One-hundred and fifty years ago this May, a conflict between local policemen and African American soldiers set off three days of rioting in Memphis and resulted in the deaths of nearly 50 people — almost all African Americans. Now known as the Memphis Massacre, this event heavily influenced the path of Reconstruction and the eventual passage of the Fourteenth Amendment. Over the next three months, in commemoration of the 150th anniversary, the University of Memphis and the National Park Service are partnering with several local institutions for a series of discussions, lectures, and book talks with the goal of bringing greater public awareness to this pivotal–yet largely unknown– event in our history.
The full calendar of events, more information about the Massacre, and links to resources are all available at the University of Memphis’ Memories of a Massacre website. The Memphis Public Library & Information Center will be hosting two of these events: “Great Conversations — The Memphis Massacre” with Dr. Timothy Huebner on March 22 at 5:30 pm and a Book Discussion led by Drs. Bond and O’Donovan on April 14th at 6 pm.
The Memphis and Shelby County Room houses several items relating to life in Memphis during this time period, including two illustrations of the Massacre that were originally published in Harper’s Weekly on May 26, 1866:
(Click either picture to see the full description in Dig Memphis)
Other 19th Century Memphis items may be viewed at the following links: 1820s, 1830s, 1840s, 1850s, 1860s, 1870s, 1880s, 1890s.
Today we are pleased to announce the addition of a Memphis Music Listening Station to the Memphis and Shelby County Room. This listening station, which contains 594 CDs, will allow easy patron access to our large archive of Memphis Music. This listening station contains materials representing every stage of music written and recorded by Memphians and in Memphis. From the Memphis Jug Band, to Justin Timberlake; from Memphis Minnie to Packy Axton; classical, country, jazz, soul, rockabilly, R&B and more can all be listened to and enjoyed in one spot. Additionally, many rare and out-of-print albums are included in the listening station along with local independent releases (of course, Elvis and Stax are here too!).
Feel free to browse through the Guide of available music and come by anytime to listen to some great tunes!
Filed under Audio, Elvis, Music
Today we are very excited to announce that the Memphis & Shelby County Room is the new repository for WREG Channel 3’s broadcasts of the Memphis in May Sunset Symphony. Late last year WREG graciously donated their broadcasts to the library and we have been hard at work preparing these to go up on Dig Memphis for your enjoyment. The broadcasts span a 12 year period from 1988 -2000 and include such highlights as the 20th Anniversary concert (1996), performances from Ruby Wilson (1992) and Isaac Hayes (1994), a symphonic work composed by the King of Thailand (1995) and, of course, many renditions of “Ol’ Man River” by the inimitable James Hyter (1988-1998).
We are going to be rolling out all these broadcasts over the next few weeks but today you can view both the entirety of the 1994 and 1998 broadcasts on Dig Memphis (all the broadcasts will also be available on our Vimeo channel). While every concert is a treat, we have chosen to post these two broadcasts first because of their special significance: the 1994 broadcast features a special performance from Isaac Hayes (including the “Theme from ‘Shaft'”) and the 1998 broadcast represents the end of an era with the final performances of both Maestro Alan Balter and James Hyter.
We would once again like to give a large and sincere Thank You to WREG for the donation of these videos, insuring that, although the Sunset Symphony is no longer a part of Memphis in May, music lovers the world over can watch these incredible performances whenever they desire. Enjoy!
The 1994 broadcast may be viewed by following these links: Part 1, Part 2.
The 1998 broadcast may be viewed by following these links: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.
While many people are familiar with the music of the famed Stax label, the story of its earliest day isn’t one that’s frequently told. In our latest podcast episode, we explore the life and music of Charles “Packy” Axton, son of Stax co-founder Estelle Axton. It’s not an exaggeration to say that the music of the Stax label would’ve been very different if not for Packy’s early involvement. If you’d like to read more about Stax and southern soul music be sure to check out Respect Yourself by Robert Gordon, Sweet Soul Music by Peter Guralnick, and Soulsville U.S.A., by Rob Bowman.
Need some music to listen to while you read? Check out our Packy Axton playlist on Spotify. Other Memphis Room Music Show episodes are also available at Dig Memphis.
As promised in our last post, today we are publishing the Nadia Price Collection! Nadia opened her own photography studio in Memphis in 1945 and her collection documents her impressive talent.
During her career Nadia documented businesses and buildings in Memphis, simple life in the Mississippi Delta, children at camp, girl scout troops, thoroughbred horses, and portraits, just to name some of her most frequent subjects. This collection gives a unique insight into Nadia’s career and we would once again like to thank our Rhodes Fellows Maria & Sandro for their hard work processing and digitizing this collection. See the post below this for information about the Open House in their honor.
View the Nadia Price Collection here.
On Thursday, August 27th, the History Department will be hosting an Open House as a token of our appreciation for all the work done by our Rhodes College Fellows this summer. Maria and Sandro have done some great work processing and digitizing collections over the past few months. These collections include: the J. Porter McClean Collection, the Claypool Family Collection, the Walter R. Streuli Collection, and the Nowag Music Collection. Their most impressive work, however, was the Nadia Price collection. Nadia was a local photographer and her collection includes over 600 photographs.
Selections from the Walter R. Streuli Collection, and the Nowag Music Collection have been added to the M Files. Look for more information next week about the Nadia Price Collection when it is published to Dig Memphis.
Thanks again Maria and Sandro for all the great work!
Most Memphians, whether it be through Piggly Wiggly or the Pink Palace, are at least somewhat familiar with Clarence Saunders. Famous in his own time for inventing the self-service grocery store in 1916, Saunders quite literally revolutionized grocery shopping. Though he lost much of his fortune and was forced to sell the partially completed Pink Palace due to stock market woes, Saunders wasn’t done innovating by a long shot.
A large part of this new digital collection focus on Saunders’ second grocery store model: Keedoozle. Perhaps the best way to describe Keedoozle is as a giant vending machine for all your grocery shopping needs. Insufficient technology of the day prevented Saunders’ aotumation vision from achieving its true potential and the concept never took hold.
This collection was digitzed by Rhodes Alumnus and occasional Histroy Department volunteer Matthew Moore.
View the collection, including materials from both grocery store chains here.
In this episode, we discuss the melting pot of Memphis’ musical history and how it gave rise to one of the all-time great jazz pianists: Phineas Newborn Jr. Though little known today outside of jazz circles, in his prime Newborn was frequently compared to Art Tatum and Bud Powell while also being acknowledged as one of the most talented musicians working and recording.
After you listen, be sure to check out our Spotify playlist of music discussed on the show.
As you’ve probably heard by now, B.B. King passed away in his sleep last night at the age of 89. Though not a native Memphian, King was as well known and successful an emissary as the Bluff City has ever had. One of the so-called “Three Kings of the Blues Guitar” (alongside Albert King and Freddie King), B.B. King was for many the very embodiment of blues music; his contribution to the style can simply not be overstated.
After discovering that he could earn more than double the amount he was paid growing cotton by playing in clubs, Riley B. King moved from Itta Bena, Mississippi to Memphis. In 1949, King became a regular DJ on WDIA, where he first became known as the Beale Street Blues Boy (eventually shortened to Blues Boy, or B.B.). “Three O’Clock Blues” wasn’t his first recording, but it was the first to find widespread success. Soon after King was touring seemingly non-stop, regularly playing between 200 and 300 shows a year, even into his 80s. His greatest chart success came in 1969 with “The Thrill is Gone”, though he also had hits in the 1990s and 2000s thanks to collaborations with U2 and Eric Clapton.
Incredibly prolific during his 66 years in the music industry, King recorded over 40 studio albums and 17 live albums, including 1965’s famous Live at the Regal (1971’s Live at Cook County Jail is a personal favorite). In 2006, President Bush awarded King the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Memphis and blues fans the world over will always remember King and his contributions to not just the blues, but the music industry at large. Our thoughts go out to his family members.