Unsung Bar-Kays

Joe Incardona of Media Source assembled the Memphis crew responsible for the on-location filming for Unsung, the signature music biography series airing nationally on the TV One network. The episode of Unsung showcasing The Bar-Kays debuts on TV One on Monday, April 19, at 8 PM Central.


A special sneak-preview screening of the Unsung episode on The Bar-Kays will be held at Studio On The Square in midtown Memphis on Thursday, April 15, at 7 PM.


The production team involved in the filming here in Memphis included native Memphian and former NBC News staff cameraman Richard Copley; Craig Leake, Emmy and Peabody Award-winning network news producer and current professor in film and television production at the University of Memphis; Joe Incardona, former on-air reporter for WREG-TV Memphis and president of Media Source; Randy Paige, former videographer at WGCL-TV in Atlanta and WREG-TV here in Memphis; and Philip Hood, University of Memphis film and television graduate and current production specialist at Media Source.


“Being the subject of Unsung is good for The Bar-Kays, and it‟s good for Memphis, because it gives the complete overview of where we come from, and where we are now,” said James Alexander, the only founding member of the original Stax group still active in the band.


“It means a lot to us to be able to show this episode first here in Memphis,” Alexander added. “This means many of our fans and friends will be able to see it before it goes on air nationally. It‟s the least we can do for our fans here in Memphis to give them the chance to see the show first.”


The Bar-Kays started their career in 1966 as a studio session musician group, backing major recording artists at Stax Records in Memphis. In 1967, the legendary Otis Redding chose The Bar-Kays to be his backing band on tour. On December 10, 1967, the plane carrying Otis Redding, his manager, and Bar-Kays Jimmy King, Ronnie Caldwell, Phalon Jones, and Ben Cauley, crashed into a lake near Madison, Wisconsin enroute to a performance there. Only trumpeter Ben Cauley survived that crash. Bassist James Alexander had taken a commercial flight. Within a few months of the tragedy, Cauley and Alexander rebuilt the group.


The re-formed Bar-Kays added several new members, including their first vocalist, Larry Dodson. They went on to back dozens of Stax artists on recordings, including Isaac Hayes' Hot Buttered Soul and his Academy Award-winning film song, Theme from Shaft. The Bar-Kays continued to make hit records of their own during a successful funk and R&B career well into the 1980s. After a hiatus in the late '80s, the band regrouped in 1991 under the direction of James Alexander, and continues to tour and perform today.


“We are so proud to have played a part in the production of this groundbreaking episode of TV One‟s Unsung,” said Media Source president Joe Incardona. “The story of The Bar-Kays is one that really needed to be told. The producer, Belma Michael Johnson of Los Angeles, has done a masterful job within this show of weaving in other elements of Memphis history, such as the events surrounding the civil rights movement, the thriving Memphis music scene, and the rise and fall of Stax Records. This show will clearly help convey the image of Memphis as one of the coolest, most soulful places in the world.”


“Working on this production was an honor for me,” said Richard Copley, who did extensive filming with Media Source's Panasonic DVCPRO HD camera. “It brought back memories to me of Stax, and all the great artists who recorded there,” he added. “I worked during the early Stax years as a photographer for a small local newspaper, The Memphis Blue Note, that covered Memphis nightlife. Stax Records was on my regular beat for the paper.”


“What a pleasure this was to work with so many talented Memphians both in front of and behind the cameras,” said Craig Leake, who was a sound man and field producer during the Unsung shoots with The Bar-Kays. Leake, an award-winning documentary producer in his own right, added, “This is a great example of the power of documentary filmmaking -- even those of us who grew up here will learn things from this show that we didn‟t know.”


TV One is carried locally in Memphis by Comcast and DirecTV.