Diego Winegardner was front and center at Southern Avenue’s performance July 27 at the Peabody Rooftop Party sponsored by the Memphis Flyer. The Memphis band is one of the groups selected for the upcoming MEMPHO Music Festival Oct. 6 and 7 at Shelby Farms Park. Winegardner, a former Memphian, is the festival’s founder and the CEO of Big River Presents, which is putting on the event.
“I think it’s completely refreshing to know that soul and R&B music is alive and well and kicking in Memphis,” said Winegardner, 49. “Southern Avenue, to me, reaches back into the rich history of soul music that came out of Memphis, that came out of Stax, and was so important. And it’s so appropriate they’re on the Stax label. They bring it into a modern context.”
Winegardner, who lives in Greenwich, Connecticut, was in town meeting with potential sponsors and was conducting “ongoing production work on the festival.”
HIs idea to hold the MEMPHO festival in Memphis began with his “rediscovery of Shelby Farms Park. I came up on it on this bike ride on the Greenline that took me to Shelby Farms Park with some friends last summer.”
Winegardner hadn’t been to Memphis since 2009 after the death of his father, the late Roy Winegardner, who succeeded the late Kemmons Wilson as chairman and CEO of Holiday Inns Inc. “I, obviously, was blown away by what was going on in Shelby Farms Park, but I was really energized in what I saw going on in Memphis, in general. In particular, looking at all the recent economic developments. Whether you’re looking at Crosstown, restaurants popping up everywhere or just the energy on the street, it sure seemed like Memphis was in the midst of a renaissance.”
Winegardner, who has worked in finance in New York for more than 20 years, felt the time was right for the right kind of music festival. A “lifelong avid music lover,” Winegardner said he’s attended “every music festival of note - all the major ones,” including Lollapalooza, Austin City Limits and the New Orleans Jazz Fest. “I’ve seen first hand the impact a festival done right can have on a community.”
He wanted to “create a festival that’s more than just music.” He wants people to come from all over the country to “enjoy all the sights of Memphis and do the walk through the history of Memphis music, but listen to live music in a sensational setting with the best culinary experience you can possibly garner in Memphis. We want to bring out all the flavors of Memphis.”
National acts already booked include the Grammy Award-winning Cage the Elephant and Jason Isbell and Grammy-nominated Anderson .Paak and Cold War Kids.
“We are in the midst of developing a local stage,” Winegardner said. “And that local stage will have a full complement of Memphis bands. Local bands. We’re looking to have participation from anyone from School of Rock to more recognized local bands.”
When he was in his 20s, Winegardner, a graduate of Memphis University School and Cornell University, held “super jams” that he dubbed “Bottom Feeder Ball.” “Putting together R. L. Burnside and Blues Traveler” in his garage on Wagner Place overlooking the bluff. “I’ve always been a big fan of music, like so many. I think Memphis deserves a world-class festival and experience. And something that can grow organically over time.”
Locals will be seeing a lot of Winegardner, who is married and has three children. “My plan is to spend a considerable amount of time in Memphis,” he said. “And acquire property and build our office as we evolve into an annual event.”
Pat Kerr Tigrett wore a yellow raincoat at Rhythm on the River (Poppa Willie’s Big Night) July 27 at Royal Studios.
“I wore this in honor of Ann Peebles: ‘I Can’t Stand the Rain,’” she said.
Don Bryant, who was standing nearby, seconded Pat’s response. Bryant is one of the composers of “I Can’t Stand the Rain,” which was recorded by his wife, Ann Peebles. The record was produced by the late Willie “Poppa Willie” Mitchell, Royal Studios owner.
Don “was the first vocalist that Pop ever worked with,” said Grammy-winning producer Lawrence “Boo” Mitchell, who owns Royal Studios. “Don used to sing on Willie Mitchell records. Don also was with Don Bryant and the Four Kings in the early ‘60s.”
Don and the Bo-Keys performed some of his old Willie Mitchell tunes during the event.
Entertainment also included singer Ashton London.
And starring at the event was a buffet featuring cuisine prepared by Boo’s aunt, Yvonne Mitchell. Fare included salmon croquettes, mushroom, chicken and rice; greens, black-eyed peas, homemade peach cobbler and lemon pound cake. And - the piece de resistance - “Von’s Famous Chow Chow.”
“Rhythm on the River” was one of the special events surrounding the 60th anniversary of Royal Studios. The next event will be a concert featuring local, regional and national acts Oct. 14 at the Levitt Shell, Boo said.
About 50 bands performed at Our Scene United, a three-day music fest held July 27-29 at the Hi-Tone.
“Basically, it’s all about Memphis,” said Taylor Agee, owner of Refreshing Shows, which presented the festival. “It was something that’s all about community and it’s full of diversity. All the bands were different. So many genres represented and yet everyone is in town. It’s all about bringing different kinds of music together for one great experience.”
The first Our Scene United was held in 2011, Agee said. “But that was another company - Won’t Look Back Booking. I started Refreshing Shows this year by myself and brought back Our Scene United.
Agee was pleased with the success of this year’s event. “I went to it just hoping we’d have three good nights. We did. And I think next year it could be even bigger.”
The next Refreshing Shows event will be “Bringing Sexy Back,” a tribute to Justin Timberlake featuring Airside and Mobius Pieces, which will be held Aug. 25 at Growlers. The bands will perform Timberlake’s solo pieces as well as “some of the NSYNC classics,” Agee said.
“He’s kind of the pride of Memphis. So, that’s another local success story we’re trying to pay tribute to.”
Dr. Arie Szatkowski and his daughter, Mila, 11, visited the Beaches of Normandy, the sight of the Normandy invasion, two weeks ago.
“She was so moved by it at the end of the day she said, ‘Dad, I really want to talk to some World War II veterans,’” said Arie, a cardiologist with Stern Cardiovascular.
He called Diane Hight, founder and president of Forever Young Senior Veterans. “(I) told her that we just visited Normandy and it was incredibly moving: ‘Is there any chance you could introduce my daughter to World War II veterans?’”
Hight said, “Well, it just so happens we’re going to have a gala within a couple of weeks. I’m going to send you an invitation. And I’m going to sit you at a table with World War II veterans.”
Arie and Mila, who attends St. Mary’s Episcopal School, were among the guests at the sixth annual Dreamgivers Gala July 29 at the Hilton Memphis.
“She sat us next to a gentleman named Vince Rowell, who landed on the beaches of Normandy on D-Day June 6, 1944 and made it all the way to the Battle of the Bulge,” Arie said. “And he won three Medals of Honor.”
Mila spent time talking to Rowell and Hugh Bell, who was an Army Air Corps tail gunner on a B-29 in the Pacific during World War II.
“They were amazing,” Arie said. “At the end of the night she said it was the greatest night of her life.”
A total of 356 attended this year’s gala, said Hight. The Memphis Knights performed.
Forever Young Senior Veterans grants wishes for senior veterans 65 and older. Recipients include World War II, Korea and Vietnam veterans, said Hight, whose father and uncle were World War II veterans.
Proceeds from this year’s event will go toward sending World War II veterans to England, Hight said. “The trip to England is to honor our WWII Army Air Corps flyboys who flew missions out of England into Western Europe. We also have Army soldiers and Navy sailors who trained in England before the invasion of Normandy in 1944.”
They raised $138,000, Hight said. “We will be using the money for England. Then if we have any left over from that we will be sending our Vietnam veterans to Washington in October.”
For more information, go to foreveryoungvets.org.