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Local Beat

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This week, the focus is on South Memphis -- or more appropriately, Soulsville U.S.A. A longtime bastion of Memphis music greats, the neighborhood is once again on the rise, largely due to the powers that be at The Stax Museum of American Soul Music and The Stax Music Academy. Folks from all over town can get into the groove this week, when Soulsville U.S.A. hosts its 2003 Soul-A-Thon, which will benefit both the museum and the music academy.

An atypical fund-raiser, the Soul-A-Thon will feature performances from local greats Susan Marshall, Kelley Hurt & Chris Parker, William Lee Ellis, The Peacemakers, and Lane Wilkins. Three Memphis institutions with direct links to the Soulsville legacy -- Ann Peebles, The Bo-Keys, and The Masqueraders -- will also lend a helping hand, as will Stax Music Academy students performing as the Stax Rhythm Section, Street Corner Harmonies, and the Stax Academy Jazz Band.

While the museum itself will be open special hours (9 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Thursday, October 16th, and Friday, October 17th), the fund-raiser will kick off at 11 a.m. on Thursday with the booming sounds of the Overton High School Marching Band, which will also make an Adopt-A-School presentation. A musical petting zoo, Memphis Police Department programs, and games are sure to appease the kiddies, while more academic-minded music fans are sure to enjoy panel discussions on Memphis music and showings of such films as Wattstax and Tom Dowd & the Language of Music.

Kids 12 and under get in free; adults making contributions to the Soul-A-Thon event will receive free museum entrance after 5:30 p.m. both days. For more info, go to SoulsvilleUSA.com.

Just around the corner, at Royal Recording Studios, Willie Mitchell has been busy wrapping up production on his latest project, an album with Rev. Al Green. The 12-song disc, titled I Can't Stop, will be released on the Blue Note label next month. It is the first collaboration between Green and Mitchell since the duo parted company in the late '70s.

I Can't Stop features some of the best players Memphis has to offer, including guitarist Teenie Hodges and bassist Leroy Hodges (who played on Green's biggest hits, including "Love and Happiness" and "Let's Stay Together"), the Rhodes-Chalmers-Rhodes back-up singers, saxophonists Andrew Love, Lannie McMillan, and Jim Spake, trumpeter Scott Thompson, trombonist Jack Hale, and drummer Steve Potts.

I Can't Stop will hit stores on Tuesday, November 18th.

But that ain't all: East Trigg Avenue Baptist Church, which was originally located at 1189 East Trigg in the heart of Soulsville U.S.A., celebrated its 101st anniversary last Sunday. The church has gone down in rock-and-roll history books as the home of Dr. William Herbert Brewster -- and as Elvis Presley's favorite house of worship.

While the Presleys belonged to the Assembly of God Church, located at 1084 McLemore Avenue, Elvis preferred the services at East Trigg, which was less than a mile away. He'd listen to The Blackwood Brothers gospel quartet, members of the congregation at the Assembly of God, then slip out during Reverend Hammill's long-winded sermons and drive down to East Trigg, where Dr. Brewster led the services and directed soloist Queen C. Anderson through rousing renditions of his original compositions "Move On Up a Little Higher" and "How I Got Over."

WHBQ broadcast their Camp Meeting of the Air from East Trigg on Sunday evenings -- which Sam Phillips always tuned in to -- and oftentimes, the Blackwood Brothers, Jimmy Hammill, and other whites from the Assembly of God would attend.

Little known outside religious circles, Dr. Brewster is recognized within the Baptist Church as the key architect of the modern gospel sound. After his death in 1987, East Trigg moved around the corner to Bellevue Boulevard.

The choir at East Trigg just recorded a CD of Brewster's compositions called SonShine. Profits from the nine-song disc will go into funds for a community homeless shelter and a Family Life Center at the church that will bear Brewster's name, both projects partnered by the United Way. As East Trigg's interim pastor Rev. George W. Robinson, executive producer of SonShine, recently explained in a press release, "Dr. Brewster's music is an enduring American legacy that will forever bear fruit. He was all about celebrating and spreading the Word of God for the good of people."

SonShine is available at area music stores and also at East Trigg Avenue Baptist Church, which is now located in a new building at 1315 Bellevue. Call the church office at 942-2763 for more details.

You can e-mail Local Beat at localbeat@memphisflyer.com.

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