Memphis drummers hone their skills at a drum shed at Ram In The Bush Christian Center. These events are called “sheds” because in the early days of jazz, drummers used to practice in woodsheds, probably because their parents or others didn’t want all the noise of practice in the house. Practicing drums became “hitting the woodshed” or “woodshedding” , and even though the days of woodsheds are long gone, the practice is still called “shedding.”
Otis Logan and two other young Memphis drummers battle back and forth during a drum shed for William “Matt” Matthews’ birthday at Ram In The Bush Christian Center, 5/22/13
Memphis drummers show their talent at a birthday drum shed for William “Matt” Matthews at Ram In The Bush Christian Center, 5/22/13
Just before I got off work, I got a text from my homeboy Otis Logan that a drum shed was being held Wednesday night May 22 for William “Matt” Matthews at Ram In The Bush Christian Center, so after dinner I headed over there to check it out. “Drum sheds” or “shed sessions” are common in the world of Black gospel music, where they fill a number of functions. First they are recreational, as evidenced by the number of people that have them on their birthdays or other times of celebration. They are also educational, allowing drummers (and the accompanying keyboardists, bassists and guitarists) to learn from each other by listening and watching. Finally, they are competitive, although generally in a friendly and non-confrontational way. Such competitions amongst musicians have deep roots in African-American history.
Sheds generally consist of between three and five drummers at a time on as many drumsets, although there may be more drummers present, and these frequently trade places so that everyone gets to play. In some sheds, there are only drums, but it is far more common for there to be a keyboardist or organist, and sometimes even a bass player or guitarist. If these are present, they often start a groove, and then the drummers will trade solos and licks in a set order according to four or eight bar phrases. A big part of the shed experience too is the crowd of onlookers, who interact with the drummers and yell encouragements to them as they play. Altogether, sheds are a fun musical experience, but they also tend to be clandestine and are often held at churches or even private residences, and happen randomly without a lot of advance warning. When they occur in Memphis, they highlight the amazing musical talent that our city has.
Memphis singer/songwriter Juju Bushman
was an inspired and inspiring choice to kick off the annnual Hattiloo Black Arts Festival last Saturday in Overton Park. Unfortunately, the extreme heat and other events such as the barbecue competition kept crowds low.
The Memphis In May World Championship BBQ Festival has always been a big deal in Memphis, It’s about four days of food and fun in Memphis’ Tom Lee Park, and fortunately, this year the sun was out, and much of the muddiness from the Beale Street Music Festival had dried out. Teams come from all over the country to compete in what is probably the largest barbecue festival in the world, and although you cannot sample the contestants barbecue or enter their areas without permission, half of the fun is seeing their decorated shelters and seeing the hilarious names that teams come up with. Of course some teams represents businesses like The Shed in Ocean Springs, Willingham’s and Double J Smokehouse in Memphis, or Big Bob Gibson’s in Decatur, Alabama, and these typically are simply named for the business, which is also generally true for teams representing the Army Corps of Engineers or other governmental entities. Of the other teams, an amazing array of creativity goes into the names. References to films are popular, including “Natural Born Grillers”, “Aporkalypse Now” or “Reservoir Hogz”. Even more common are puns off music groups, such as the “Moody Ques”, “Notorious P.I.G.”, “The Count Bastie Porkestra” or “The Bastey Boyz.” At least one team referenced Elvis with “Love Meat Tender”! Unfortunately, health department regulations prohibit guests from sampling the competition entry barbecue, although one team, that of the late John Willingham was offering their competition barbecue for sale from a food truck. I tried it, and it was quite good. I later heard that The Shed from Ocean Springs, Mississippi was the big winner at this year’s competition.
Memphis artist N J Woods
grew up in Orange Mound, and has transformed the fond memories of her childhood there into vibrant, colorful art works in an exhibition that opened at her new gallery space in Binghampton on Friday May 17th. The paintings emphasize familiar shops and people of the neighborhood’s past, opening a window onto a place that few Memphians know as well as they should. The Woods Gallery is located at 2563 Broad Avenue in the Broad Avenue Arts District