After lunch, the Cutting Edge NOLA Music Business Conference held a rap and hip-hop summit at Cafe Istanbul in the St. Roch neighborhood sponsored by Shive Magazine. There were several preliminary presentations, including speeches by the owner of Shive Magazine, and by local rap CEO and activist Sess 4-5 of Nuthin But Fire Records, followed by a number of rap performances, including one by St. Louis-based hip-hop group the A-Team.
It is possible to find free parking during SXSW if you don’t mind a fair amount of walking, so I parked over on the Eastside, north of 11th Street, and walked down the hill beside the Texas State Cemetery. When I got to 7th Street, I was in the mood for a latte, so I stopped at Vintage Heart Coffee before continuing my walk further down to East 6th Street. There, beside La Perla Bar, I noticed that the Rolling Record Store from Jack White’s Third Man Records had set up on the food trailer lot where the Sailor Jerry’s showcase was going on. I hung out there for a minute, and then walked further down to the Eastern, where a hip-hop showcase was supposed to be taking place.
While walking from the New Roxy back to my car, I noticed this record label and recording studio in Clarksdale called Act Like You Know Records, which I don’t recall from previous Juke Joint Festivals.
Apparently Stomper Time Records (UK) is going to begin to document the superb and short-lived Home of the Blues label that Ruben Cherry and Celia Camp operated in Memphis from 1960-1962, and that is great news, considering that the two P-Vine Club reissues of Home of the Blues material have been unavailable since the mid-1990’s.
Home of the Blues began shortly after World War II as a record shop owned by Ruben Cherry at 107 Beale Street in Memphis. Its location near Beale and Main guaranteed that both Blacks and whites would buy music there, and they did. The shop was frequented by radio rebel Dewey Phillips and King Elvis himself, and Johnny Cash’s song “Home of the Blues” was allegedly titled in honor of the shop. By 1960, Ruben had gone into business with his aunt Celia G. Camp in forming a record label called Home of the Blues, which recorded a number of blues and early soul discs during its furious two years of recording.
Many of the Home of the Blues session were produced by a young Willie Mitchell, who at that time had produced a few sessions for Eddie Bond’s Stomper Time label. He recorded a number of instrumentals, as well as recordings by his doo-wop group The Four Kings featuring Don Bryant, all of which are documented on the Stomper Time CD Original Memphis Rhythm ‘N’ Blues. Of particular note are the sultry mambo “Tanya” and its driving Memphis-beat twin “Yvonne”, and the acapella Four Kings tracks that show strong points of similarity to the mysterious Sun group Hunki-Dori. Lead singer Don Bryant would follow Mitchell over to Joe Coughi’s Hi Records label, where he would have a much bigger career.
Most of the other Home of the Blues artists are featured on Rockin’ Rhythm ‘N’ Blues From Memphis, including Roy Brown, Dave Dixon, Larry Birdsong, Billy Adams, Billy Lee Riley, The 5 Royales, Gene “Bowlegs” Miller and the mysterious “Cleanhead Cootsie” who was one of many alter egos for the great Memphis saxophonist Fred Ford. Highlights here include Willie Cobb’s magnificent “You Don’t Love Me” which made inroads even into Jamaica, Larry Birdsong’s gospelish “I’ll Let Nothing Separate Me From Your Love” and two tracks from the rarely-recorded Robinsonville, Mississippi bluesman Woodrow Adams.
While the release of these two discs from Stomper Time sheds a welcome spotlight on an obscure era in Memphis music history, the 61 tracks on these two releases only scratch the surface of what exists in the Home of the Blues catalog. Here’s hoping that the good folks at Stomper Time will eventually release the entire output of this great-but-forgotten label.
After Easter morning services at my church, Easter Sunday proved to be dull indeed. I have no relatives in Memphis, my best friend had to work, and a lot of restaurants were closed. But I had seen on Facebook that Windy City Grille in Como, Mississippi would be open, and with evening church and choir practice canceled due to the holiday, I decided to drive down and have a leisurely lunch. Perhaps afterwards I could find a blues picnic, car show or something else to get into. I have to mention that Windy City Grille is an amazing restaurant with an incredible pizza recipe that is said to be similar to Uno’s in Chicago. Having never had Uno’s, I can’t say how Windy City compares, but it’s good enough that Memphis people used to occasionally make the drive to Como for it. More recently, a location has opened closer to Memphis in Hernando, and the food there is just as good, but I still prefer the Como location’s ambiance, and the town of Como itself. Next to the grille, I noticed a poster for a group called the Como Mamas, which I had never heard of until I was reading an article about Mississippi artists at South By Southwest. The three gospel singers are signed to Daptone Records, the same label that earlier had released the excellent Como Now compilation.
After lunch, I saw signs around the town of Como for a car show at a place called LP’s Ball Park, but try as I might, I could not find it. While trying to find it, I found something else, the beautiful Davis Chapel Church from 1851 on the Old Panola Road west of Sardis. When I finally stopped at the convenience store in Como and asked about the car show, I was told it had been postponed a week due to the weather. There was a Lightning Malcolm birthday party scheduled for 7 PM in Clarksdale, but that was still three hours away, and I couldn’t think of how I’d possibly kill three hours in Clarksdale on Easter Sunday. So I reluctantly drove on back to Memphis.