Friday, February 09, 2007

Tha Artivist Presents…Memphis Black History, More than the place where Dr. King died.

From time to time I will be contributing articles like these to W.E. A.L.L. B.E. and beyond…Feel free as usual to share the info!!!

Say It Ain't So Tavis!
On the evening of Thursday March 2, 2006, I had the pleasure of hearing news personality Tavis Smiley speak at St. Andrew's A.M.E. in Memphis,Tn…Memphis was a stop on Mr. Smiley's 10 city tour which he took to promote his new book collaboration The Covenant with Black America which is a book that outlines the 10 things that Black Americans in particular and Americans in general must do to close the racial, digital, social, medical, educational, environmental, and economical divide in the United States…I have grown over the years to have a lot of respect for Mr. Smiley for his efforts to enlighten Black folk on how to better our lot and educate us on the tools we must use to achieve that end…Over 1,000 plus people came out to see the true star of the event, Mr. Tavis Smiley…Mr. Smiley also had a distinguished panel of guests with him as well…Memphis notables such as Dr. Robinson (the pastor of St. Andrew A.M.E.), city councilman Rickey Peete, and Mrs. Beverly Robinson (president of the The National Civil Rights Museum) along with the nationally known Bishop McKenzie (the first female bishop of the A.M.E. Church and the residing leader of the U.S. 13th Episcopal District of the A.M.E. Church) as well as a sociologist from the historically Black college known as LeMoyne Owen were there to lend their support…

Everything was going fine and Tavis as usually was dropping his words of wisdom into the right selective places…However, when he got into his reason for coming to Memphis is what really got me to thinking…His reason was because Dr. King died in Memphis and he felt that many Black Americans felt that apart of them died on April 4,1968 as well…I kinda of expected him to say that, but at the same time Memphis is more than just the Tale of Three Kings (Elvis, Martin, and B.B.)...
Memphis home of "cultural commerce"
Memphis is the heart of America's distribution center and sits on the mighty Mississippi River…So what is the significance of that you may ask??? Every day goods are moved in and out of the Bluff city as it is called…Some goods are moved by trucks, trains, or FedEx (their World headquarters is located in Memphis and also helps to deliver mail for the U.S. Postal service)…

Some of the greater goods known to America have come through Memphis in the guise of human beings with visions, ambitions and dreams…A lot of America's "cultural commerce" has made its way up and down the Mississippi River and if you look at all the major river cities located on the famous river ( New Orleans, Louisiana; Memphis, Tennessee; St. Louis, Missouri; and even Davenport, Iowa to be more specific) each has played an important part in the development of America's cultural identity…
A young Louis Armstrong

Just to give you an example of what I mean, a shy and talented musician named Louis Armstrong from New Orleans used to play his cornet for the Fate Marable Orchestra on the Strekfus Riverboat Line out of St. Louis which made its way up to Davenport, Iowa where a young musician named Bix Beiderbecke used to listen to the phenomenally gifted Armstrong blow his cornet in awe and admiration…

Beauty and the 'Satch'

Red Hot Jazz Mama: Lil Hardin-Armstrong
When Armstrong finally went to join his mentor the great Papa Joe King Oliver in Chicago in 1922 he became enamored with his mentor's band pianist the beautiful, highly intelligent and ambitious Lil Hardin…Lil eventually became Louis's second wife (at first he was married to a prostitute from New Orleans named Daisy Parker) and was responsible for encouraging the shy Louis to leave King Oliver and start his own band…Louis who was so shy that it could have actually handicapped his career, left it up to Lil to tell Oliver he quit the band…She also advised Louis to go to New York to play with the legendary jazz bandleader Fletcher Henderson and his Orchestra…Louis became an instant success and huge star overnight because he followed the advice of his wife…

Lil Hardin-Armstrong at the piano with Louis Armstrong kneeling in front of the classic groundbreaking jazz band, King Oliver's Original Creole Jazz Orchestra.

When he came back to Chicago, Lil helped her now confident husband form his own great jazz bands known as the Hot Five and the Hot Seven which featured some of the great Black jazz musicians of the day…

The groundbreaking recordings made by these groups are considered to be the Holy Grail, Rosetta Stone or Declaration of Independence of what was to come for jazz in particular and American music in general…By the way where was Lil Hardin Armstrong from??? Yes, you guess right, Memphis,Tn, where she was born February 3,1898!!! Although Louis and Lil eventually divorced in 1938 they remained very close friends so much so that Lil passed out and died (grief strickened) at the piano on stage while playing a tribute concert for Louis Armstrong in Chicago just several weeks after attending his funeral!!!

Sophisticated Lady: Madame Lil Hardin-Armstrong

Listen to Lil Hardin-Armstrong speak about Louis Armstrong and her experiences in jazz in an invaluable and enjoyable sound recording entitled "Satchmo and Me" by clicking on this link:

Lil Hardin-Armstrong @ Wikipedia:

Lil Hardin-Armstrong @
Red Hot Jazz, a great place to listen to rare and famous recordings of early jazz greats:
King of New York
Before Louis Armstrong became the King of Trumpet in New York, Johnny Dunn held the crown…Johnny Dunn like so many Black entertainers before and after him went to Europe to further his career and live (where he died in Paris in 1937)…Johnny Dunn was known as one of the great jazz players of his day having played with the likes of Edith Wilson, Florence Mills and Josephine Baker among other notables...He was also fixture in all Black revues and plays on Broadway and beyond...Johnny Dunn was from Memphis (born there February 19,1897) where he played in the great Blues pioneer W.C. Handy's music band...Many of W.C. Handy's (a Memphian from Florence, Alabama) songs were made popular by Louis Armstrong as well as by countless others jazz and blues musicians…

Check out this wonderful website to learn more about Johnny Dunn and his contributions:

Check out Johnny Dunn's music @ Red Hot Jazz, a great place to listen to rare and famous recordings of early jazz greats:

Look out for more installments of this series from you favorite
Artivist in the near future!!!

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