Sunday, April 12, 2009

*For Immediate Release* TV Premiere Of "W.E. A.L.L. B.E. News Presents...Real Talk With Tha Artivist" (4/13/2009 @ 8pm C., Memphis Comcast Ch. 17)

What: TV Premiere Of "W.E. A.L.L. B.E. News Presents...Real Talk With Tha Artivist"
Date: Monday, April 13, 2009
Time: 8pm Central/ 9pm Eastern/ 6pm Pacific
Where: Comcast Cable Ch. 17 (Memphis,TN)
Contact: Ron Herd II

Show Topic: “And Rhythm Was His Business…Jimmie Lunceford: A Memphis Music Legend.”

"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

Although in recent days he was finally awarded a long overdue brass note on the street (Beale Street) that he helped made famous, the tantalizing question still remains for many in the City of Good Abode: Who Was Jimmie Lunceford???

In less than 30 minutes R2C2H2 Tha Artivist plans to answer that exact question with analysis from experts and the people who knew him the best.

“W.E. A.L.L. B.E. News Presents…Real Talk With Tha Artivist” takes great pride and honor in honoring a true gentleman whose creative genius and legacy knows no boundaries...James “Jimmie” 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, The Jimmie Lunceford 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 airplanes 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 delinquency 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 almost 62 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...

April Is National Jazz Appreciation Month…

For More Information Related To Jimmie Lunceford Please Visit:

Saturday, April 11, 2009

It's Official: Jimmie Lunceford Gets Brass Note On Beale Street!!!

By Bob Mehr
The Memphis Commercial Appeal

Friday, April 10, 2009

Legendary Memphis and regional musicians will be honored locally and in Nashville this month.

Next week bluesman Robert "Wolfman" Belfour will receive a Governor's Arts Award in Nashville.

And April 20, the first of a series of brass notes that will be added to the Beale Street Walk of Fame.

Performa Entertainment Real Estate Inc., which administers the Beale Street program, has dedicated 73 brass notes on Beale since 1986 honoring the Mid-South's musical stars and pioneers. This week, the company announced 16 musicians being recognized with the plaques through April 2010.

The first will be unveiled for late blues guitar prodigy Corey Osborn, whose career was cut short at the age of 23 after a fatal automobile accident last fall.

In May, longtime Stax musician and Isaac Hayes guitarist Charles "Skip" Pitts will accept his note, while a pair of jug band pioneers -- Gus Cannon & Cannon's Jug Stompers and Will Shade & The Memphis Jug Band -- will also have their names enshrined.

The balance of the honorees includes local and regional greats, among them big-band leader Jimmie Lunceford, influential rock and roll deejay Dewey Phillips, and songwriter-producer Chips Moman. The list of 2010 recipients announced so far features musical greats from Mississippi including hill country bluesmen R.L. Burnside and Junior Kimbrough, slide guitar master Fred McDowell, and fife band patriarch Otha Turner.

The range of artists chosen this year was a result of a renewed focus on the selection process, said John Elkington, CEO of Performa, which also oversees the committee that picks the honorees.

"We felt we needed to re-establish the committee," says Elkington. "We have people from NARAS (National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences), from the Blues Foundation, musicians, club owners -- it's a good cross section."

Meantime, Belfour will be among those recognized with Tennessee's highest honor in the arts, the Governor's Arts Awards, in a ceremony Tuesday at War Memorial Auditorium in Nashville.

The office of Gov. Phil Bredesen announced he and first lady Andrea Conte will present Belfour with the Folklife Heritage Award for outstanding musical work in representing the blues tradition. He is the only Mid-Southerner among this year's award recipients. Belfour, 68, was raised in Mississippi and moved to Memphis in 1968. His musical career blossomed relatively late in life, after he was discovered by blues enthusiasts in the mid-'90s. Belfour continues to make his home in Memphis where he performs regularly.

-- Bob Mehr: 901-529-2517



Dates and times for ceremonies are still being arranged. Check for updates:

April 20

Corey Osborn (1985-2008)


Gus Cannon & Cannon's Jug Stompers

Will Shade & the Memphis Jug Band

Charles "Skip" Pitts (1947-present)


Little Laura Dukes (1907-1992)


Jimmie Lunceford (1902-1947)


Dewey Phillips (1926-1968)


Fred Ford (1930- 1999)

Honeymoon Garner (1931-2002)

Bill Tyus (19??-1997)


Chips Moman (1936-present)

January 2010

Rosco Gordon (1934-2002)

May 2010

R.L. Burnside (1926-2005)

Junior Kimbrough (1930-1998)

Fred McDowell (1904-1972)

Otha Turner (1907-2003)

See Also...
Tha Artivist Presents…Memphis Black History, More Than The Place Where Dr. King Died. Part 2

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:

Tha Artivist Presents…Memphis Black History, More Than The Place Where Dr. King Died. Part 2

From time to time I will be contributing articles like these to W.E. A.L.L. B.E. and beyond…Feel free as usual to share the info!!!
Check out Part one of this series by clicking on the following link:

Tha Artstorian Reports...
Memphis is the Incubator for Musical Giants…

Although she now claims Detroit as her hometown, The Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin was born in Memphis…As a matter of fact Dr. King gave his famous "I Have A Dream" speech at Ms. R-E-S-P-E-C-T's famous father's (Rev. C.L. Franklin a.k.a. "The Million Dollar Voice") church, New Bethel Baptist Church in Detroit…

The True King of Swing: Jimmie Lunceford

The first high school bandleader in the city of Memphis was Fulton, Mississippi native Jimmie Lunceford…A Fisk University graduate, Jimmie Lunceford taught music at Manassas High School during the 1920s…He actually formed a professional working band from his high school students as well from some of his college friends which was known as The Chickasaw Syncopators…The band was very popular locally appearing on radio frequently…He finally left Memphis with his band to take over the vacant orchestra job at the legendary Cotton Club in New York City…

As you imagine following in the footsteps of Duke Ellington and Cab Calloway could be a very challenging and daunting task for most, but not for a man as confident, professional, and ambitious as Mr. Jimmie Lunceford…His band by now renamed The Jimmie Lunceford Orchestra won the hearts of millions throughout the country courtesy of the regular live broadcasts from the Cotton Club…The great jazz genius Miles Davis as a kid really enjoyed listening to the Lunceford Orchestra on radio…The precision driven Lunceford Orchestra was actually the standard bearer for the swing bands of the 1930s and 1940s…They were well rehearsed, their playing as well as interplay very polished and their showmanship was beyond compare… Lunceford's trumpet section would actually throw their trumpets up in the air in unison, catch them and play where they left off in unison!!! The musicians were also known for their singing and comedic antics...Their early success, unique musicality and rich atmospheric sound can also be attributed to the voicings and colorful arrangements of Lunceford's gifted trumpeter Sy Oliver although many including some of the early band members would disagree because early recordings show that the sound that would make Lunceford famous was already starting to come together before Sy joined the band…Lunceford was a man that commanded great respect from his musicians without ever repeating himself twice or raising his voice (a la Tony Dungy)…

However, he wasn't known as a man who paid his musicians well, which led to the exodus of many of his most talented musicians including the exceptional Sy Oliver who joined the popular All-White Tommy Dorsey Orchestra for an extra $5,000 a year back in 1939...In spite of these setbacks Lunceford was still able to record and get dates throughout the country…Unfortunately, on July 12,1947 Lunceford dropped dead in Seaside, Oregon while signing autographs at the age of 45…Some said that the cause of death was heart attack…However, many think he was poisoned by a racist restaurant owner/cook…He is buried in famous Elmwood Cemetery in Memphis,Tn…More on Jimmie Lunceford:

"Furry Sings The Blues."

Legendary Beale Street blues performer Furry Lewis could count Rock and Pop music icons such as Jimi Hendrix and Joni Mitchell as admirers and fans respectively…A native of Greenwood, MS and born to a family of sharecroppers, his family (absent his father, who separated from his mother when he was a little baby) moved to Memphis when he was seven years old…It is said that he received his first guitar from the great W.C. Handy…Early in his career Furry traveled with medicine shows throughout the American South working as a comedian and wearing "blackface" while at the same time refining his skills on guitar...He was a very flashy player known for playing his guitar behind his head and with his teeth ala Jimi Hendrix style… In 1917 Furry Lewis lost one of his legs in a railroad accident, but that didn't stop him from pursuing his career as a professional musician…He is the most recorded Memphis Blues guitarist of the 1920s… After the 1920s his style of country blues fell out of favor with the public and so he got a job as a sanitation worker sweeping Beale Street for the next 43 years of his life…

Furry did not received the fame he deserved until the 1960s and 70s when their was a surging interest in the early Delta Blues…This opportunity gave Furry a chance to play at festivals and college campuses throughout the United States and the world for that matter…He became so famous that Furry was written about in the very popular Playboy Magazine, appeared as himself in a movie starring Burt Reynolds entitled "W.W. and the Dixie Dance Kings", opened several times for the popular rock group The Rolling Stones (including when they played to 53,000 fans in his hometown of Memphis, Tn), appeared and performed on the Johnny Carson Show...In 1973 Furry became the first Black person to received the honorary title of "Colonel" by the state of Tennessee and Joni Mitchell even wrote a song about him entitled "Furry Sings the Blues" which he hated and thought that he deserved royalties from since it was about him (similar to the Rosa Parks incident with the rap group Outkast)…Fighting a short bout with pneumonia Furry Lewis, a great musician rescued from obscurity by divine intervention, passed away on September 14, 1981…He is buried in Hollywood Cemetery of South Memphis…However, his music lives on and continues to attract new fans…More on Furry Lewis:

Doing It Her Way: Alberta Hunter, A Resilient Queen of the Blues

Alberta Hunter, one of the famous Blues Queens of the 1920s, ran away from Memphis to Chicago at the age of 12 to began her singing career…She made her name and money in clubs owned by gangsters such as the legendary and ruthless Al Capone…Alberta became good friends with another Memphis native and fellow musician Lil Hardin Armstrong…Although Alberta was married once for a short time, she was also romantically linked to Ms. Lottie Taylor, the niece of comic great Bert Williams for many years...She would also eventually find success as a songwriter (she penned the blues standard "Down Hearted Blues" which was made popular by the Empress of the Blues Bessie Smith, a native of Chattanooga,Tn) and as a recording artist (collaborated with jazz and blues luminaries such as Louis Armstrong and Sidney Bechet among others)…Alberta Hunter became the first artist to record blues for Black Swan Records in 1921, the first Black owned music company founded by Harry Pace, W.C. Handy's former business partner…

In 1923, she became the first African-American singer to be backed up by a White band, when the Original Memphis Five supported her on "Tain't Nobody's Biz-ness If I Do" and "If You Want To Keep Your Daddy Home", and "Bleeding Hearted Blues"….She traveled all around the world performing in the Middle East, Europe and Russia….She starred alongside the great Paul Robeson in a London production of the musical "Showboat"…She eventually retired from the scene and became a nurse in the 1950s (she lied about her age and forged a high school diploma because she never graduated from high school)…However, in the 1960s and 70s much interest generated about the reclusive blues artist and she made an amazing comeback which led to touring, performing and recording on a regular basis up into her eighties!!! She died in 1984 at the age of 89.

More info on Alberta Hunter including opportunities to hear some of her earlier recordings:

Remembering Sis. Katheryn Perry Thomas One Year Later...

Katheryn Perry Thomas

Thomas Fascinated With Learning
Classical Pianist Taught At Manassas For 42 Years

By Dakarai I. Aarons
The Memphis Commercial Appeal
Saturday, January 12, 2008

Katheryn Perry Thomas, a veteran educator and part of Memphis music history, died Monday at the age of 92.

She was a classical pianist and one of three surviving members of the Manassas High School Class of 1932.

She was the last remaining student who played for the legendary Jimmie Lunceford, who started the first orchestra in Memphis City Schools.

Born in Memphis on Jan. 19, 1915, she graduated from LeMoyne College and attended Hofstra University, then spent 42 years teaching English and Spanish at Manassas. Its 1969 yearbook was dedicated to her.

Known as "The Queen" to friends and family for her classy, always well-dressed appearance, Ms. Thomas was twice the local chapter president of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority and was involved with Calvary Episcopal Church, said friend Novella Arnold.

For her contributions to the Bluff City, Ms. Thomas was given the key to the city of Memphis.

"She was just a wonderful person," Arnold said. "When I grow up, I want to be like her."

Retirement didn't slow Ms. Thomas down. She kept up her music, playing her Steinway piano and attending theater and opera, said niece Angela Perry.

And she also toured the world, hitting every continent except Asia, she said. But education remained at the top of her mind.

"She was fascinated with learning," Perry said. "As she told me, to stay young, you must think like the young."

A memorial service will be today at 1:45 p.m. at Calvary, 102 North Second.

Her body has been donated to the Memphis-based Medical Education & Research Institute.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that memorials go to Calvary or to an organization of the donor's choice.

Ms. Thomas is survived by a brother, Donald Perry of California, and two caregivers, Jennifer Franklin and Michael Christian of Memphis.

-- Dakarai I. Aarons: 901-529-6515
See Also...

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