Teen mu­si­cians to take soul­ful Mem­phis Sound anew to Europe

Kuwait Times - - LIFESTYLE -

The ros­ter of Amer­i­can mu­si­cians was im­pres­sive: Otis Red­ding, Sam & Dave, Ed­die Floyd, Booker T. and the MGs. They ar­rived in Europe in 1967, bring­ing with them the pow­er­ful, soul­ful Mem­phis Sound. Ahead was a tour with stops in Lon­don, Paris and else­where. These artists from the Stax Records mu­sic stu­dio cap­ti­vated au­di­ences with their mu­sic born from blues and gospel - a mes­mer­iz­ing sound cre­ated from the black ex­pe­ri­ence in the US last cen­tury.

Fifty years later, a group of young mu­si­cians ed­u­cated at Stax Mu­sic Academy are newly bring­ing the mu­sic of Mem­phis back to Europe. They are set to per­form at fes­ti­vals and mu­sic halls in Eng­land, France and Ire­land from July 9 un­til July 22, join­ing Stax le­gends Mavis Sta­ples and Wil­liam Bell for a cou­ple of shows. The teenage mu­si­cians are ea­ger to fol­low in the foot­steps of their in­flu­en­tial pre­de­ces­sors. Cre­ated in 2000, their academy is an af­ter-school pro­gram for young­sters from some of Mem­phis' poor­est neigh­bor­hoods who learn how to dance, sing and play in­stru­ments. They pay noth­ing to at­tend.

"Just to be able to say that I was part of this up­com­ing over­seas tour, be­ing able to sing songs by Otis Red­ding and Wil­liam Bell, it's mon­u­men­tal not only for Mem­phis, but for Stax," said Johnathon Lee, a 17-year-old academy vo­cal­ist. "To know that Stax mu­sic is still rel­e­vant to­day, and to know that was done in 1967, that's mon­u­men­tal as well." Be­fore it went bank­rupt, Stax Records in Mem­phis gen­er­ated some of Amer­ica's most mem­o­rable soul mu­sic of the 1960s and 1970s, in­clud­ing songs like Red­ding's "Dock of the Bay," Sam & Dave's "Soul Man," Floyd's "Knock on Wood," and Booker T. and the MGs' "Green Onions." Driven by tight horn and rhythm sec­tions and strong-voiced singers, the Mem­phis Sound had a raw, emo­tional qual­ity to it. Some Stax songs were en­er­getic and rau­cous, oth­ers smooth and sexy.

African-Amer­i­can cul­ture

Stax had a sis­ter record la­bel called Volt, so when they put to­gether the 1967 trip, it was called the Stax/Volt Euro­pean Tour. The tour came at a time when Stax was hav­ing trou­ble get­ting its mu­sic aired on larger US ra­dio sta­tions be­cause of racial is­sues dur­ing the civil rights era, said Al Bell, who at the time was the mu­sic la­bel's na­tional pro­mo­tions di­rec­tor. So, when the Stax mu­si­cians hopped off a plane in Lon­don, they were sur­prised by the wel­come they re­ceived.

"It stunned us. We didn't know how to act," Bell said. "All these white peo­ple in the air­port and ev­ery­where, hol­ler­ing about Stax, call­ing the artists' names." In Paris, fans "were go­ing crazy" over the Stax mu­si­cians, es­pe­cially Red­ding, Bell said. "If there was ever a ques­tion in my mind about our mu­sic be­ing ac­cept­able to the masses and to whites, Paris, France, re­moved that com­pletely from my mind," he said. Bell said Euro­peans told him that they viewed the mu­sic as an art form that comes from the African-Amer­i­can cul­ture.

"And I'm say­ing, what?" Bell said, laugh­ing. "We hadn't even thought about hav­ing a 'cul­ture,' let alone our mu­sic be­ing con­sid­ered an art form be­cause it came out of slav­ery." When they re­turned to Mem­phis, the Stax artists used the mo­men­tum from the suc­cess­ful tour to churn out hits. "When we came out of Europe, you couldn't tell us noth­ing," Bell said. "Writ­ers got to writ­ing, pro­duc­ers got to pro­duc­ing. You couldn't get the mu­si­cians out of the stu­dio."

Some of the mo­men­tum stalled when Red­ding was killed in a plane crash in De­cem­ber 1967. Bell later ran Stax be­fore the com­pany went bank­rupt in 1975. Bell was in­dicted on bank fraud charges re­lated to the com­pany's demise, but was ac­quit­ted. The glory days of Stax Records are gone, but the Stax Mu­sic Academy is go­ing strong. About a dozen teenagers rang­ing in age from 15 to 18 will be on the Europe tour, and they've spent hours re­hears­ing in the academy's stu­dios. It will be the first time Lee will travel out of the coun­try, and he's look­ing for­ward to stay­ing in new places and eat­ing foreign foods. He called the trip "a big deal." "I'm a lit­tle ner­vous, but I'm ex­cited," Lee said. "I'm ready to ven­ture out." — AP

Bel­gian fash­ion de­sign­ers Filip Arickx (right) and An Van­de­vorst for A.F. Van­de­vorst ac­knowl­edge the au­di­ence at the end of the 2017-2018 fall/win­ter col­lec­tion show in Paris yesterday. — AFP photos

A group of Stax Mu­sic Academy mu­si­cians re­hearse for their up­com­ing tour of Europe in Mem­phis, Tenn. — AP photos

This 1967 photo pro­vided by the Stax Mu­seum of Amer­i­can Soul Mu­sic shows Stax Records mu­si­cians at an air­port dur­ing their tour of Europe. From left are Ed­die Floyd, Sam Moore, Steve Crop­per, Otis Red­ding, Wayne Jack­son and Arthur Con­ley. Artists from the stu­dio cap­ti­vated au­di­ences with their mu­sic born from blues and gospel - a mes­mer­iz­ing sound cre­ated from the black ex­pe­ri­ence in the US last cen­tury.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Kuwait

© PressReader. All rights reserved.