Heritage Tours, Inc. will honor the recipients of the 11th annual W.C. Handy Heritage Awards Sunday, November 18th, at 6 p.m. at the Gibson Lounge. This year's gala celebrates the 134th birthday of the "Father of the Blues" and the 50th anniversary of Memphis soul.
Honorees cover a wide range of local musicians, including street-corner blues guitarist Fred Sanders, gospel singer Deborah Manning-Thomas, Stax soulman Eddie Floyd, doo-wop harmonizers The Astors, former Stax sideman and erstwhile Bo-Key Ronnie Williams, and worldwide blues belter Koko Taylor.
All have confirmed their attendance and, with the exception of the Astors, will perform.
The Handy Heritage Awards recognize lesser-known musicians. "Memphis has been able to maintain the "Home of the Blues" title thanks to them," Elaine Turner, executive director of Heritage Tours, says. "They were playing on Beale Street when it was down. Fred Sanders has taken Memphis blues all over the world, and he's playing in the park on Beale Street today. These are people who've basically been overlooked. We don't just search for people with big names."
Additionally, B.B. King's longtime executive assistant Polly Walker will receive the Music Business Award. "She's been a behind-the-scenes person," Turner says. "With the hectic schedule [King] has, somebody had to be the business person, and she has been for many years."
The late jazz bandleader and Memphis high school teacher Jimmie Lunceford will receive a posthumous honor in recognition of the 60th anniversary of his death.
Tickets cost $30, and proceeds benefit the W.C. Handy Memphis Home and Museum, which Heritage Tours manages at 352 Beale Street. — Preston Lauterbach
For the Benefit of Mr. LFM
Christopher Reyes, founder and proprietor of LiveFromMemphis.com, has been one of the most tireless and prolific supporters of local music (and film) in recent years, providing a great online resource for artists and fans alike while better-funded organizations such as the Music Commission have come up dry on the same front.
Recently, Reyes has found himself waylaid by back surgery and the medical bills that come with such a procedure. With his labor of love Live From Memphis already a shoestring operation, Reyes could use a little help, and this weekend offers a chance for the arts community he's served so well to come to his aid.
Mark Akin of The Subteens has organized a benefit concert for Reyes and Live From Memphis Saturday, November 17th, at the Hi-Tone Café. The always high-energy Subteens will headline the show, with Giant Bear, The Harmony Brothers, The Perfect Fits, and Billie Worley & the Candy Company rounding out the bill. Akin says there will also be an art show and live auction. Doors open at 8 p.m., with music set to start at 9 p.m. The cover is $7, with all proceeds going to help Reyes as well as Live From Memphis.
Additionally, those wishing to help with operating costs of Live From Memphis can donate directly at LiveFromMemphis.com/donate. — Chris Herrington
Waylo Back at the House of Hi
It isn't quite the Memphis relaunch of Stax Records, but Willie Mitchell, godfather of Memphis soul, has announced the resurrection of his Waylo Records label. Mitchell originally founded Waylo in 1982 after the sun set on Hi Records with the onset of disco. He produced and released Waylo records from soul stalwarts Otis Clay and Ann Peebles before mothballing the venture in the late 1980s.
"When Hi Records was sold, there were four people involved," Boo Mitchell, Willie's son and business manager, explains. "My dad was the only one who was like, 'Guys, we're making a mistake.' So he bought the studio and started Waylo."
What the Waylo announcement lacks in hoopla, at least compared to the Stax fanfare, it compensates with substance. Mitchell will focus on local talent, beginning with the label's first release, Mashaa's Anytime, Anyplace, Anywhere. Mashaa (real name: Erma Shaw) is a Mitchell protégée who moves to the forefront after singing back-up on numerous songs at Mitchell's South Memphis Royal Studios.
"He was trying to shop [Mashaa] out to a major label to pick up," Michell says. "He got tired of shopping it around and decided to release it himself. Select-O-Hits is distributing it. We'll press CDs and do digital."
Michell describes the sound as traditional rhythm-and-blues. "The lineup is basically the whole crew that he normally uses, with live instruments. It sounds like a graduated version of the Memphis sound of the '70s," he says.
Coming next are reissues of Clay, Peebles, and Lynn White records from Waylo's first run.
These days, if you ask Boo Mitchell what he's doing, day or night, he'll tell you the same thing: "Cuttin' records." — PL