Goin' Back to Memphis: A Century of Blues, Rock 'n' Roll, and Glorious Soul

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Schirmer Books, 1996 - Blues (Music) - 279 pages
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Goin' Back to Memphis is the first comprehensive history of Memphis music-making as it developed over the last hundred years, told in the words of the performers, record producers, and composers themselves. The author brings a special perspective to how black and white musicians have worked together to forge a unique musical style with elements of country, boogie, blues, rock, and gospel. You'll meet memorable figures on the music scene, from "Fiddlin" Abe Fortas, who led a popular dance band in Memphis in the twenties and thirties and went on to become a trusted advisor to President Lyndon Johnson; radio engineer Sam Phillips, who started the Sun label to record local blues performers and ended up discovering Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash, and Carl Perkins; housewife Estelle Stewart Axton, who with her brother launched Stax Records, one of the most important purveyors of '60s soul; and producer Willie Mitchell, who helped launch the career of Al Green. Beale Street has long been the capital of Memphis music - and also a center for gambling, womanizing, and street-level politics. Dickerson shows how the many forces of Memphis life - from the genteel upper classed to the lowly street cleaners - came together in this locus of good times and low-down activities to forge a singular cultural alliance. While the forces of moral righteousness threatened the merrymaking, somehow the creative life of Beale and its denizens could not be put down. The triumph of creativity over corrupt businessmen and politicians has often been at best a temporary one, but it is the heart and soul of Memphis's musical journey.

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About the author (1996)

Dickerson is a veteran newspaper journalist.

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