In the field of Black music worldwide, no other musical instrument is as important as the drums. Not only is percussion the musical foundation for much Black music and dance, but the instrument looms large in the cultural memory of people throughout the African diaspora. So it was only fitting for Arkansas’ best drummers to be honored at an event called The Drummer Is In The House, which was held at the Revolution Room on President Clinton Avenue in the River Market area of Little Rock on Thursday July 10. The event, sponsored by Clifford Drummaboy Aaron, featured performances by current and former Little Rock drummers Yvette Preyer, Rod Pleasants, Steve Bailey, Aerion Jamaal Lee, Jonathan “JJ” Burks and Charles Anthony Thompson. Rather than just a lot of extended solos, most of the drummers played with their individual bands, and even some singers, performing songs from the neo-soul, jazz and gospel traditions. But there were great solos too, including one from Jamaal Lee full of afro-caribbean rhythms and patterns, and one from Charles Anthony Thompson exhibiting extended sticking and tone techniques including pitch bends, and plenty of jazz influence. The final highlight of the evening was an event called the Roundabout, at which drummers moved across the stage from the first drum set, to the second, to the third, while Yvette Preyer kept a basic conga pattern for them on an octapad. As one drummer would exit the stage, another would come on from the left, enabling all the drummers to have an opportunity to shed three at a time, and to play each of the three drum sets. The Drummer Is In The House was truly a major event that highlighted some really great drummers, and a lot of other great horn players, guitarists, bassists, keyboardists and singers. I am told that future events will be held at the Revolution Room to highlight the other instrument families, and I am looking forward to it.
Bama’s Record Shop on Bailey Avenue in Jackson, Mississippi has been the premiere place to buy blues, soul, gospel and rap music in Jackson for well over 20 years. Formerly a location of James Bennett’s BIP Records, the store still features a considerable amount of vinyl, and a good selection of both new and used discs, including some that are hard-to-find discontinued items. The selection of oldie rap is especially good. Bama’s is located just north of the Virden Addition neighborhood at 2618 Bailey Avenue Extended and can be reached the old-fashioned way at (601) 983-2040.
The Barnes Family gospel singers perform on the Neosoulville stage at the River Arts Festival in Memphis, 10/27/12
Memphis gospel group The Barnes Family performs on the Neosoulville stage at the River Arts Festival, with James Sexton on drums and Dwayne “MonoNeon” Thomas Jr on bass, 10/27/12
Rewind Music and More is one of Dallas’ premiere stores for hip-hop, gospel and blues CD’s and mixtapes. After a number of years in Oak Cliff’s Wynnewood Village, they have relocated to a store front at 3823 Ross Avenue just northeast of downtown Dallas. They’re definitely worth a visit for any fans of Texas rap. And remember, there’s no experience quite like visiting an independent record store.
Also on Adams Street was this building that I immediately recognized as a former location of Mahalia Jackson’s Fried Chicken. Note the similarity to the former location in Orange Mound in Memphis, where the words “Orange Mound” have been spray-painted on the upward swing of the roof. Mahalia Jackson’s Chicken System Inc. was an African-American fast-food venture launched by a group of Memphis businessmen led by A. W. Willis and Ben Hooks. Mahalia Jackson contributed her name and at least a portion of the chicken recipe. Locations were opened in predominantly-Black neighborhoods across America, but unfortunately, the Memphis businessmen decided to partner with former Tennessee gubernatorial candidate John Jay Hooker, who was seeming to have great success with Minnie Pearl’s Fried Chicken. Hooker’s Performance Systems Inc. bought 50% of the Mahalia Jackson system, and found rough going when they ran out of regions of the country to sell franchises. Ultimately all of the Minnie Pearl’s and Mahalia Jackson’s locations closed except for the Nashville franchise. That store was eventually purchased by E. W. Mayo, and became more famous for fried pies than chicken. I have heard that it now has closed as well. But this Tallahassee location, which I didn’t know about, is remarkably well-preserved.
These are the 45s that turned up in the flea market in Forrest City:
THE SILVERTONE SINGERS OF WYNNE, ARKANSAS feat. LONNIE HARRIS JR. Where Jesus Is/Go Back to God DESIGNER 5541 (1970)
THE SHAW SINGERS He Never Left Me Alone/ Go Out in Jesus’ Name MESSENGER 7006
THE WOLFE FAMILY OF MARIANNA, ARKANSAS I Felt A Change/In The End DESIGNER 7280 (1977)
THE SHAW SINGERS Don’t Move The Mountain/I’ve Got Something D-VINE SPIRITUALS 4163
THE SHAW SINGERS Life Will Soon Be Over/ I Made A Promise To The Lord DESIGNER 8875 (1970)
THE ZION JUBILEE SINGERS Be What You Are/Feel the Fire Burning DESIGNER 6320 (1972)
JESSE “GUITAR” BOX with HARRY DALLAS BAND Heart Trouble/ Lying Girl ACQUARIAN 9002
BOBBY RUSH She Caught Me With My Pants Down/ Buttermilk Kid LAJAM 008 (1984)
J. T. WATKINS Baby, Let’s Get Married/ Lady’s Man BIG THIGH 001 (1987)
R. L. HAMILTON & THE HEAVEN BOUND SINGERS MARIANNA, ARK I Found A Joyful Song/ He Did A Miracle MULTITUDE 1237 (1970)
BROOKLYN ALLSTARS Let’s Rap/ Swing Low Sweet Chariot JEWEL 171 (1965?)
BROOKLYN ALLSTARS Did You Stop to Pray This Morning/A Prayer for Today JEWEL 186
BROOKLYN ALLSTARS He Said He Would Move/ Family Prayer NASHBORO 952
THE GABLEAIRS Set My Soul on Fire/Something About the Lord SONGBIRD 1125
EMMA TUCKER Come On and Go/ Look and See NASHBORO 45-753
THE DELTA BIG FOUR Lord, Deliver Me/ Story of the Blind Man SONGBIRD 1110
ERNEST FRANKLIN AND THE VOICES OF MOUNT EAGLE Blessed Quietness/ Walking With The King CHECKER 5026
THE GOSPEL CLASSICS I’ve Been Born Again/ Don’t Let Hate Tear It Down CREED 5204
SUPREME ANGELS Shame on You/Lord, Bring Me Down NASHBORO 1009 (1974)
BOB BOLER AND THE MELLTONES OF GARY, INDIANA One Day We’ll Meet/ You Can’t Hurry God STAFF 222
ERNEST FRANKLIN My Lord and I/ There’s A Leak In This Old Building JEWEL 209 (1973)
MYSTICS Peace of Mind/ Help Me to Carry On STAFF 1001
SHELIA YARBROUGH AND THE T-Y SIX This is My Dream, My Prayer/ No Stains In My Book TRIANGLE SOUND 8770
At Forrest City, I headed over to Highway 70 where there was a flea market, and while I didn’t find any Abraham and His Sons or Ike Noble and the Uptights records, I did find a stash of Black gospel 45s, some of them from Wynne and Marianna, Arkansas, and a few on the Designer and Messenger labels out of Memphis.
I decided to stay on Highway 70 through Brinkley (the flea markets there were rather disappointing), and when I got to North Little Rock, E-Rokk gave me directions to where he was staying and I went and met him there. Since his girlfriend had to work, we took the kids with us and headed to a pizza place I had found on my iPhone called ZaZa’s Fresh Salads and Wood-Fired Pizzas on Kavanaugh Boulevard in Little Rock. The restaurant featured salads and pizzas cooked in a brick oven, as well as gelato, espresso and cappucino. We all enjoyed our pizzas, got some gelato for dessert, and then headed downtown to President Clinton Avenue to Andina Coffee Roasters where I bought some pounds of coffee to take home.
The kids were intirgued by an African drummer who was playing a djembe in front of the River Market, and then they wanted to run into a playground along the riverfront, so we walked over there, and then across the river bridge over to North Little Rock and back.
I had to get back to Memphis, so after it began to get dark, I dropped them back off at the apartment in North Little Rock and headed back toward Memphis. At West Memphis, I had seen a Huddle House and so I decided to eat dinner there, but, when I got there, I found that it was newly built and had not opened yet. So, now wanting breakfast, I settled for the Iron Skillet truckstop in West Memphis, and found that the breakfast there was really quite good.