Monday, August 25, 2008

Center for Southern Folklore ~ All Memphis is proud to give you news about

The Center for Southern Folklore!
EVENT: Memphis Music & Heritage festival

Place: Center For Southern Folklore
South Main Street between Peabody Place & Gayoso
Downtown Memphis
DATES: Saturday, August 30, 2008
Sunday, August 31, 2008
TIME: 11:00 a.m. – 11:00 p.m.

FEATURING: Five Stages with:
Over 300 Musical Performers and Dance Troupes
Arts & Crafts by Regional Artists
Expanded Children’s Activities
Cooking Demonstrations
Heritage Talkers and Storytellers

On Labor Day weekend, it won’t be business as usual as the Center for Southern Folklore transforms a small section of South Main Street into the setting for its annual Memphis Music & Heritage Festival, a special celebration of the music, arts and culture of Memphis and the Mississippi Delta region. For much of its 21-year history, the Festival was considered one of the best kept secrets in Memphis, but not anymore. Last year’s Festival reached a whole new level as a crowd estimated at over 30,000 enjoyed two days and five stages of the best music, art, crafts, cooks, heritage talkers and storytellers this region has to offer - and this year should be even better!

The festival runs from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday and Sunday; August 30 and 31, on Main Street between Peabody Place and Gayoso. There are three outside stages and two stages inside the Center for Southern Folklore. Admission to the public is FREE!

To learn more about the 2008 Memphis Music & Heritage Festival, check out the websites:

A short preview of this year’s Festival is on YouTube at:

Of course, the heart and soul of this festival is the music and this year’s roster definitely delivers the goods. From dynamic soul man Bobby Rush to the wild man of rock, Jason D. Williams and a rare joint performance by Jim Dickinson, Sid Selvidge & Jimmy Crosthwait, the Memphis Music and Heritage Festival presents over 300 musical performers who made Memphis the great melting pot of America's musical heritage and keep it cooking today.

The entire festival roster reads like a who’s who of both the traditional and contemporary Memphis music scene including: The Billy Gibson Blues Band, rockabilly legend Sonny Burgess & The Pacers, neo-soul from Tonya Dyson & Green Onions, hip hop artist Al Kapone, rockabilly /bluesman Billy Lee Riley, the modern gospel sounds of Darrel Petties & SIP, country legend Eddie Bond, jazz-blues diva Joyce Cobb, authentic Delta blues from Blind Mississippi Morris and Brad Webb, singer/songwriter Harlan T. Bobo, traditional gospel from the Brown Singers and Spirit of Memphis, jazz and swing with Johnny Yancey’s Big Band, piano boogaloo with Eden Brent, jazz-funk-and-fusion artists FreeWorld featuring Herman Green, urban blues from The Daddy Mack Blues Band, singer/songwriter Pierce Pettis, bluesman Kenny Brown, alt-rockers Alicja Trout & The River City Tanlines, youthful phenoms Homemade Jamz Blues Band, country traditionalist Roy Harper, jug band music from The Jake Leg Stompers, jazz/soul/blues from The City Champs, the Millennium Maddness Drill Team, blues and boogie with Don McMinn & Nightrain and the list goes on and on.

While the roster of over 300 bluegrass, soul, jazz, gospel, rock, folk, blues, country, reggae, rockabilly, funk, Klezmer, rhythm & blues, and Latin musicians will be a major focus for the festival, it’s not the only one. An important feature of each festival is the artists, cooks, dancers and talkers whose crafts and food and stories reflect Memphis and the Mid-South, past and present.

“There’s something for everyone at this year’s Festival,” says Executive Producer Judy Peiser. “If you love traditional folk art, you’ll meet artists and craftspeople. If you’re into dance, you’ll enjoy Choctaw dancers, Chinese dancers, square dancers, African drumming and high energy drill teams/drum lines. Our expanded children’s area will present a delightful collection of puppeteers, storytellers and musicians performing for younger festival-goers.”

“If you want to learn about Southern culinary traditions, cooks will share their secrets. In fact, the cooking demonstrations are some of the most popular shows year after year," said Peiser. "It's an opportunity for people to learn about their past from cooks who demonstrate foodways lost with micro-waved pre-packaged, heat-and-serve

Every year the Festival honors a performer who has made a special contribution to the Memphis music scene. This year’s Festival is dedicated to Laura Dukes or “Little Bit” whose picture graces our posters and t-shirts. Though standing only four feet seven inches and weighing a mere eighty-five pounds, the diminutive Dukes inspired several generations of women performers with a career that began during the heyday of W.C. Handy and lasted most of the 20th century.

Initially a singer and dancer, in the 1930s Laura Dukes began performing with Robert McCollum better known later as Robert Nighthawk. It was from him she learned to accompany herself first on the guitar and later on the ukulele. This led to several years performing with the legendary Memphis Jug Band with Will Shade and Will Batts. In the 1950s, as life on the road lost its luster, Laura worked with Dixieland bands in the Memphis area, playing mostly private parties and festivals. She returned to playing in clubs in the 1970s as a regular performer at Memphis’ “Blues Alley,” fondly remembered as one of the best authentic blues clubs in the country. Dukes performed at Center festivals and events throughout the 1980s and was prominently featured in the Center for Southern Folklore documentary film, All Day & All Night: Memories from Beale Street Musicians.

One of the most amazing facts about an enormous undertaking like this Festival is that it’s produced by the Center for Southern Folklore with a full and part-time staff of only a half dozen people. The secret is VOLUNTEERS. Every year, dozens of Memphians and Mid-Southerners contribute their time and their energy to a variety of jobs – setting up vendor booths, serving dinners, keeping the trolley tracks clear, decorating Main Street with festive lighting and so on. This volunteer spirit makes it a truly Memphis festival and represents all the good things about our region that we celebrate every day at the Center.

If you or your organization would like to be part of the special team of volunteers that produces the Memphis Music & Heritage Festival, please take a moment and fill out the volunteer form posted at and send it in. The Festival staff asks that prospective volunteers attend the remaining volunteer orientation meeting on August 18 at 6:00 p.m. in the Folklore Store at 123 S. Main. There, volunteers will meet the staff, learn about the duties involved, and get a background briefing about the Festival. Volunteers must attend this meeting if they weren’t there for the previous ones. Whether or not the volunteer form has been filled out, volunteers are still welcome to attend this meeting. The staff will do their best to put this year’s volunteers into positions fitting their desired placement and overall abilities.

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