20 years, new Star-lite Revue for ‘Caravan’
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.
MEMPHIS MUSIC BEAT