Saturday October 26, the Memphis Chapter of The Recording Academy sponsored their annual Grammy GPS event, a day-long conference of panels, workshops and performances intended to encourage new and young producers and artists as they are making their way in the music industry. Panelists for the day included Jonathan Poneman of Seattle’s Sub Pop label, Ben Swank of Nashville-based Third Man Records, and noted Memphis hip-hop producer Carlos “Six July” Broady. The day ended with a gala reception at the Stax Museum next door.
The band Sons of Mudboy AKA Three-Legged Dog is the logical outgrowth of the super Memphis group Mudboy and the Neutrons, which I have discussed at length in the past. Sons of Mudboy consists of Steve Selvidge, Luther Dickinson, Cody Dickinson and Paul Taylor, and as such was the perfect group to close out Tuesday night’s celebration of the life and work of Steve’s dad Sid Selvidge. The band played an acoustic set, which was followed by a fairly lengthy documentary about Sid Selvidge in which the late singer-songwriter discussed the impact of Furry Lewis and Black culture on his music, and also where he discussed the origins of the name Mudboy and the Neutrons. Then the band Son of Mudboy came back out and closed out this most important night of Memphis music with a final electric set.
Son of Mudboy performing Furry Lewis’ “Casey Jones” live at their Mingelwood Hall gig on Wednesday, April 3, 2013. This version of “Casey Jones” is also sometimes called “On The Road Again” or “Natural Born Eastman”, and paints a rather different image of the railroad hero than the traditional ballad. The origin of the term is obscure (perhaps deriving from “easy man”) but in old Black slang, an “eastman” was a pimp, and Furry Lewis emphasized Jones as a ladies man and rambler rather than a traditional hero.
I never got to hear Mudboy and the Neutrons in person, the rather bizarre Memphis supergroup consisting of Jim Dickinson, Lee Baker, Jimmy Crosthwait and Sid Selvidge, but I have been fortunate enough to hear their records. The spirit of Mudboy lives on in the form of Son of Mudboy, formerly Three-Legged Puppy, consisting of Luther and Cody Dickinson, Steve Selvidge and Paul Taylor. At their Minglewood Hall performance last night, Son of Mudboy performed traditional songs like “Casey Jones on the Road Again AKA Natural Born Eastman”, “Didn’t We Shake Sugaree”, “The Dark End of the Street” and “Going to Brownsville”, all songs that would be familiar to anyone who has heard the recorded works of Mudboy and the Neutrons. The rousing second set closed with Jim Dickinson’s feel-good call to civic revolution “Power to the People”, with its famous line “Lucille was there, but Beale Street was gone.” The crowd of a hundred or so demanded an encore, and the band obliged with the slow and mournful drug ballad “Codine” and a final joyful reading of “Hey, Bo Diddley.” Son of Mudboy will appear each Wednesday at Minglewood Hall during the month of April, starting at 8 PM.
The H & H Tavern is another example of a historic venue in East Austin forced to confront the changing realities of the neighborhood. Traditionally a African-American community bar, this year the H & H chose to sponsor its first official SXSW showcase, comprised of mostly white rock bands from out-of-town. But the owners and managers seemed to be having a good time with it, and the bands seemed to like the venue, with its soulful ambiance and neighborhood vibe. The young man who manages the space is a drummer (his large drum set is kept against the wall toward the front), and he told me a lot about what goes on in the H & H when it isn’t SXSW. Apparently one can occasionally catch live soul and R & B bands in the space on weekends, but the man also told me that his vision is to make people of all backgrounds feel welcome at the H & H, and to book all different kinds of music.
Earlier, I had encountered members of Austin indie-rock band The Quiet Company across from the Austin Convention Center in Brushy Park, handing out flyers and promoting their music. So you can imagine my surprise when I discovered that the band that caused me to walk into Bar 96 was in fact The Quiet Company. They are in fact a melodic, tuneful aggregation, with horn players, and their songs often feature anthemic hooks that get the audience involved.
Hotel Vegas, despite the name, is a nightclub rather than an hotel. Although there are apartments on the second floor, it doesn’t seem that they are rentable by the night as hotel rooms. But during SXSW, the Hotel Vegas becomes a very busy place indeed, with a stage inside, a stage in their sister insitution known as the Volstead Lounge, which is in the same building, and a third stage outdoors in back. When I arrived at the Vegas on Tuesday afternoon, melodic Austin rockers The Preservation were performing on the main stage indoors. Theirs is a style that has been appropriately described as “ethereal”.