David Porter, who worked with Isaac Hayes to craft some of Stax Records' most compelling songs, is a busy man. Though he's not often seen onstage, this Saturday he will host a one-of-a-kind evening of conversation and performances, featuring a diverse sampling of his friends from over five decades in the record business. Here, he talks a bit about the star-studded event, and the community cause he's hoping it will benefit.
Memphis Flyer: Tell me a little about the show you'll be hosting. It's a rather unique format.
David Porter: This is the second David Porter and Friends show that I've done at the Horseshoe Casino. The first one was a sellout. And I had Samuel L. Jackson, the actor, I had Julius Irving, the athlete. I had Isaac Hayes, and J. Blackfoot. And the casino had been actively wanting me to do this show again for several years. I just agreed to do it for a couple of reasons. One, I wanted to create a bit more attention for a nonprofit that I was the founder of, the Consortium MMT. But the primary focus of it was me putting some friends of mine together. Included in that, I will have Stevie Wonder, who was the first recipient of the Epitome of Soul Award, present the award on this show to William Bell.
It's a great opportunity to present the Epitome of Soul award to William. We were going to present the award a year ago, and we were working with Shelby Farms but we were not able. There was a storm that happened and kinda messed it up. It was flooded and all, and so we decided not to opt on that. And so because we did have the award, and had named William Bell as a recipient even before he won a Grammy, we wanted to be sure and not let another year go by. So this show was a great opportunity to do that.
But the show's structure is akin to The Tonight Show, a talk show with entertainment. I have friends of mine that I sit on a couch with, on the stage, talk about their careers, we have videos of their lives, we have a fun discussion that's in-depth. I'll be doing that with Stevie Wonder. I'll be doing that with William Bell as well. With Ray Parker, Jr. as well. With Richard Roundtree, the star of Shaft. It is that kind of event. The reason I call it "and Friends" is because I create a personal kind of connection for the audience, with people that they've certainly heard about and seen, but never had this kind of view of them, with them talking about their lives in such a candid way. Involved with that are performances by these artists as well.
I suppose you've assembled a select house band for the event?
Yes. Gary Goin, who has been associated with me for more than 20 years, who is a known musician here, and has bands of his own that tour to casinos in other parts of the country, is the house band for this show. It's the Gary Goin Band. There'll be a ten piece band on that stage.
Will you be performing as well?
I'm not gonna be performing. I'm the host of the event. I interview people, though I talk about my career, certainly. Some of my material is performed and showcased. But I'm just like Jimmy Fallon, except a lot of this involves friends of mine. For instance, Stevie Wonder is going to sing a tribute to William Bell. I'm gonna refresh people on the success and the magnitude of success that Ray Parker, Jr. has had in his career. People don't know. People don't know that one of the most accomplished songs in the songbook of America is “Ghostbusters”. They don't know that. They have no idea how well this man lives. Conversationally, it becomes extremely entertaining and informative for an audience to experience that. But then also to see that he's still performing is also special.
William Bell... very few people in this area know the magnitude of William Bell's success. They don't know that he had a record company in the 2000's that had a number one major record on the label that he started. And then he just won a Grammy this year. To be able to see a guy talk about his life and career and go through all that and get up on a stage and be able to perform in a quality way is a special thing. And then, how many people can see Stevie just sit on a couch and talk?
It has that personal dimension because you've known all these folks for years now.
Yes. Exactly. And see I'll also be showing them some information on a nonprofit that I started in 2012, and why I started it and why I wanted to give something back. And what it all means and why it's impacting lives and that whole thing. And so it's gonna be an entertaining show, I can tell you that.
Well darn, I was hoping to hear you perform something off [1974 Stax album] Victim of the Joke?
Ha ha! Well, I still could do that but no, this is not me performing. This is me just showcasing and talking about other talents. And also I have an artist who's on my new record label, Made In Memphis Entertainment (MIME): Porcelan, who is doing very well right now. She'll be performing. And she's a knockout. I mean she's a tremendous talent. She's a local Memphis talent who was performing with some of the booking agencies around here that have bands playing in the circuit for colleges and private parties and the like. And I heard about her and I wanted to hear her. Then I met her and was blown away. She's 26 years old, just a beautiful young lady and extremely talented. And so we created an artist development with her and now we've got a record, "The Real Thing Don't Change," that's getting noticed nationally. She's a Memphis kid, born here in Memphis, went to Westwood High School in Memphis.
So MIME is quite distinct from the Consortium MMT?
Without a doubt. MIME has a 16,000 square foot building at 400 Union. We have three recording studios, state of the art. We have a roster right now of four artists, we're gonna have as many as ten artists on our label. We just released the first record on Porcelan in September, we're getting ready to release her album, as well as two others, the first quarter of 2018. I'm very excited about this company.
Additionally I'm just really really pleased about being able to do something as a give back with the Consortium. What we wanted to do, and I wanted to do, was give a significant give-back that could carry on well into the future. So I developed a nonprofit that dealt with giving aspiring songwriters, record producers and recording artists an opportunity to learn from many of us that have had success doing it, whereby they can incorporate whatever their natural instincts are into what they do with this additional knowledge, and use that part of it that complements what they're looking for. And so I started the program with a clearly focused emphasis on three areas: songwriting, recording and performing. And inside of that I developed a curriculum, for lack of a better word, that follows processes from A to Z with that.
It was not a profit center for me, I make no salary from it. Matter of fact, I started it with my own money. I got many of my friends who knew that I wanted to do this for the right reasons, and they were comfortable with giving their time to participate. So what I got them to do, I have 135 plus videos of some of the biggest names out there, talking about the steps they use in their various processes. For instance, Valerie Simpson, her and her husband, Nick Ashford, of Ashford and Simpson, in addition to being great artists they were great songwriters. So Valerie is on film in our catalog, talking about her creative steps as a songwriter. Jimmy Jam, who produced Janet Jackson, is another example. I have him on video talking about his steps in producing records. And what he does in order to make that effective. I have Philip Bailey, of Earth, Wind and Fire, talking about what artists need to do not only to preserve their voices, but to reinforce their voices in a more credible way to last through a long career in this business.
And the talents in the program, they have to do independent studies to show what they've learned. And then I sit down and talk with them individually about how their progress has gone, and if we feel that they could be a credible reflection of the talent pool that's coming out of our area, we then lobby other record companies and music publishers to come look at these talents. We don't sign any artists, they're free to do whatever they wanna do with their music, and who they associate with. But we just try to better prepare them to be more effective. And the program is really impactful on young folks. In a really emotional way. I don't wanna sound like people crying and that kinda thing, but it's really like that because it's really impacting people.
David Porter and Friends takes place on Saturday, November 11, 2017, at Horseshoe Tunica’s Bluesville Showcase Nightclub in Tunica, 8:00 pm.