Lafayette’s will be The Memphis Dawls’ last performance for a while
Local roots-pop outfit The Memphis Dawls will play a pre-Christmas show Wednesday at Lafayette’s Music Room. The gig is being billed as a farewell show; the group has confirmed it will be their last gig for the foreseeable future.
Although they’re not breaking up officially, the Dawls have confirmed they are taking a major hiatus. The change in the band’s status is largely due to Dawls’ guitarist/ vocalist Holly Cole’s recent wedding and looming move to Hawaii to be with her husband, who serves in the Coast Guard. “Holly’s going to be in Hawaii for the next couple years, and the long-distance thing, especially that long of a distance, makes it very hard to keep the band going,” says Dawls violinist/singer Krista Wroten Combest.
Wroten Combest notes that she and cellist/vocalist Jana Misener will continue to play together, though not under the Dawls moniker. Wroten Combest also will continue her role as a member of roots-rock band Dead Soldiers. Cole, meanwhile, expects to return to visual art (she’s an art school grad). “The band’s been great, but I think we’re all going to refocus our creativity a bit,” says Wroten Combest.
Although Wroten Combest allows that the band will still do shows periodically when their schedules allow, their time as one of the city’s more promising Americana ensembles appears to be over after a five-year run — but their roots together stretch back even further.
Cole, Combest and Misener met while attending Cordova High School in the late ’90s. All of them were in drama classes together, and Misener and Wroten Combest played in the Memphis Youth Symphony. In later years, they made music together in various two-woman permutations, but it wasn’t until 2010 that the trio united to perform a benefit concert for their former high school theater teacher.
Singing together for the first time, the trio evinced a natural chemistry, which eventually garnered the interest of producer Jeff Powell and Madjack Records owner Ronny Russell, resulting in 2014’s well-regarded debut album, “Rooted in the Bone,” recorded at Ardent and Sun studios.
Heavy touring followed in 2014 and 2015 — though the Dawls didn’t quite break nationally as some had predicted — before the band members’ personallife changes made continuing in regular fashion impractical.
The Dawls will offer up a proper goodbye on Wednesday at Lafayette’s with a full band show that is also expected to include several special guests.
The final word from the group — for the time being, anyway — will come next year. Their performance for the WKNO-distributed public TV show “Sun Studio Sessions” (which was taped in September) is slated for broadcast in early 2016.
THE KING’S WARES
With the King’s birthday coming up in just a few weeks, Elvis Presley Enterprises has announced another of its “The Auction at Graceland” sales, this one at 7 p.m. Jan 7.
Helping to kick off the three-day Elvis birthday festivities, the upcoming event will mark the fourth official sale since Graceland Auctions and its related authentication service were launched in 2014. Held at the Graceland Archives studio, the upcoming sale will see more than 120 Elvis artifacts go under the hammer.
This year’s highlight items include the 1969 custom Gibson Ebony Dove guitar Elvis used during his 1973 “Aloha from Hawaii” satellite concert — as well as many shows between 1971 and 1975 and for much of the “Elvis on Tour” documentary. The guitar has been given a pre-auction estimate of $300,000 to $500,000, with Graceland officials touring it as “one of the most culturally significant and celebrated guitars in music history.”
Other pieces set for sale include a 1958 letter Elvis wrote to his friend Alan Fortas while he was stationed in Germany (estimated at $30,000 to $50,000), the gold-toned microphone and cord used on stage by Elvis at the International Hotel in Las Vegas during his concert run there in 1969 (estimated at $10,000 to $15,000), as well as an original reelto-reel recording of a 1955 Louisiana Hayride show, the concert where the famous phrase “Elvis has left the building” was originated by announcer Horace Logan (estimated between $10,000 to $15,000).
Tickets to attend the auction will be available for purchase at Graceland on the day of the sale. Registered bidders can reserve
a spot at the auction by emailing auction[email protected] graceland.com. Online bidding started Dec. 16 at gracelandauctions.com.
Earlier this month, the Levitt Shell at Overton Park announced plans for $4 million in renovations to accommodate a wider variety of musical acts and bigger crowds. The work, which is being funded through private donations, will include upgrades in lighting, sound and other technology, as well as expanded areas for vendors and a loading area for musicians. The Shell, hosts 50 free concerts a year, and attracts roughly 128,000 visitors annually.
According to the Shell’s executive director, Anne Pitts, the practical implications for the Shell’s 2016 schedule will be significant. Part of the problem with the limitations of the old Shell sound system was that it mean that larger ensembles — symphonies, orchestras, Latin and African music big bands — were harder and more expensive to do, because of the equipment upgrades needed to accommodate them. But with the new sound system in place — it’s expected to be installed in May — Pitts notes that those types of booking options will be easier and more viable.
“We’ve done symphonic shows, but it’s been hard because of the added cost,” she says. “We’ve also been limited in bringing some of the larger Latin or African music groups because of the amount and kind of instrumentation that are required. So all the (upgrades) are going to widen the door for us to bring more and different types of music to the Shell with a greater ease.”
Pitts adds that having a new sound system should result in more outside events and independently promoted concerts at the Shell — which had also been limited previously due to equipment issues.
Pitts is currently finalizing booking for the Shell’s spring/summer 2016 schedule. The lineup is expected to be announced in April.
The Memphis Dawls — Holly Cole, Jana Misener and Krista Wroten Combest— will be taking a hiatus following a farewell show Wednesday at Lafayette’s Music Room.
Elvis’s Gibson acoustic, made famous in the 1970s, will be on sale as part of a January auction at Graceland.