One of the cooler things about building renovations is that sometimes they uncover pieces of history, such as old plaques or advertising signs. Such was the case with the building being converted into residences next to the Webster Avenue Stage in Memphis’ River Arts Fest. I had been standing beside it for a couple of hours or so, and hadn’t noticed anything about it, but when the afternoon sun hit it a certain way, I could clearly make out an old sign: “Chero-Cola Bottling Company.” What on earth was Chero-Cola, I wondered? As it turns out, Chero-Cola, founded by a grocery store owner in Columbus, Georgia in 1915 was the predecessor to the far better-known Royal Crown Cola, or RC, the beverage that went with a moon pie in the Southern past. The founder was trying to find a replacement for Atlanta-based Coca Cola when the Columbus distributor for the latter refused to give him a volume discount he felt he deserved. Although the first Royal Crown beverages appeared earlier (a ginger ale and a root beer), Chero-Cola (did it perhaps include cherry flavoring in the formula?) first appeared in 1915, and only lasted through about 1921, when a court ruled that the designation “cola” could only be used by Chero-Cola’s famous competitor, Coke. Without being able to designate their signature drink as a cola, sales flagged, and the company was renamed from Chero-Cola to Nehi. By the time it introduced a new cola formula in 1933, the name had been changed again to Royal Crown or RC. A court in 1944 overturned the old 1921 decision, and RC’s became officially “colas” again. But the coolest thing is that the relatively-short time that Chero-Cola existed helps us place the Memphis building in time between the years 1915 and 1921. A really cool discovery indeed!
For a Memphian, perhaps the high point of the Pimp C Memorial Concert at A3C was the appearance of Eightball & MJG, one of Memphis’ original rap acts, and one that is still among the city’s best-known and admired. Appropriately, they performed their best-loved songs, including “Pimps”, “Mr. Big” and “Lay It Down.” As Memphians who had relocated to Houston, Ball & MJG had crossed paths with Pimp C and Bun B early in their careers, and expressed their admiration for Pimp C during their performance in Atlanta on Saturday night.
Keep up with Eightball & MJG:
While most of the artists chosen to perform on the Pimp C Memorial Concert were from Texas, a few were from other areas, including T-Mo Goodie of the Goodie Mob. T-Mo has been working on solo material, and it was mostly these songs that he performed at A3C.
Twista first came to prominence on the song “Po Pimp” by a Chicago duo called Do or Die, on the Houston-based Rap-A-Lot label, and the song had a decidedly Texas feel. Still, I had never thought of Twista as having been influenced by Pimp C, yet he said exactly that to the crowd at A3C during the Pimp C Memorial Concert. He also performed his verse from “Po Pimp” and another of his classic songs as the crowd cheered and chanted the lyrics with him.
Keep up with Twista:
Trae tha Truth remains one of Houston’s most beloved rappers, even after the local hip-hop station imposed a ban on his music. He is a perennial favorite at South By Southwest, and was warmly received by the A3C crowd as well.
Keep up with Trae tha Truth:
Houston artist Killa Kyleon got his start as a member of Slim Thugg’s Boss Hogg Outlaws, but for the last several years has been making a name for himself as a solo artist, garnering a lot of attention with performances at South By Southwest in Austin. He is yet another younger Houston artist that shows the heavy influence of the classic Texas style instead of imitating music coming out of Atlanta or other cities. His inclusion on the Pimp C Memorial Concert line-up was very appropriate.
Keep up with Killa Kyleon:
Doughbeezy is a relative newcomer to the Houston rap scene, and only came to my attention a few years ago at South By Southwest in Austin. Yet, unlike a lot of young Houston artists these days, Doughbeezy exhibits a style heavily indebted to the classic Texas rap sound, and was a most appropriate artist to open the final main stage concert at A3C, a concert that was being held to honor the late Pimp C of UGK. Of course, he led the crowd in a rousing version of his anthem “I’m From Texas”.
Keep up with Doughbeezy:
After dinner, I headed back over to the A3C main stage on the festival grounds for what was being billed as the Pimp C Memorial Concert, but I was amazed that before it started, the DJ pulled out a classic Memphis song by Playa Fly, “Getting’ It On”, and nearly everyone in the crowd around me knew the words. Fly really should have been on at least one of the showcases at A3C, as he is a legend.
The Duck Down Bar-B-Que at A3C was sponsored by Duck Down Music, and therefore the main act was Smif-N-Wessun, along with other members of the Boot Camp Click (the Brooklyn one, not the Louisiana one). The surprise for me though was when they broke out with songs off the classic Black Moon album Enter The Stage, which I hadn’t at all been expecting, and which sent me hustling back to the festival area.
Keep up with Smif-N-Wessun:
Young Roddy was not a name I was familiar with, but he was announced as being from Louisiana, and I was told that he was associated with the New Orleans rapper Curren$y. I thought his performance on Saturday afternoon was decent, and Roddy has recently released a new mixtape called Legal Dealing.