Check out Part one of this series by clicking on the following link:
Tha Artstorian Reports...
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 LuncefordCotton Club in New York City…
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)…
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 BluesAl 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…
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: