Pressed to name heroes of the Memphis sound, even the least committed music fans can probably rattle off a handful. Elvis and B.B. King are obvious enough. Maybe you'll get Isaac Hayes or Big Star. But there's at least one name you'll almost never hear unless you're talking to serious listeners: bandleader and multi-instrumentalist, Jimmie Lunceford. That's something local musician and Lunceford enthusiast Ron Herd II has been working to change by creating events honoring Lunceford who — in addition his notable career as a touring musician — started a music class for Manassas High School that formed the template for the Memphis city school's band program. This year, Herd's organized his largest Lunceford tribute yet with a week's worth of events including films, panel discussions, art shows, and concerts.
- Jimmie Lunceford Jamboree Festival
Lunceford was a bandleader's bandleader. From the end of the 1920s through the swing era, he built dramatic jazz compositions for a band that was known for top-shelf showmanship in addition to its considerable musical chops. You can see clips of Lunceford in action in the 1941 crime drama Blues in the Night, which screens Thursday, October 26th at 6 p.m. at the Stax Museum of American Soul Music.
The celebration continues Saturday, October 28th at noon with a panel discussion at the Cossitt Public Library: Jimmie Lunceford and the Future of the Memphis Sound. A tribute finale is scheduled for Sunday, October 29th, 4-7 p.m. at Brinson's Downtown Chicken Lounge.