Music » Music Features

A Blues Farewell



A career that spanned nearly 50 years ground to a halt on Friday, November 24th, when 69-year-old guitarist Wordie Perkins died of complications following a heart attack. While Perkins was famous among fans of Memphis juke joints such as Green's Lounge and The Blue Worm, few of the late-night revelers knew that he also held down a steady day job as a truck driver for decades. A rhythmic player who favored an E-flat minor tuning, Perkins held down guitar duties in The Fieldstones, first at The J&J Lounge, then at Green's. After a fire gutted that club in the late 1990s, the group was homeless, performing at the Center for Southern Folklore, at house parties, and in one-off gigs around town, until Betty Jack and Clinton Gibson opened the Blue Worm on Airways Boulevard a few years later.

Although -- after the death of bassist Lois Brown and the forced retirement of drummer Joe Hicks and keyboardist Bobby Carnes, due to health problems -- Perkins was the last remaining original member of the Fieldstones, with the addition of brothers James and Harold Bonner and longtime vocalists Will Roy Sanders and Little Applewhite, the group has proven to be a major force on the local scene. Albums such as Memphis Blues Today! and Mud Island Blues, cut by Grammy Award-winning ethnomusicologist David Evans of the University of Memphis, brought legions of tourists to the tiny juke joints on the south side of town over the last several years.

Last weekend, local label Inside Sounds and entrepreneur/tour guide Tad Pierson held a send-off for Perkins -- and a benefit for Jack and Gibson, who are trying to keep their business afloat -- at the Blue Worm, with performances from organist Charlie Wood, harp player Billy Gibson, Fieldstones veteran Daddy Mack Orr, the Bonner brothers, and resident singer Country Girl.

Memphis Roots

White Station High School graduate Andrew VanWyngarden (son of Flyer editor Bruce VanWyngarden) had a lot to be grateful for this Thanksgiving -- starting with a six-figure deal with entertainment conglomerate Sony/Columbia

Records. A former member of popular local jam band Accidental Mersh, VanWyngarden co-founded college rock duo MGMT with Ben Goldwasser and recorded an EP that prompted U2 producer Steve Lilywhite to hand-pick the group for a four-record deal. (Check out MGMT's sounds via their indie-label site, VanWyngarden and Goldwasser, who currently live in Brooklyn, expect to enter the recording studio to begin cutting their major-label debut soon.

Fans of former Flyer scribe Gilbert Garcia, now a reporter at the San Antonio Current, can check out his latest project, Madison, recorded with the band Mea Culpa at Ardent Studios with bassist Adam Hill engineering. Pick up the eight-song CD at Cat's Music or download it on iTunes.

For decades, Home Sweet Home -- an album by Ardent's first engineer, Terry Manning, who now runs Compass Point Studios in the Bahamas -- has garnered big bucks from collectors of Memphis music. British label Sunbeam Records just reissued the psych-pop classic on CD, with bonus tracks that include covers of the garage-rock nugget "Talk Talk" and Ann Peebles' "I Can't Stand the Rain." Grab copies of the imported disc at Goner Records.

Longtime local drummer Kurt Ruleman now resides in Nashville, but that hasn't stopped him from returning to Memphis to record with Lucero bassist John C. Stubblefield and local transplants Lahna Deering and Rev. Neil Down. The quartet cut the ethereal rocker "Prophets of Doom"(included on Wounded Dove, a compilation CD recently released by the Alaskan Veterans for Peace), at Sun Studios along with several other tracks, which will be issued on a forthcoming EP called Rough Cut. While Juneau, Alaska, ex-pats Deering and Down currently call Memphis home, they spend more time on the road than they do in the Bluff City. For now, check out for their new songs and keep your fingers crossed for a local gig soon.

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