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Southern Avenue Singing
bridge in memphis
Beale Street at Night
Memphis Ukulele Band Sun Studio

In Memphis, people walk Beale Street to conjure the original blues boys, step into studios—SunStax—to feel the first rumblings of rock and soul, and pass through the gates of Graceland to contemplate sounds that shook the world. The places help them remember, or imagine, how Memphis music innovated, transcended, united.

Through its landmarks, Memphis preserves this musical heritage. Through its modern-day musicians, Memphis carries it forward. As performers riff on the very traditions that inspire them, they create new sounds—evolving, collaborating, crossing over—yet ever-echoing the essence of the Memphis tradition: bringing people together in music, spirit and a passion for life. Listen as the beat goes on: 

Southern Avenue 
American Blues Scene magazine asserted, "If Memphis music is a genre, [Southern Avenue] is it." Guitarist Ori Naftaly explains: “Memphis music brings diversity. It brings together everything that came from the church, popular music, roots, Americana, soul and blues.” If Naftaly brings the blues—all that he studied and dreamed of from his native Israel, until traveling to Memphis in 2013 to shake up the International Blues Challenge—his bandmates bring the balance: sisters Tierinii (lead vocals) and Tikyra Jackson (percussion) grew up performing in the Memphis church pastored by their parents; bassist Daniel McKee cut his teeth sitting in with local groups rocking funk to folk. The result is a slow-burning groove that explodes through audiences when Tierinii unleashes the raw power of her voice. Southern Avenue’s first full-length album, recorded at the late Jim Dickinson’s Zebra Ranch, debuts on Stax Records in spring 2017.

Kameron Whalum
Kameron Whalum’s uncles blew horns behind Miles Davis and Whitney Houston, so he wasn’t surprised to inherit some chops. Yet he admits it was a reality check to join Bruno Mars’ band. Amid performing with Mars at multiple Super Bowls and GRAMMY Awards ceremonies, Whalum learned that the band would be traveling to his native Memphis to record with a family friend, Lawrence “Boo” Mitchell, at Memphis’ legendary Royal Studios. In the same space where Boo’s late father, Willie, produced Al Green and Ann Peebles, Mars, Kameron and company recorded the vocals for “Uptown Funk,” 2016’s GRAMMY Record of the Year. Between tour stops with Mars, Whalum’s working on his first solo project, returning to Memphis—and recording at Royal—as often as he can. His first single, “Sam,” dropped in September 2016.

Memphis Ukulele Band
Inside Memphis’ landmark Sun Studio, Jon Hornyak, director of the local chapter of The Recording Academy, sketched the beginnings of a ukulele band with fellow musicians Jason Freeman and Matt Ross-Spang (GRAMMY award-winning engineer of Memphis’ Sam Phillips Recording). The friends added University of Memphis student Kyndle McMahan and critically acclaimed singer/songwriter Mark Edgar Stuart, creating a five-piece super-group. Live and on their self-titled debut album (released February 2016 on Memphis’ Blue Barrel Records), the band’s covers—plus one original by Stuart—exude pure fun while exploring the genre-bending range of the ukulele, from Hill Country blues to pop, reggae and what the band calls “ukulele soul.”

 
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Southern Avenue Singing