Down Beale Street in front of the New Daisy Theater was another great blues band that seemed to be composed mostly of young teenaged musicians and singers, who seemed to be costumed for Halloween. I soon learned that they were a band called Adam Warren and the Kings of Soul, and the young guitar player was especially impressive, even playing behind his back at one point. I also noticed across the street that Memphis bluesman Preston Shannon has opened a place in the former Lil Anthony’s Cafe location which is called King Arthur’s Home-Cooked Meals and Blues Club. I will be interested to see what kind of live music they book there, and how often Preston Shannon performs there himself.
The Blues Ball is an annual event in Memphis sponsored by the Memphis Charitable Foundation to raise money for worthwhile causes, and is the largest annual ball in the United States. This year, the event was held outdoors on Lt. George W Lee Avenue between the Westin Hotel and the Gibson Guitar Factory, and featured a large stage at each end of the street, as well as a third stage on the outdoor rooftop of the Gibson factory, and food from about 20 or so of Memphis’ best restaurants. In addition to great Memphis food, attendees were also treated to great Memphis music from Ruby Wilson, Will Tucker, Preston Shannon, Sam Moore of Sam & Dave fame, and Memphis rap icon Al Kapone with his band. At one point in the evening’s events, fireworks were set off from the roof of the adjacent Rock and Soul Museum, and the heat from them could be felt down on the street in front of the stage. Seen in the crowd were Memphis rappers Tune C and Young AJ, Select-O-Hits’ music buyer Wes Phillips, James Alexander of the Bar-Kays, Memphis soul legend Don Bryant and his wife Ann Peebles and Knox Phillips of Knox Music.
The city of Memphis has a formidable blues tradition, so young men who choose to play the blues are up against some legendary competition and a legacy that is at once inspiring and frightening. But Memphis bluesman Preston Shannon has proven himself equal to the task, a worthy successor to past Memphis greats. With four albums under his belt, and plenty of original songs, Preston Shannon is probably the best-known and best beloved Memphis blues singer today, and has appeared all over the country, as well as in movies and television. His performance at the Memphis Music and Heritage Festival was highly appropriate, and well-received.
Thursday night, August 1, 2013, the Southeast Ballroom of the Memphis Hilton was the scene for the Jus Blues Music Awards, an annual event sponsored by the Atlanta-based Jus Blues Music Foundation. Although Memphis has a number of blues-related events during the year,this is the only one that is uniquely geared to the blues-related subgenre known as “southern soul”. As might be expected, this year’s awards brought out a number of blues and soul stars, including Theodis Ealey, Latimore, Millie Jackson, Preston Shannon, Drink Small, Karen Wolfe, Bobby Rush, Denise LaSalle any many others, as well as representatives of the Blues Foundation. Between awards, Drink Small performed “Rooster Blues”, and after Latimore was presented a lifetime achievement award, he performed his biggest hit “Let’s Straighten It Out” with the band on stage, and was unexpectedly joined by Millie Jackson who came up from the auidence to sing the second verse. It was truly the high point of the evening.