Soulsville USA Festival 2017
Another amazing Memphis fest is back this Saturday, and contributor Aisling has all the info on what to expect and why you should go, plus some background on Soulsville.
You’ve heard the slogan a million times: Memphis is the Home of the Blues and the Birthplace of Rock n’ Roll. But one of the other things Memphis does better than anyone: soul.
Celebrate Memphis soul this weekend with an all-day music festival in Soulsville USA in South Memphis. Wear your comfiest dancing shoes and finest moves to the corner of College and McLemore on Saturday, October 21 from 11 a.m. – 6 p.m.. It’ll be a blowout party featuring soul, jazz, trap jazz, gospel, and hip hop artists on four stages, plus vendors, food, art, and dance.
This is the third year for the Soulsville Festival, which started in 2015. It was created by Tonya Dyson, along with six teenage interns and a neighborhood advisory committee. Check out this video from the 2016 shindig.
Aside from being a physical place in Memphis, Soulsville USA is many things.
It’s a song written by Memphians Eddie Floyd and Steve Cropper, recorded by Wilson Pickett and Tina Turner. It’s the community where Aretha Franklin was born to a preacher man in a shotgun house (406 Lucy, at McLemore). Fun fact: Christopher Dean – the Booker T. Washington High School senior who introduced President Barack Obama at the school’s 2011 commencement ceremony – also lived in the house as a child. “Respect,” arguably the Queen of Soul’s most famous hit, was written by STAX artist Otis Redding.
Soulsville is the place where black and white musicians came together to jam at STAX Recording Studios during a time of serious racial strife in the South, breaking down social barriers and teaching the world to groove together.
I once interviewed an Irish DJ named Chris Maher, who hosts a soul-music radio show in Dublin, and he said, “I don’t know what it is. Maybe you guys put something in the water, especially up around McLemore Avenue, but there just is so much natural musical talent.” That’s the kind of global impact Soulsville has made.
It’s also the neighborhood where Hollywood director Tom Shadyac (“Bruce Almighty,” “Ace Ventura,” “The Nutty Professor”) is investing several million dollars in a 28,000-square-foot community center for youth mentoring, recreational activities, and generally bringing folks together.
And Soulsville is home to STAX Music Academy, whose supremely talented students will be among those performing Saturday, along with artists such as soul group Black Cream, soul singer Candice Ivory, hip hop artists Truth & Consequence, gospel singer Chris Little, Soulsville neighbors the LeMoyne-Owen College Gospel Choir and more.
A main goal of the Soulsville USA Festival is to educate the city about the people who’ve contributed to Memphis’ soulful history and introduce them to those contributing to its future. So, in addition to the impressive lineup, the family friendly festival will feature a host of interactive and educational activities, including an ARTent with demos from an array of visual artists, a Knowledge Quest Kids Zone with games, face painting and caricature drawings, and a dance stage featuring interactive ballet, contemporary, jookin and stepping dance demos.
Admission to the festival is free, plus you’ll get FREE entry to the acclaimed Stax Museum of American Soul Music, which normally costs $13 for adults and $10 for kids. This hallowed ground for music fans from around the world tells the story of one of the nation’s most influential music labels and holds a one-of-a-kind collection that includes Isaac Hayes superfly custom-made Cadillac Eldorado with 24-carat gold exterior trim — part of his 1972 record deal.
After exploring the STAX exhibits, gather your friends — or strangers, because this is Memphis and strangers will gladly sing and dance with you — to express yourself on the museum’s dance floor, where you can pick up some moves from the dancers in vintage Soul train episodes playing on screen. Visitors on Saturday will also have access to educational talks and activities inside the museum.
If all of that didn’t convince you, 1) you’re sure hard to please and 2) the festival will have 40 vendors on hand, selling crafts and other items, and several food trucks on site for you to enjoy a little shopping, snacking and supporting local businesses.
Expect a crowd and consider getting yourself there by public transit, bike, carpool, lyft, or your own two feet. The weather forecast is looking pretty good, with temps in the 70s.
2017 Soulsville USA Festival
Saturday, October 21, 2017
11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Soulsville USA District at College and McLemore, South Memphis
About the Author
Aisling Maki is a freelance writer, editor, and public and media relations specialist with awards from The Associated Press, Society of Professional Journalists and Public Relations Society of America, as well as several awards for fiction writing. Her work has appeared in publications in more than 20 countries. You can usually find her cheering on the Grizzlies, doing outdoorsy things, or traveling with her daughter, Brídín. They live in Cooper-Young with a dog, a guinea pig and a pair of pet mice.