E. A.L.L. B.E. News & Radio Special~2nd Annual Jimmie Lunceford Jamboree Festival Radio Program:

W.E. A.L.L. B.E. News & Radio Special~1st Annual Jimmie Lunceford Jamboree Festival Radio Program:

Friday, June 6, 2008

Happy Life Affirmation Day Jimmie Lunceford...Tha Artivist Salutes You!!!

Happy Life Affirmation To The One And Only James Melvin Lunceford!!!
(June 06, 1902-July 12, 1947)
*W.E. A.L.L. B.E. News & Radio Special* Paying Homage To Forgotten Memphis City Schools Education & Jazz Great Legend Jimmie Lunceford...Tha Artivist Improvises...

You Are Beyond Category...

Although you went to your Blue Heaven over 60 years ago, your songs and films are still around entertaining another generation of unsuspecting yet joyful fans...However, it could be said that you are the true Most Known Unknown no disrespect to 3-6 Mafia, just rhyme and reason...

You started the first Memphis City Schools music education program without help or $$$ from the City Schools @ Manassas High (even today they still act like they don't have any money for the youthful masses unless when it comes to paying off incompetent cronies and other useless a**es)...You took nine young ambitious and eager boys from New Chicago in North Memphis and made them anew and into men by sharing your love and gift of music...

Your band of merry men (including your buddies from Fisk University) left the comforts of Memphis and Manassas High School in 1930 for greener, greater & jazzier pastures to parts unknown even to you and your crew...In spite of lack of funds you were determined to make your mark by playing with The House's Money...A True Game of Chance With The Will To Be Free...Your drive and insistence outweighed financial difficulties and man's indifference...

Through true hustle and flow you became the number one jazz band for all African Americans in the land, earning the nickname 'The Harlem Express'...Your band started to broadcast live from the Good Ole Cotton Club in the Year Of Our Lord 1934 and you became the American Idol of Miles Davis, Quincy Jones, Glen Miller AND MANY, MANY MORE!!!

Your Genius In Action Was Immortalized In Film While Your Orchestra Played Blues In The Night...

You, Gen . Lunceford, led a music revolution in swing time and created a Jazznocracy!!!

Your Band was the biggest attraction at the Apollo Theatre for 10 straight years and was the first to play an integrated audience at the Paramount Theatre...You were the toast of the town, The King Of New York!!! You were the Master and Commander as well as the Undisputed Champ of the Battle of the Bands...Your Band Was Considered 'The Greatest' By The Masses, Not Chick's,Not Duke's, Not Even Count's Mattered...

You was a King uncrowned with no country to rule...And yet you still practice the golden rule...

You never forgot your roots and went back to plant more seeds with the glee and joy of a Johnny Appleseed...And my o my look at the beautiful fruits your tree bears!!!

Rhythm Bombers', Isaac Hayes', Booker T. Jones', Dee Dee Bridgewaters', Booker Littles', Phineas Newborns' , George Colemans', Kathryn Perry Thomas', Arthur Lees', Charles Lloyds', Emerson Ables', Maurice Whites', Larry Lees' and Johny Aces' o my!!!

And yes indeed so, so much more!!!

You just didn't "climb mountains" you also "flew over them"...

You flew and owned your own airplane at a time when the government tried not to teach the Tuskegee Airmen how to fly, kill and die for good ole Uncle Sam...

You Always Embraced Equality & Never Inequity, Always Strived For Excellence & Never Settled For Mediocrity...

Your Dreams And Ambitions Knew No Bounds Or Limitations...

You was on top of the world until a racist hate mongering White man snatched your life with Apollo Sandmanlike efficiency...The curtains closed and the lights went dim once you left the stage...

You Used Your God Given Gifts To Warm Humanity's Heart And Soul...

And Yet 'The City Of Good Abode' Has Left One Of Her Favorite Sons Forgotten & Out In The Cold...

Where Is The Brass Note On Beale??? Where Are The Markers??? Where Are The Eulogies???

Where's The Outrage??? Where's The Love??? Why So Much Indifference & Hostility???

They Are Still Missing...

However, One Day In The Heat Of The August Night In The 60th Year Of Your Passing, 'An Artivist' Had An Epiphany...

Resurrect Jimmie's Memory By Teaching His Story To The Citizens Who Can't Even Recall His Memory Or Shamefully Neglect History!!!

What Can Profit A People If They Have No Identity???

The Hope Endures, The Dream Never Dies And The Beat Goes On!!!

Lunceford Lives!!! Lunceford Lives!!!

The Rhythm Of Life Is Our Business!!!

---Bro. Ron Herd II a.k.a. R2C2H2 Tha Artivist

Photo by Mike Maple
Playing Taps For A Forgotten Jazz Great: Ron Herd II a.k.a. R2C2H2 Tha Artivist warms up on his trumpet Saturday to play a tribute to band leader and arranger Jimmie Lunceford, who taught in Memphis in the 1920s and went on to perform throughout the world.

*W.E. A.L.L. B.E. News & Radio Special*

The Jimmie Lunceford Jamboree Festival Tribute Show~10-21-07



*Also Check Out We Remember Jimmie Lunceford~8-26-07



* Interview With Eddy Determeyer, 2007 Jimmie Lunceford Legacy Award Honoree & Author Of The First Ever Jimmie Lunceford Biography, Rhythm Is Our Business





For More Lunceford News Visit:


Monday, January 14, 2008

Influential Memphis Educator And Last Living Memphian To Have Played With Jazz Great Jimmie Lunceford Dies...

First Annual Jimmie Lunceford Legacy Award Honoree, Legendary Memphis Educator And Friend of Tha Artivist Ms. Kathryn Perry Thomas Makes Transition At 92 Years Young…

Katheryn Perry Thomas
Tha Artivist Writes:
Last Friday afternoon (Jan. 11, 2008) I learned that one of my newest friends I had met on my quest to restore the legacy of Jimmie Lunceford passed away…My good friend, the talented writer Preston Lauterbach, notified me of her passing by phone…Preston wrote the excellent article on Jimmie Lunceford for the Memphis Flyer back in the summer and Ms. Katheryn Perry Thomas was one of the stars interviewed…

I was a little surprised, but not too much...Ms. Katheryn Perry Thomas had been on my mind all that week and for the past several weeks for that matter…Something had been telling me to make that one last interview…We have tried on several occasions to make that happen, but something always came up…

Fortunately, I did have the pleasure of meeting Ms. Thomas in the flesh…I presented her with her Jimmie Lunceford Legacy Award at her home on Oct. 20, 2007, a sunny autumn Saturday afternoon…She was overjoyed that Jimmie was finally getting his due and I immediately knew we had a connection…

We talked for a little over four hours that afternoon…Topics of discussion ranged from Current Events, Education, Politics, History and of course Jimmie Lunceford…When she was a student at Manassas she would practice her classical piano while Jimmie rehearsed his high school band, the first of its kind in Memphis...She said Jimmie was always very encouraging of her musical pursuits…She also explained to me that she came from a very musically talented family and so she really took to what Lunceford was trying to do with the students…I do not doubt for one minute that Lunceford’s influence played a role in her becoming a classical piano teacher among other things…I gained so much insight and wisdom from this wonderful woman in those few hours…I believed when the great Duke Ellington wrote his famous “Sophisticated Lady” tune he had a woman like Ms. Kathryn Perry Thomas in mind…

She felt comfortable enough to show me pictures of her family…She was truly proud of her beautiful family and their strong roots…She also showed me pictures when she was a younger woman starting off in teaching…I was immediately entranced in her beautiful photos…She was very photogenic…She was truly a dime piece in every sense of the word...I told her unashamedly so that she had nice legs in her prime…She laughed a hearty and appreciative laugh and smiled…

But I must admit that Ms. Katheryn Perry Thomas was a true dime piece in every way not only physically in her youth but also spiritually, emotionally and intellectually as a true elder...A true Renaissance Woman of the highest order yet with the common touch of a true humanitarian, something that is earned and gained after having patience with others for a 50 year teaching career and nearly a century of living…Courtesy, wit, passion and love were her weapons of choice and persuasion…She has left an impression on me that I will never forget for as long as I live…

Fortunately I did record Ms. Thomas on several occasions when I was researching Lunceford for the 1st Annual Jimmie Lunceford Jamboree Festival http://www.jimmieluncefordjam.blogspot.com …Her interviews will be used in the forthcoming Jimmie Lunceford Documentary…

The actual interviews are online and can be accessed by clicking on the following links:

Read Preston Lauterbach's Tribute To Ms. Katheryn Perry Thomas In The Memphis Flyer:

The following is a bio on Ms. Katheryn Perry Thomas that was included in her funeral program:

Eloise Katheryn Perry Thomas was born Jan. 19, 1915, in Memphis, Tennessee, to Andrew Jackson Perry, Sr., and LuRena Drain Perry.

Katheryn attended Memphis public schools and took piano lessons at a very early age. She graduated from Manassas High School and attended LeMoyne Owen College, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in English. After college she taught in the elementary schools of northwest Mississippi and Memphis. Later, she returned to Manassas High School, where she taught Spanish and English for more than 42 years. She was deeply committed to Manassas students and the neighboring community that saw her as a model of virtue and leadership, Katheryn’s impact upon students is perhaps best expressed by Manassas students in the following tribute:

“The broad dimensions of her personal impact on the school and community have been fourfold. As a teacher, she has imparted knowledge and moral values. As a dreamer, she has espoused the highest ideals. As a devotee of the arts, she has spearheaded programs that have enhanced the cultural life of the Manassas community. And as a professional, she has evinced integrity and compassion. “Briefly stated, Mrs. Thomas is the epitome of a professional woman, who has ennobled the teaching profession and enriched many young lives. We believe she represents what John Keats had in mind when he wrote: ‘A thing of beauty is a joy forever:/ Its loveliness increases; it will never/ Pass into nothingness.’”

Katheryn learned from her family the value of commitment and personal responsibility, and the importance of GOD, family and community. Many people from North Memphis and friends across the country like to recall Katheryn’s love for people and her devotion to the arts. She especially loved classical music and theater. She also enjoyed traveling to places such as Europe, the Middle East and South America. She was a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority and was twice president of her local chapter. She received numerous awards and certificates for community service, including a Key to the City of Memphis.

As a young child, Katheryn became a member of Coleman Chapel CME Church, where she later served as pianist and Director of the Youth Programs. Much later in life she became a faithful member of Calvary Episcopal Church.

Preceded in death by two sisters: Castella Barber and Evelyn J. Perry; four brothers: Andrew Jackson Perry, Jr., Albert, Oliver and William Perry, Katheryn is survived by a brother, Donald C. Perry; a sister-in-law, Pearl H. Perry; a brother-in-law, Leo Barber, Sr.; two nephews: Leo Barber, Jr. and Kevin Perry; and numerous other relatives. To celebrate her long and remarkable life, she leaves three beloved nieces: Cleo Barber, Andrea and Angela Perry; two devoted friends and caregivers: Jennifer Franklin and Michael Christian, and numerous other friends.

Those who knew and loved Katheryn will always remember her hearty laughter and infectious smile.