The annual Southern Heritage Classic is far more than a football game. Each year, on the Saturday morning of the game at 9 AM, the Southern Heritage Classic Parade begins from the corner of Park Avenue and Haynes Street, and proceeds along Park through Orange Mound to the Lamar-Airways Shopping Center. The parade usually includes the Jackson State University and Tennessee State University bands, along with majorettes, drill teams,drumlines, Cowboys and Steelers fan clubs, car clubs and many others. There used to be more marching bands in the parade as well, but for the last few years, the parade has conflicted with the Southern Heritage Classic Battle of the Bands in Whitehaven, so there have been fewer bands recently, but the hometown favorites, the Melrose High School Sound of the Mound Marching Band always closes out the parade. It’s always a lot of fun, family and food.
The Sparkling Diamondettes are a fairly-recent Memphis majorette squad, and they have a drumline that plays the cadences for the young girls to march to during parades, such as the Southern Heritage Classic parade in Orange Mound, 9/14/13
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
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 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
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.
Southern Heritage Classic tailgating, Tiger Lane, Memphis TN, 9/8/12
Melrose School became a full high school in 1946, the same year that Hamilton High School opened, and since then Melrose has been indelibly linked with the Orange Mound neighborhood. The school has been known for excellence in football, basketball and music, and the Sound of the Mound marching band is the favorite band in the Southern Heritage Classic Parade, 9/8/12
Bikers enjoy the Southern Heritage Classic Parade, Orange Mound, Memphis TN, 9/8/12
The Star Steppers Marching Majorettes and Drummers march in the Southern Heritage Classic Parade, Orange Mound, Memphis TN, 9/8/12