While its counterpart in Tennessee has made the name famous and become known for its Blues music and its barbecue, for at least one day in June Memphis, Missouri will try to live up to its much larger sister’s reputation for top music and food.
The Lil’ Memphis Blues Society has planned a huge concert event the likes of which would make Beale Street patrons beg for more.
On Sunday June 10th, the Memphis City Square will be graced by a pair of nationally reclaimed blues acts as well as plenty of home-grown talent that should keep the music enthusiast happy all day long. If that weren’t enough, the Scotland County Rotary Club will be pleasing the palette with the groups famous barbecue pork chops. A number of other BBQ experts will be sharing their wares on Sunday as well.
Former Memphis resident Mitch Prather will take the stage at noon to kick off the program. Fellow SCR-I grad Jake McBee and his wife Misty will also perform over the noon hour.
At 1 p.m. the Jefferson City band 2 Car Pile-Up will take the stage on the courthouse lawn. This bluegrass band features former Memphis resident David Luther.
The heat will be turned up a bit at 3 p.m. when top newcomer on the Blues circuit, Samantha Fish, will take the microphone. Fish recently was honored by the Blues Music Association with the award for Best New Artist Debut.
Headlining the show will be the Royal Southern Brotherhood, hitting the stage at 6 p.m.
The newly formed group features several names well know to the music world. Even newcomers to the Blues genre will recognize the surnames Allman and Neville.
Joining the iconic Cyril Neville and Devon Allman to form the, Royal Southern Brotherhood was Mike Zito. The group traces its roots back to a pivotal meeting in New Orleans in the summer of 2010 between the trio.
Talk turned to forming a new breed of blues-rock band, and when jams began at a secluded studio in the city’s Garden District, the fizzing chemistry was too strong to deny.
A fistful of demos hinted at the project’s potential, and the web buzzed as a volley of teaser videos hit YouTube, but Royal Southern Brotherhood truly arrived when they broke cover in the flesh at their debut show at New Orleans’ Rock ‘N’ Bowl last September.
A new breed of southern rock was unleashed, as tumbling three-part harmonies and hickory-smoked guitar riffs weaved together both families’ styles with added rocket-fuel.
A little about the RSB members. Cyril Neville is known as a poet, philosopher, percussion master and perhaps the South’s last great soul singer. At age 63, this is the latest chapter in a career that began with 1970’s debut solo single, Gossip, and his touchdown in the lineup of older brother Art’s funk outfit, The Meters, who had already hit big with 1969’s immortal Cissy Strut. Cyril lent percussion and vocals to classic albums including 1972’s Cabbage Alley and 1975’s Fire On The Bayou, and when über-fan Mick Jagger invited The Meters to open the Rolling Stones’ stadium tour of 1975, he suggested Cyril took vocals (they agreed). Post-Meters, he’s been key to the rise of The Neville Brothers, created alchemy with Bob Dylan, Bono and Willie Nelson, toured with funk act Galactic, led his solo band Tribe 13, and made TV appearances on Jimmy Kimmel Live! and HBO’s Treme.
Likewise Devon Allman. As the son of Gregg Allman, the 36-year-old has rock ‘n’ roll in his DNA, but he’s always walked his own path. Growing up apart from his father in St Louis, and refusing to trade on his celebrity surname, Devon’s formative influences took in everyone from The Beatles to KISS, while his early bands ran the musical gamut rather than echo the Allmans. In 1999, he hit the radar as leader of Honeytribe, whose fearless albums announced him as a next-generation guitar hero, but by his thirties, the pull of his Southern heritage couldn’t be denied, and he willingly fell into the soul-drenched blues-rock style that recalls his key influences, Carlos Santana and his uncle Duane Allman, while making his own mark.
In the last seven years, Devon has plotted an old-school ascent, crossing 14 countries on tour, blowing the roof off a new venue each night, and watching as fans and heroes alike fall under his spell. There’s been a Top 10 hit in Spain with Javier Vargas, albums alongside Jack Bruce, jam sessions with heavyweights like Les Paul and Billy Gibbons, even the launch of his own signature amp with Fuchs Audio Technology. When Devon takes the stage – either with Honeytribe or during cameos with his father and the Allmans – fans are wowed by a guitarist who can be smooth, savage or seismic, but it’s in Royal Southern Brotherhood that you’ll hear this modern master playing at full-throttle.
Not many guitarists could stand toe-to-toe with him. Step up Mike Zito: the blues ace whose ear for melody provides the counterpoint to his wingman’s rocking tendencies. Nominated in 2011 for the Blues Music Foundation’s ‘Best Blues Rock’ award, and winner of 2010’s Blues Music Award for ‘Song Of The Year’ with the title track of Pearl River (a co-write with Cyril Neville), few stars are rising faster. As former St Louis circuit-mates and friendly rivals, Devon and Mike have history, and while the guitarist has known trials in his life – just listen to 2011’s award-nominated Greyhound album for an account of the addictions that left him homeless in Florida – Royal Southern Brotherhood finds him long-term sober and with soul flowing through his fingers.
It is through the later member of RSB, that the group finds itself traveling to Lil’ Memphis.
Promoter Jamie Parker brought Zito to Memphis back in January for a show at the V.F.W. Post.
“It’s never simple is it?,” Parker said of that first encounter. “Fellow Lil’ Memphis Blues Society member Everett Keith Junior grabbed me in Keith’s parking lot a few years back and said our buddy Mike Burns in St. Louis had fallen in love and ‘you gotta here this guy James… he’s phenomenal’. So it was Burns in St. Louis to Junior to me to get the St. Louis Zito sound to Memphis.”
Parker noted there are a number of similarly interested promoters in Keokuk, Quincy and Kirksville that have helped this region be able to draw in some of the bigger names in the Blues industry.
Still, landing the Royal Southern Brotherhood is quite a coup. Parker noted that fellow society member Mike Gelbach first introduced locals to the sound of RSB. Knowing Zito was part of the newly formed band, the members began to work on bringing the band to Memphis immediately following Zito’s trip in January.
“We get Zito here in January and we all begged him to come back for a bigger crowd,” said Parker. “I just shot an offer to Tina Terry who is RSB’s agent at Piedmont Talent. She says ‘well if you like Zito as much as I do, he likes this KC girl Samantha Fish.’ So we get them both.”
Look for more details on the concert in next week’s edition.