20 years, new Star-lite Re­vue for ‘Car­a­van’

The Commercial Appeal - Go Memphis - - LIVE MUSIC -

The in­ter­na­tion­ally syn­di­cated, Mem­phis-based roots music show “Beale Street Car­a­van” is in the midst of its 20th sea­son on the air. Air­ing on more than 330 sta­tions in the U.S. and in 177 coun­tries world­wide, the pro­gram con­tin­ues to beam Mem­phis music — typ­i­cally live per­for­mances recorded in and around the Bluff City — around the globe.

“Beale Street Car­a­van” — which runs 52 weeks a year, with 40 new episodes and 12 re­runs — is dis­trib­uted by PRX (which also han­dles “This Amer­i­can Life,” the “Se­rial” pod­cast, and “Ra­di­o­lab”) as well as NPR and NPR World­wide.

Tonight, the “Car­a­van” rolls on with its 20th an­niver­sary cel­e­bra­tion and its an­nual Star-lite Re­vue con­cert — a “one-nightonly gospel, blues and soul ex­trav­a­ganza” — at the Hal­lo­ran Cen­tre for the Per­form­ing Arts and Ed­u­ca­tion.

The bill rep­re­sents the show’s ef­forts to cul­ti­vate its own con­cert and event op­por­tu­ni­ties for broad­cast

“In this 20th year, if you’ve no­ticed, we’ve started do­ing more cu­rat­ing of shows,” says Pat Mitchell Wor­ley, who co-hosts the pro­gram along with ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer Kevin Cub­bins. “Last year we did a show in Handy Park, we did the Star-lite Re­vue — it’s all about putting to­gether shows we think sound great and our lis­ten­ers will en­joy, and that ex­press that Mem­phis sen­si­bil­ity and who we are cul­tur­ally and mu­si­cally in this re­gion.”

Back head­lin­ing the 2016 Star-lite Re­vue is Rev. John Wilkins. The Mis­sis­sippi spir­i­tual-blues singer will be joined by a col­lec­tion of es­timable gospel acts, in­clud­ing The South­ern Sons, The Ma­sonic Trav­el­ers, and The Bell Singers. Wilkins’ fel­low Mis­sis­sip­pian, Jimbo Mathus, will also be per­form­ing, along with Sons of Mud­boy, The Holy Ghost Town Re­vue and the Mem­phis Ukulele Band. WDIA’S James Cham­bers and Ford Nel­son will help em­cee the event.

The broad­cast of the Star-lite Re­vue con­cert will air over two episodes of “Beale Street Car­a­van,” slated for April 13 and April 20. The cur­rent sea­son will wrap up in June, then re­sume in the fall.

Tick­ets for the con­cert ($23) are avail­able at the Or­pheum box of­fice (201 South Main), The Book­sell­ers at Lau­rel­wood (387 Perkins Ext.), or by call­ing 901-525-3000. They’re also avail­able at all Tick­et­mas­ter out­lets, tick­et­mas­ter. com or by call­ing (800) 745-3000.

Doors for the Star-lite Re­vue open at 6 p.m. Music starts at 7 p.m. sharp.

FAREWELL TO THE HAG

Wed­nes­day af­ter­noon, Rev. John Wilkins is among the artists play­ing the “Beale Street Car­a­van” Star-lite Re­vue tonight at the Hal­lo­ran Cen­tre for the Per­form­ing Arts and Ed­u­ca­tion.

the world learned of the death of another music leg­end in 2016. Merle Hag­gard was hailed as the “Poet of the Com­mon Man,” but his ca­reer and cat­a­log could never be en­com­passed in a sin­gle pithy han­dle or phrase.

Hag­gard, who died on his 79th birth­day, is con­sid­ered by many (in­clud­ing this critic) to be the most im­por­tant and ac­com­plished singer-song­writer in coun­try music his­tory — up there with any­one in any genre of pop­u­lar music.

Even near­ing 80, Hag­gard was still on the road, and he had a long tour booked that was sched­uled to cul­mi­nate with a pair of shows this sum­mer at Nashville’s his­toric Ryman Au­di­to­rium. Over the last few months, due to ill health, Hag­gard had been forced to can­cel a num­ber of dates, in­clud­ing a March ap­pear­ance in Tu­nica. No stranger to the Mid-south, he had played Mem­phis of­ten over the years and stopped in Mis­sis­sippi for a spate of casino gigs over the past decade.

His loss strikes me as a par­tic­u­larly per­sonal one. I saw Hag­gard play many times over the years. The first was in 1992, dur­ing my se­nior year of high school. He was ap­pear­ing at an arena in Tuc­son, Ari­zona, where I was liv­ing. He was open­ing for Wynonna Judd, who had gone solo and was the big­gest thing hap­pen­ing then.

Be­ing young and hot­headed, I took the fact that she was head­lin­ing over Hag­gard as a dis­re­spect to the Great Man, and I left in protest af­ter his set, drag­ging my first girl­friend with me (she wanted to stay and watch Wynonna). As we were ex­it­ing, I saw Hag­gard stand­ing by the bus down in a dock­ing bay. I rushed to my car to get a pen and some­thing for him to sign, but the only thing I had was a math text­book — from a class I was des­per­ately try­ing not to fail so I could grad­u­ate.

I walked over and called to him. He nod­ded, sum­moned us down and couldn’t have been nicer, en­ter­tain­ing all my queries for 15 min­utes (I was a strange kid — ab­so­lutely, re­li­giously fa­nat­i­cal about clas­sic coun­try music).

I told him I was orig­i­nally from Cal­i­for­nia, too — or at least an im­mi­grant to the state, though my fam­ily had come from the Mid­dle East, not from Ok­la­homa like his. I’ll never for­get the sweet lit­tle smile he gave me when re­al­ized how his music had touched some for­eign-born kid, how far his songs had reached. Be­fore part­ing, he took my text­book, signed it and chuck­led: “I never did get much use out them things my­self.”

The up­shot of the story is the girl broke up with me the very next week, break­ing my heart, but giv­ing me an even deeper ap­pre­ci­a­tion for Merle’s music. Merle Hag­gard: 1937-2016

Years later, in 2001, I in­ter­viewed Hag­gard for an alt-weekly news­pa­per where I was work­ing, and he was just as charm­ing and won­der­ful. I looked up the piece not long ago. I asked him if it was pos­si­ble to imag­ine in his youth how all those things he’d go through would shape his life, and his an­swer struck me as par­tic­u­larly mean­ing­ful upon his death.

“There’s a scrip­ture that says, ‘A good man’s steps are or­dered by the Lord.’ I be­lieve in pre­des­ti­na­tion. Look­ing back on it now, my life’s been laid out like it was meant to be ex­actly the way it is,” Hag­gard said. “Those things hap­pened so that I would have the ex­pe­ri­ence and knowl­edge to see first­hand the things that I ended up writ­ing about and maybe bring to the pub­lic a sort of news. In some ways, I’m a news broad­caster, a news­man. There’s things go­ing on in this world that they’re not gonna tell you on CNN. They’re not go­ing to say any­thing that’s gonna of­fend one of the spon­sors. So there’s talk ra­dio at night, and maybe a few old po­ets that get played on ob­scure ra­dio sta­tions — those are the only ways that you might hear what’s re­ally oc­cur­ring in the world.

“I grew up in this busi­ness not hav­ing any fore­sight. ... I had no earthly idea that the thing would evolve into what it has. I al­ways liked the word ‘evolve.’ Man, I evolved, with no idea that the Lord had all this in mind for me.”

Con­tact Bob Mehr at mehr@ com­mer­cialap­peal.com or 901529-2517.

MYR­IAM SAN­TOS

BOB MEHR

MEM­PHIS MUSIC BEAT

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