Booker T. Washington is Memphis’ oldest Black high school, and Memphis’ oldest Black high school marching band. Like Manassas, BTW has been through some rough times with lower enrollment, particularly since Cleaborn Homes was torn down, but their band seems to be on the way back up in numbers, based on what I could see at the Southern Heritage Classic Parade, 9/14/13
The Cowborettes are one of Memphis’ better-known majorette squads, and although they usually compete without drummers, they always march with a drumline when they’re in a parade. In this year’s Southern Heritage Classic Parade, they marched with the Blood Sweat & Tears drumline.
Manassas High School was the second Black high school in Memphis history to have a marching band, and the original band director of the school was none other than Jimmy Lunceford, the man who went on to become a legendary big band star of the 1930’s, fronting a band largely composed of former Manassas students. Later, Emerson Able mentored many fine Memphis musicians at Manassas, including jazz stars Frank Strozier and Booker Little, as well as Al Green’s drummer Howard Grimes. Although Manassas has suffered from low enrollment in recent years, it appears that its band program is on the way back up, as evidenced by their appearance in this year’s Southern Heritage Classic Parade, 9/14/13
The Millennium Madness Drill Team & Drum Squad is one of Memphis’ premiere drill teams, and one of the few that still gives young men an opportunity to be drummers. Here they are in this year’s Southern Heritage Classic Parade in Orange Mound, 9/14/13
The Talladega College Marching Band is actually quite good, and has been a frequent visitor to Memphis over the last several years, appearing in the Southern Heritage Classic Parade, local band battles, and the Whitehaven Christmas Parade last year.
Although I was always interested in music, my interest in marching bands and drumlines has a lot to do with a basketball game that Bartlett played against Fayette-Ware High School back in 1984. It was Fayette-Ware’s basketball homecoming that night, and their young drumline stood against the wall of the old gym in Somerville and played a string of funky cadences for the majorettes, ending with a rousing version of Run DMC’s “It’s Like That and That’s The Way It Is” with its rudimental snare breakdown. (In one of the odder coincidences in my life, I later attended UT-Martin with one of the drummers who played that night, Edward Thompson Jr.) Anyway, over the years I’ve kept up with Fayette-Ware’s bands, which are usually first-rate year after year, and this year’s seems good as always. They drew a considerable amount of cheering and applause as they came down Park Avenue during the parade.
The marching band from Chattanooga’s historic Howard High School marches in the Southern Heritage Classic Parade on Park Avenue in Memphis’ Orange Mound neighborhood, Saturday 9/14/13. Howard High School has been noted for their excellent bands for many years.
The Tennessee State University Aristocrat of Bands marches down Park Avenue in Orange Mound during the Southern Heritage Classic Parade in Memphis on Saturday, 9/14/13
The Jackson State University Sonic Boom of the South marching band is usually the first band in the annual Southern Heritage Classic Parade in Orange Mound, and is extremely popular, as there have always been a number of Memphis musicians in that band, and many of the Memphis high school band programs are led by educators who attended Jackson State.
Each year, Southern Heritage Classic day begins with a parade down Park Avenue in Orange Mound, featuring a number of bands, drumlines, majorettes, drill teams, custom cars, floats, Cowboys and Steelers fan clubs, and, of course, politicians, both those already in office, and those running for office. The DJs at Club Memphis always set up their equipment on the parking lot out front and start the day off with good southern soul, and by 10 AM, both sides of the street are usually lined with spectators. The parade starts at Melrose High School and proceeds west to the intersection of Park and Airways, where it disbands.