After opening for Emmylou Harris at the Levitt Shell last year, the Memphis Dawls — Holly Cole, Jana Misener, and Krista Wroten — received an open invitation to headline their own show for the venue's next spring/summer concert season.
The Dawls could have played their typical set at the Shell, but, instead, according to Wroten, they wanted to "take advantage of the space" to put on a special show.
"We wanted to spread our wings a bit," Wroten says. The result is a USO-themed concert the trio will preside over at the Shell this Saturday, June 29th. "The Saturday before the Fourth of July was open, and we thought that would be perfect," Wroten says.
"We had liked the Andrews Sisters, and I mentioned to [Wroten and Misener], let's do a Fourth of July show of Andrews Sisters. We could do the harmonies, and it would be so much fun," Cole says. "But the band was also working on string arrangements for our own material, and it grew into something bigger."
The USO — United Service Organization — has provided entertainment and support for U.S. troops from 1941 to the present, but the Dawls will take their inspiration from the classic WWII USO shows, the era of the Andrews Sisters and Bob Hope. Local actor G.B. Shannon will emcee the show and do comedy sets in between the music and in the spirt of Hope.
The Dawls will perform two sets. The first will showcase original material alongside an eight-piece chamber orchestra and recruited-for-the-show rhythm section Mark Edgar Stuart and John Argroves. The Dawls will return for a second set, in full Andrews Sisters attire, for '40s-era songs alongside the Memphis Doctors big band.
During the show, care-package items will be collected for distribution to U.S. troops stationed overseas. A "wish list" of desired care-package items can be found via the band's website at thememphisdawls.com.
"We're hoping this will go well enough that we can do it again," Wroten says.
Concert Film Series
While the Shell's summer concert series is winding down, music in the park will continue this summer with a weekly concert film series presented by Indie Memphis. This six-film series begins on July 12th with Queen: Live in Budapest and continues through August 24th with Big Star: Live in Memphis, a 1994 reunion concert. In between, the Rolling Stones, the Doors, and Paul McCartney & Wings will be among the featured bands. See indiememphis.com or levittshell.org for more info.
Bobby Bland 1930-2013
One of the key links on the road from blues to soul, Bobby "Blue" Bland, passed away Sunday, at age 83.
A Rosemark, Tennessee, native, Bland first rose to prominence in Memphis as a member of the Beale Streeters, a group that also featured such future luminaries as B.B. King, Junior Parker, Johnny Ace, and Rosco Gordon.
Bland started making his solo mark in the late '50s for the Duke label, which had relocated from Memphis to Houston, scoring R&B hits such as "Farther Up the Road," "Little Boy Blue," and "I Pity the Fool."
Lending his smooth but grave baritone to material that paved the road from blues and R&B to the emerging, gospel-fueled form known as "soul," Bland was an artistic rival of such seminal figures as Ray Charles and Sam Cooke, if not quite a commercial one. Bland's 1961 album Two Steps from the Blues remains one of the towering achievements in any of those forms and perhaps one of the most underrecognized classics in all of pop music.
Bland remained a traditionalist, uncrossed-over hit-maker in the '70s, a period perhaps best remembered now for his "Ain't No Love in the Heart of the City," later prominently sampled on Jay-Z's album The Blueprint.
As the '70s gave way to the '80s, Bland settled in as a fixture on the "chitlin circuit," signing with venerable Mississippi label Malaco and remaining a regional attraction among soul-blues partisans.
It was a career that landed Bland in multiple halls of fame: The Blues Hall of Fame in 1981, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1992, and, most recently, as an inaugural member of the Memphis Music Hall of Fame last year. Bland performed with gravitas and grace at the Cannon Center last November for the Memphis Music Hall's first induction ceremony, sitting onstage and signing his classics "Goin' Down Slow" and "Stormy Monday Blues." Near the end, Bland surveyed the crowd, held up one hand, smiled, and said, simply, "Thank you." But the gratitude was all ours.
Patrick Dodd Back on Beale
Beale Street stalwart Patrick Dodd will perform on Beale with his band this week for the first time since Dodd's run earlier this year on the television series The Voice. The performance, on Saturday, June 29th, at Rum Boogie Café, will be a benefit for the Memphis Blues Society and will also serve as a release party for Dodd's Future Blues Live, now available on iTunes and via Dodd's Bandcamp site, patrickdoddtrio.bandcamp.com. Showtime is 7:30 p.m.