Football & Funk At Grambling Homecoming

001 Grambling Homecoming002 Grambling Homecoming003 Grambling Homecoming004 Grambling Homecoming005 Grambling Homecoming006 Grambling Homecoming007 Grambling Homecoming008 Grambling Homecoming009 Grambling Homecoming010 Grambling Homecoming011 Grambling Homecoming012 Grambling Homecoming013 Grambling Homecoming014 Grambling Homecoming015 Grambling Homecoming016 Grambling Homecoming017 Grambling Homecoming018 Grambling Homecoming019 Grambling Homecoming020 Grambling Homecoming021 Grambling Homecoming022 Grambling Homecoming024 Grambling Homecoming025 Grambling Homecoming026 Grambling Homecoming027 Grambling Homecoming028 Grambling Homecoming029 Grambling Homecoming032 Grambling Homecoming033 Grambling Homecoming034 Grambling Homecoming036 Grambling Homecoming037 Grambling Homecoming038 Grambling Homecoming039 Grambling Homecoming040 Grambling Homecoming041 Grambling Homecoming042 Grambling Homecoming043 Grambling Homecoming044 Grambling Homecoming045 Grambling Homecoming046 Grambling Homecoming049 Grambling Homecoming050 Grambling Homecoming051 Grambling Homecoming052 Grambling Homecoming053 Grambling Homecoming054 Grambling Homecoming055 University City High School057 University City High School058 University City High School059 Grambling Homecoming060 Grambling Homecoming063 Elite Danceline064 Elite Danceline066 Rayville High School067 Rayville High School068 Rayville High School069 Grambling Homecoming070 Grambling Homecoming071 Grambling High School072 Madison High School074 Madison High School075 Grambling Homecoming076 Grambling Homecoming077 Grambling Homecoming078 Grambling Homecoming079 Grambling Homecoming080 Grambling Band081 Grambling Homecoming082 Grambling Homecoming083 Grambling Homecoming023 Grambling Homecoming084 Grambling Homecoming085 Grambling Homecoming086 Grambling Homecoming087 Grambling Homecoming
The name Grambling was familiar in my youth, more than likely because my dad was quite the NFL fan, and the little historically-Black college in the Piney Woods of North Louisiana had sent an incredible number of athletes to pro football. It also just so happened that we used to pass it all the time as we traveled from our home in Dallas to my grandparents’ home in Gulfport, Mississippi, or our annual family reunion in Jackson. But Grambling State University would come to my attention first through a movie called Grambling’s White Tiger about Jim Gregory, the first white football player to play for Grambling and its famous coach Eddie Robinson, and later a Coca-Cola commercial featuring the World-Famous Tiger Band further grabbed my attention. So when our family quit having our family reunions in Jackson in the fall of 1993, I made plans to go to Grambling’s homecoming instead. I ended up having so much fun that I have gone almost every year since then.
If Grambling is best known for football, it also has a long tradition of excellence in music, particularly its marching band. Tradition has it that the first band instruments were purchased on credit from Sears & Roebuck by Dr. Ralph Waldo Emerson Jones, who was the president of what was then called Louisiana Negro Normal and Industrial Institute. Jones is said to have directed the band himself, although music education was not his field. Grambling’s excellent band tradition means that a lot of the country’s best Black high school bands come to the annual homecoming parade, determined to show their talent. Many bands from Louisiana come, like Lake Charles’ venerable Washington-Marion, Alexandria’s Peabody, or Tallulah’s Madison. Bands also come from Texas, and from further afield, occasionally coming from University City, Missouri or Tulsa, Oklahoma. Unlike the previous year, the weather this year was perfect for a parade, and a large crowd turned out to enjoy the bands and floats.
The football game in the afternoon was the occasion for a battle between two of the Southwestern Athletic Conference’s best bands, the Marching Musical Machine of the Mid-South from the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, and the World-Famed Tiger Marching Band from Grambling. The two bands battled back and forth throughout the first half of the game, as did Grambling’s Chocolate Thunder drumline and UAPB’s K.R.A.N.K. drumline. Outside the stadium were the acres of tailgaters, many with mobile homes or tents, some with DJ’s and most with barbecue grills. It was all in all a great day with good football, good music, good food and good fun.































An Endangered Memphis Black Drumming Tradition Featured at MMHF 2016

New photo by John Shaw / Google Photos
New photo by John Shaw / Google Photos
New photo by John Shaw / Google Photos
New photo by John Shaw / Google Photos
New photo by John Shaw / Google Photos
New photo by John Shaw / Google Photos
New photo by John Shaw / Google Photos
New photo by John Shaw / Google Photos
New photo by John Shaw / Google Photos
New photo by John Shaw / Google Photos
New photo by John Shaw / Google Photos
New photo by John Shaw / Google Photos
New photo by John Shaw / Google Photos
New photo by John Shaw / Google Photos
New photo by John Shaw / Google Photos
New photo by John Shaw / Google Photos

Drums have played an important role in all Black musical cultures, and Memphis is no exception. Although Blacks were forbidden to have drums prior to the Civil War in almost all Southern states other than Louisiana, they quickly became an important part of Black musical life during Reconstruction, being used in the brass bands and fife-and-drum bands that accompanied fraternal organization parades or picnics, political rallies and funerals. Many of these organizations had been founded by Black troops that had fought in the Civil War on the side of the Union after the Emancipation Proclamation, and undoubtedly some of these men had been drummers. The all-Black colleges and schools that began to form during and after Reconstruction also had marching bands with percussion sections as well, and this tradition had an influence on Black communities in the South. By the waning years of the Civil Rights Movement, a new interest in Black culture and its African roots may have led to the formation of the majorette and drummer phenomenon in Memphis which emerged around 1969 or so. Although Black high schools and colleges had always had majorettes and drummers as part of their bands, the phenomenon where majorettes performed competitive routines accompanied only by the drummers was new, and perhaps unique to Memphis. As the years progressed, the drummers added some innovations, like the use of marching toms and eventually roto-toms, to add different layers of pitch to the percussive musical landscape, and the addition of hi-hat cymbals, so as to approximate the sound of a drum set. The accompaniments were often influenced by funk or Latin music, but aside from occasional melodies played on the glockenspiel, the musical backing for these routines was strictly drums, and the drummers were judged as well as the majorettes. This musical and cultural phenomenon was so much a part of my teenage years in the 1980’s that it was unthinkable that it could ever disappear, and yet nowadays the majorette jamboree as it existed then is largely a thing of the past, the drummers having been replaced by recorded CD’s of popular songs played by a DJ. There are lots of theories as to why the majorette drumming phenomenon has died in Memphis, but some of them point out the lack of instruments and high expense of drums, the discouraging of the tradition by school principals and band directors, the lack of available drum instructors, the banning of majorettes and drummers from local community centers (apparently due to the noise involved with their practices), and the negative influence of the streets and gang activity causing lack of interest on the part of young men. For whatever reason, the Black drumming tradition in Memphis is certainly endangered, but at least one organization, the Baby Blues Drumline, has worked over the last few years to try to preserve this culture. Often appearing at the Juke Joint Fest in Clarksdale, Africa in April on Beale Street or the Memphis Music and Heritage Festival, they frequently draw a crowd of onlookers. At this year’s Memphis Music and Heritage Festival, they were a featured act, appearing briefly at the Gayoso Street Stage on Sunday afternoon before a small but appreciative crowd.

Cameron Kimbrough and R. L. Boyce Bringing The Hill Country to the Memphis Music & Heritage Festival

New photo by John Shaw / Google Photos
New photo by John Shaw / Google Photos
New photo by John Shaw / Google Photos
New photo by John Shaw / Google Photos
New photo by John Shaw / Google Photos
New photo by John Shaw / Google Photos
New photo by John Shaw / Google Photos
New photo by John Shaw / Google Photos
New photo by John Shaw / Google Photos
New photo by John Shaw / Google Photos
New photo by John Shaw / Google Photos
New photo by John Shaw / Google Photos
New photo by John Shaw / Google Photos
New photo by John Shaw / Google Photos
New photo by John Shaw / Google Photos
New photo by John Shaw / Google Photos

The annual Memphis Music and Heritage Festival, held each Labor Day weekend along Main Street in downtown Memphis, is the city’s premiere music festival featuring the styles of music indigenous to Memphis and its surrounding region. The totally-free festival features multiple stages across two days, filled with gospel, blues, soul, rock, bluegrass and country, as well as local drill teams, majorettes and drumlines, cooking demonstrations and visual art. One of the highlights of this year’s festival was the Sunday afternoon meeting of Hill Country blues veteran R. L. Boyce with Hill Country youngblood Cameron Kimbrough, grandson of the legendary Junior Kimbrough. The early tunes featured R. L. Boyce on guitar and Cameron Kimbrough on the drums, and then, about halfway through the performance, they switched, with Boyce setting up a fife-and-drum-inspired groove on the drum set, and Cameron playing his original blues tunes on the guitar. It was a truly magic collaboration from the start, and one that I hope finds further opportunity in the future.





Fairley, Southwind and Lane College Bands Perform at Southwind Stadium

1832 Red Sky at Night1833 Fairley Band002 Fairley vs. Southwind003 Fairley vs. Southwind004 Fairley High School Band005 Southwind Sunset006 Fairley High School Band007 Fairley vs. Southwind008 Southwind High School Band009 Southwind High School Band010 Southwind High School Band011 Southwind Cheerleaders012 Southwind High School Band017 Fairley and Lane College Bands1835 Southwind Band
Southwind High School in Southeast Shelby County is a relatively new school, so when I saw that they were playing Fairley on the Friday night before the Southern Heritage Classic, I decided to go out there to watch the two bands battle. I had no idea that the band from Lane College in Jackson, Tennessee would also be there as a special guest, since Southwind’s band was not marching on the field yet this year. Fairley High School has of course had a dominant band program for years, but the band is smaller these days since the school has been taken over by the state and made part of the Achievement School District. Their band still sounded good, however, especially the percussion section. Southwind also has made tremendous progress since the last time I heard their band. Unfortunately, during the middle of the game, storms and rain came up, and I had to go under the bleachers to protect my camera equipment. But the rain was gone by halftime, and never returned. There was no “fifth quartet” for the bands to battle afterward, but a small crowd remained to watch both bands march out of the stadium.








Majorettes and Drummers at Manassas High School

281 Millennium Madness Drumline282 Millennium Madness Drill Team & Drumline285 Crump Elementary Majorettes and Drummers286 Crump Elementary Majorettes287 Crump Elementary Drummers289 Martin Luther King Jr Drill Team & Drumline290 Martin Luther King Jr High School Drumline291 Martin Luther King Jr. High School Drumline001 Majorette Jamboree002 Majorette Jamboree003 Majorette Jamboree004 Millennium Madness Drumlines005 Crump Elementary Drummers and Majorettes007 Sunset in Scutterfield
I knew there was to be a massive majorette jamboree at the Manassas High School gym on Saturday afternoon (February 7), so I rode over there to see if I could capture any last remnants of the old Memphis majorette and drummer tradition. As usual, most of the performing groups involved were using prerecorded compact discs, but there were three contestants that used the traditional drumline instead, the Millennium Maddness Drill Team and Drum Squad, the Crump Elementary Majorettes and Drummers from Hickory Hill, and the Martin Luther King Jr. Diamond Divas and Drumline, the latter being the new name for the former Frayser High School now that it has been taken over by the state and turned into a charter. While I am thrilled that there are still a few groups who uphold the old tradition of dancers and drummers, I miss the old jamborees of my teenage years when everyone did their routine to drummers lined up against the wall of the gym.



Memphis Majorettes and Drummers at the Sophisticated Divas Jamboree

001 Judges003 DJ Lil Robert004 Crump Elementary Drummers005 Southaven All-Stars006 Southaven All-Stars007 Black Diamond Drumline008 Jamboree012 Southaven All-Stars013 Southaven All-Stars014 Millennium Madness Drummers015 Millennium Madness Drummers017 M-Town Image018 M-Town Image019 M-Town Image020 M-Town Image021 M-Town Image022 M-Town Image023 Crump Elementary Drumline024 Crump Elementary Drumline
Although there are fall jamborees, the cold winter months are the high point of majorette jamboree season in Memphis. Majorette jamborees exist in other cities, but they are a unique part of Memphis culture, at least in their original incarnation, where drill teams and majorettes worked out routines to beats and grooves provided by a squad of drummers. This concept dates at least as far back as the late 1960’s, and at least one such squad, the Klondike Drum and Bugle Corps, was described in a Commercial Appeal article in 1970 as doing a step called the “Moonwalk”, long before Michael Jackson became famous for it. Unfortunately, the majorette jamborees I recall from my teenage years are largely a thing of the past, as today’s majorettes tend to work out their routine to popular songs on compact discs rather than drums and drummers. However, at the Sophisticated Divas jamboree at the JIFF Center in Downtown Memphis last Saturday, at least three of the competing groups included drummers, so the traditional format is at least hanging on by a thread. The Millennium Madness Drill Team has always included drummers, but this year’s squad is larger than what I’ve seen in the past. The Black Diamonds had a drum squad that competed in one category, and Crump Elementary always has a drum squad and a majorette team. The rest of the competitors were working out to recordings, but I was also impressed with a local dance group known as M-Town Image. A number of reasons have been proposed for why drill teams and majorettes have dispensed with drummers, including lack of money or equipment, lack of interested young men wanting to play, and lack of suitable percussion instructors. In a city where there are far too few wholesome activities for young people, particularly young men, here’s hoping that someone steps up to get the young men interested in playing drums, or other musical instruments.



More Band Battles at Fairley High School

001 Melrose High School Band002 Melrose High School Band003 Melrose High School Band004 Melrose High School Band006 Oakhaven High School Band007 Oakhaven High School Band008 Oakhaven High School Cymbals009 Fairley High School Band010 Fairley High School Band011 Fairley High School Band012 Fairley High School Drumline013 Fairley High School Band014 Melrose High School Band015 Melrose High School Bass Drums016 Melrose High School Flags017 Oakhaven High School Majorettes018 Fairley High School Band019 Fairley High School Band020 Melrose High School Band021 Oakhaven Drummers vs. Melrose Drummers vs. Fairley Drummers022 Melrose Drumline023 UAPB Marching Band024 KRANK Drumline025 UAPB Marching Band026 UAPB KRANK Drumline027 UAPB Marching Band028 UAPB Marching Band029 UAPB Flags030 UAPB Marching Band031 UAPB Marching Band032 UAPB Marching Band033 UAPB Marching Band034 Oakhaven, Melrose & Fairley Mass Band035 Oakhaven, Melrose & Fairley036 Melrose, Oakhaven & Fairley037 Melrose, Fairley & Oakhaven177 Fairley High School Band178 Fairley High School Drumline188 Melrose Drumline190 UAPB Marching Band191 UAPB Marching Band199 UAPB Marching Band201 UAPB Marching Band204 UAPB Marching Band
The day after the big band battle took place at Oakhaven, there was another band battle between Melrose High School, Oakhaven High School and Fairley High School, this time at the gymnasium at Fairley in Whitehaven. The three high school bands and drumlines battled, and then there was an exhibition by the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff’s Marching Musical Machine of the Mid-South band. Since all the bands (including UAPB) had arrangements of Memphis rap artist Snootie Wild’s single “Yayo”, they closed out the event by attempting to have all the bands play it together. Keeping it together was somewhat difficult, but it was a cool way to close out the event.



















Oakhaven High School Hosts a Band Showdown

001 Central High School Band002 Central High School Band003 Whitehaven High School004 Whitehaven High School Band005 Whitehaven High School Band006 Whitehaven High School Band007 Whitehaven High School Band008 Whitehaven High School Band009 Whitehaven High School Band010 Whitehaven High School Band011 Central High School Band012 Central High School Band013 Whitehaven High School Drumline014 Whitehaven High School Bass Drummers015 Whitehaven High School Bass Drummers016 Whitehaven High School Drumline017 Whitehaven High School Band018 Whitehaven High School Band019 Talladega College Band020 Talladega College Band021 Mitchell High School Band022 Oakhaven High School Band023 Mitchell High School Band024 Mitchell High School Band025 Mitchell High School Tubas026 Mitchell High School Majorettes027 Mitchell High School Band028 Oakhaven High School Band029 Oakhaven High School Drumline030 Mitchell High School Drumline031 Mitchell High School Band032 Mitchell High School Flags033 Oakhaven High School Band034 Oakhaven High School Band035 Oakhaven High School Band153 Central High School Drumline167 Mitchell High School Drumline169 Oakhaven High School Drumline173 Mitchell High School Majorettes
Like everything else associated with Memphis’ traditional inner-city neighborhoods, the city’s marching band culture has been adversely affected by the depopulation of these areas and their schools, but something of a marching band culture still remains in certain schools. Oakhaven High School is a band program that has been showing some success in recent years, and in November they sponsored a Band Showdown, featuring competition between the bands and drumlines from Central High School, Whitehaven High School (always Memphis’ largest high school band), Mitchell High School and Oakhaven High School, as well as an exhibition appearance by the band from Talladega College in Alabama. The event was fairly well attended, and all of the bands made a decent impression, although my opinion was that Whitehaven was clearly the winner.



















Enjoying the Southern Heritage Classic Parade in Orange Mound

437 SHC438 SHC439 SHC441 SHC442 SHC443 SHC444 SHC445 SHC446 SHC447 SHC448 SHC449 SHC450 SHC451 SHC452 SHC453 SHC454 SHC455 SHC457 SHC458 SHC459 SHC460 SHC461 SHC463 University City HS Band465 University City HS Band467 SHC468 SHC469 SHC470 SHC471 Millennium Madness Drumline472 Millennium Madness Drumline473 Millennium Madness Drumline474 Millennium Madness Drumline475 Millennium Madness Drumline476 Millennium Madness Drumline477 Millennium Madness Drumline478 SHC479 SHC480 SHC481 Die Hard Cowboys482 Die Hard Cowboys483 Die Hard Cowboys484 SHC485 SHC487 SHC488 Mid-South Steelers489 Mid-South Steelers490 SHC491 SHC492 SHC494 SHC495 SHC496 SHC497 SHC498 SHC500 Southern Belles501 Ford Road Elementary Drumline503 Ford Road Elementary Drumline504 Cowborettes505 Cowborettes506 Old School Bikers507 Old School Bikers508 Old School Bikers509 SHC510 SHC511 I Am North Memphis515 Orange Mound Raiders516 Welcome to the Jungle517 Star Steppers519 SHC521 SHC523 Melrose Alumni524 Melrose High School Band525 The Sound Of The Mound526 The Orange Mound Jukebox527 Melrose HS Band528 Melrose HS Band529 SHC530 SHC531 SHC532 Melrose HS Band533 SHC534 Melrose HS Band535 SHC536 SHC537 Melrose HS Band538 Melrose HS Band539 Melrose HS Drumline540 Melrose HS Drumline542 Melrose HS Drumline541 Melrose HS Drumline543 Melrose HS Band544 Melrose HS Band546 Melrose HS Band545 Melrose HS Band549 Melrose HS Band548 Melrose HS Band550 Melrose HS Band551 Melrose HS Band552 SHC553 SHC554 SHC555 SHC556 SHC557 SHC558 SHC559 SHC560 SHC561 SHC562 SHC563 SHC564 SHC565 SHC566 SHC567 Melrose HS Drumline568 Melrose HS Band569 Melrose HS Band570 SHC571 SHC572 Melrose HS Band573 SHC574 SHC575 SHC576 SHC577 SHC578 SHC579 SHC580 SHC581 SHC582 SHC583 SHC584 "Take Our Picture"585 Aftermath586 Aftermath587 SHC588 Melrose Golden Wildcats
The annual Southern Heritage Classic is far more than a football game. Each year, on the Saturday morning of the game at 9 AM, the Southern Heritage Classic Parade begins from the corner of Park Avenue and Haynes Street, and proceeds along Park through Orange Mound to the Lamar-Airways Shopping Center. The parade usually includes the Jackson State University and Tennessee State University bands, along with majorettes, drill teams,drumlines, Cowboys and Steelers fan clubs, car clubs and many others. There used to be more marching bands in the parade as well, but for the last few years, the parade has conflicted with the Southern Heritage Classic Battle of the Bands in Whitehaven, so there have been fewer bands recently, but the hometown favorites, the Melrose High School Sound of the Mound Marching Band always closes out the parade. It’s always a lot of fun, family and food.