PERFORMING ARTS

Memphis Mayhem: A Story of the Music That Shook Up the World

ECW. Oct. 2020. 200p. ISBN 9781770415089. pap. $16.95. MUSIC
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Music writer Less breezes through a potpourri of rock, jazz, and soul stories within the context of changing white, Black, and Jewish relations in Memphis. Using interviews and research gleaned over the past 40 years, he focuses on well-known figures such as Sun Records owner Sam Phillips and more obscure musicians, including Harmonica Frank Floyd. The author deals with high school jazz bandleaders, such as Jimmie Lunceford, who trained a cadre of jazz luminaries, and early bluesmen Furry Lewis and Gus Cannon, as well as gospel star Sister Rosetta Tharpe of the Memphis-based Church of God in Christ. Less reviews the histories of two major Memphis record labels: Stax, which reached a national audience with Otis Redding and spawned the racially integrated group Booker T. and the M.G.’s; and Hi Records, which hit with the soul of Al Green under the musical supervision of Willie Mitchell. The author also discusses Memphis radio/television personality “Daddy-O” Dewey Phillips, Chips Moman’s American studio, Poplar Tunes record store, and music as a Memphis tourist attraction.
VERDICT This quick romp through Memphis music from a racial perspective will complement Robert Gordon’s books, as well as James Dickerson’s Goin’ Back to Memphis.

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