To the southwest of Duval Street is Key West’s Black community, known as the Bahamian Village, presumably because many of the city’s Black residents came from the Bahamas. The area is rich with architectural history, and worth a visit, despite being under attack from military base expansion at one end, and creeping gentrification at the other. Among the things worth seeing are the historic Key West Lighthouse, several old church buildings, the historic former Douglass High School, now used as a community center, and the Bahamian Market on Petronia Street, which sadly was closed in the evening when I walked past it. There are also several modern restaurants, a few boutiques, and a bed and breakfast called the Caribbean House. Although it’s a bit away from the usual tourist areas, the Bahamian Village is not to be missed.
The Temprees are a vocal group from South Memphis that were originally called the Lovemen, which would later be the title of one of their albums. They were most famous for their version of “Dedicated to the One I Love” which they performed on Sunday April 28, 2013 for the Stax to the Max event. One of the former group members was Larry Dodson, who went on to fame as the lead singer of the Bar-Kays.
Memphis vocal group The Mad Lads were another group of South Memphians, led by John Gary Williams, who recorded a number of singles and albums for the Stax subsidiary Volt Records. Their recording career came to a brief hiatus after John Gary Williams was sentenced to prison for his alleged role in the ambush of a Memphis police officer by the Black militant organization The Invaders. They have occasionally recorded again since the 1970’s, but on Sunday April 28, 2013, they appeared in South Memphis on stage behind the Stax Museum at the Stax to the Max event, performing their biggest hit single.
The Astors were a South Memphis soul group that recorded a handful of singles for the Stax label in the 1960’s. On Sunday April 28, 2013, they came together for the first time in 30 years to perform their single “Candy” for their friends, neighbors and fans at the Stax to the Max event at the Stax Museum in South Memphis, backed by the Gary Goin Band.
In the crowd at the Stax to the Max festival, I ran into a number of Memphis rap legends, including Playa Fly, producer Drumma Boy and up-and-coming Memphis artist and promoter Cortez “Godfellow” Currie. There is a direct correlation between the legacy of Stax and Hi Records, and the hip-hop scene in Memphis from the 1990’s to the present, whether that is obvious or not.
One of the better-kept secrets in Memphis is the Soulsville Street Festival, also known as Stax to the Max, a celebration of the South Memphis neighborhood around Stax and the legacy of great music that came from it.
The stage set up on the back parking lot behind the museum and Stax Music Academy featured a series of performances from local and out-of-town school groups, as well as former Stax artists The Astors, The Temprees, The Mad Lads and William Bell. In addition there were children’s crafts and recreational activities and food vendors, and a crowd of several hundred turned out on Sunday, after the event was postponed from Saturday due to rain.