There’s more to know about Memphis music than you think

By Dr. D. Jackson Maxwell

Memphis is world renowned for its music. People travel here from all over the world to set foot on Beale Street, listen to live music, and to tour Graceland. Unfortunately, too few Memphians take advantage of these opportunities. Recently, I have had the chance to see some local bands perform and soak in a bit of Memphis music history. It was wonderful! Let me share a few of these experiences with you.

[singlepic id=175 w=320 h=240 mode=web20 float=left]A few weeks back, I was thrilled to see a show by the Delta Nomads. Their music is an easygoing style of southern-fried rock-n-roll. The band is led by singer/songwriter/guitarist Bill Walsh. His often-hilarious lyrics relate stories of out-of-control celebrities, love gone bad, old dogs, and gossipy neighbors. In various incarnations, the band has been around for five years playing every bar and juke joint in town. In the last couple of years, the Delta Nomads have settled into their current four-piece line-up with occasional harmonics provided by John Markham. Their second album, Fully Loaded, is due out this month. As Delta Nomads bassist, Jeff Rust, states, “We just really found a groove right off the bat.” Intriguingly, Walsh describes the sound of their new album as, “L.A. rock meets the Memphis Blues.” Be on the look-out for upcoming shows and the locale of their CD release party at deltanomads.com.[singlepic id=176 w=320 h=240 mode=web20 float=right]

Back in February, I walked into Nocturnal (on the site of the infamous Antenna Club) and was blown away by the jangly, retro-sounds of Jeffrey and The Pacemakers. This outstanding cover band is essentially a British Invasion band based in Memphis, playing the flower power good-times tunes of the 1960’s. Performing on vintage instruments, this soon-to-be-legendary band performs classics by groups such as the Byrds, Kinks, Beatles, and Rolling Stones. The musicians in Jeffrey and The Pacemakers have honed their chops in a number of popular Memphis bands including The Crime, Daytripper, Zuider Zee, and most recently, Everyday People. Singer/guitarist Jeff Golightly, who fronts the band, states, “We are all in our 50’s (baby boomers) and grew up on this music, and we try to capture the sound and energy of these legendary bands.” You can learn more about the band, listen to a tune, and discover where they will be performing next at jeffreyandthepacemakers.com.[singlepic id=177 w=320 h=240 mode=web20 float=left]

And last, but certainly not least, if you love music but the club scene is no longer your thing—give Backbeat Tours a try. This extraordinary experience is the brainchild of Bill Patton. A former lawyer, Patton left his profession to start a music-based company. The tours aboard vintage charter buses are led by professional guitar–playing/Memphis history–knowing guides. The experience is interactive, where participants sing-a-long, play instruments, and write their own Blues songs while learning about STAX, Sun Records, Overton Park Shell, and numerous other sites of musical and historical note as viewed through the bus windows. On my most recent Backbeat Tour, I had the distinct pleasure of having Memphis Jones, a real-life touring musician from the band Altered, as my guide. [singlepic id=174 w=320 h=240 mode=web20 float=left]Memphis Jones’ love of Memphis music and history is infective. He had the whole bus singing, laughing, and totally engaged, hanging on to every word and song he sang. Memphis Jones (memphisjones.com) states, “There is no way to tell the immeasurably rich history and incalculable ongoing relevance of Memphis music on one sight-seeing tour, no matter what you do. But dang man, why should I let that stop me from trying?” I highly recommend Backbeat Tours for both tourists and hometowners, alike. For more information on how you can take advantage of this unique opportunity, view the Backbeat Tour website at backbeattours.com.[singlepic id=173 w=320 h=240 mode=web20 float=right]

I encourage everyone to take advantage of Memphis’ rich musical heritage. As Memphians, we are in the enviable position of not having to travel across country or around the globe to visit the sites connected to the birthplace of Rock-n-Roll (Sun Records) and Soul (STAX), Father of the Blues (W.C. Handy), King of the Blues (B.B. King), Queen of Soul (Aretha Franklin), and King of Rock-n-Roll (Elvis Presley). Join me in vowing to more fully support our local musicians by getting out and enjoying some live Memphis music!

Check out this article online at lamplighter.cooperyoung.org to see more photos of local performers.

Dr. D. Jackson Maxwell is an educator and freelance writer who has had the pleasure of living in Memphis for 20 years. If you have any questions or comments, please contact him at djacksonmaxwell@gmail.com.

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