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Music & Concerts
Memphis Blues Fest coming to the Mahaffey
Stax Records legends combine for an evening of soul and blues
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Photo courtesy of THE MAHAFFEY THEATER
The Mahaffey Theater welcomes Booker T. Jones Aug. 8 as part of the Memphis Music Fest.
ST. PETERSBURG – Soul and blues men Booker T. Jones, The Bar-Kays and William Bell – modern music makers who brought “soul” into the mainstream – will bring the Memphis Music Fest to downtown St. Petersburg on Friday, Aug. 8, 8 p.m., at The Mahaffey Theater, 400 First St. S.

This concert will feature a triple-header of soul and blues men, including Booker T. Jones, The Bar-Kays and William Bell.

Multi-instrumentalist, songwriter, record producer and arranger Booker T. Jones is a 1992 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee, Musicians Hall of Fame inductee, 2007 Grammy Lifetime Achievement recipient and four-time Grammy winner.

Best known as the front man for Booker T. and the MGs, Jones had an early start in the music industry from high school days. He played the oboe, saxophone, trombone, bass and piano, served as organist at his church and worked as a staff musician at the age of 16 for Stax Records in Memphis, co-writing the classic instrumental “Green Onions.” He released his 10th album, “Sound the Alarm,” featuring a group of guest artists including his son Ted Jones, in 2013.

It can be argued that it was Jones who set the cast for modern soul music and is largely responsible for its rise and enduring popularity. On classic Stax hits like “Green Onions,” “Hang ‘Em High,” “Time Is Tight,” and “Melting Pot,” Jones pushed the music’s boundaries, refined it to its essence and then injected it into the nation’s bloodstream.

“Sound The Alarm” finds the Hammond B3 organ master looking ahead yet again, laying down his distinctive bedrock grooves amid a succession of sparkling collaborations with some of contemporary R&B’s most gifted young voices. “Sound The Alarm” also marks Jones’ historic return to Stax Records, the Memphis soul label the instrumentalist, bandleader, producer, and songwriter helped put on the map during the 1960s, along with his brilliant band, the MGs.

According to his biography provided by Concord Music Group, Jones’ connection to Stax Records began when he was still a teen, when the Bluff City label was founded out of McLemore Avenue’s Satellite Record Shop.

“I found the music that I loved for the rest of my life at Satellite Records, while I was on my bike soliciting customers on my paper route,” Jones said in the biography. “I walked into the lobby of the Capitol Theater, and it had been transformed into a record store, and there was Steve Cropper playing records for me there when I was in ninth grade. That legacy is my heart and my life. That’s where I come from.”

Originating as the Stax Records’ house band in 1966, The Bar-Kays were born from soul music and turbulent times. The band developed a raw soul sound that resonated with a young African-American audience.

The Bar-Kays have a career total of 29 albums, including one platinum album, five gold albums, and 20 Top 10 singles.

It was The Bar-Kays’ purposeful soulfulness that first carried them to the top of the charts in 1967 with the hit “Soulfinger.” According to the biography on the band’s website, the vibrancy of their approach landed them the career-changing backup spot for the legendary Otis Redding on his final worldwide tour. The tour, however, had a disastrous finale with Otis Redding and four band members perishing in a tragic plane accident.

The band persevered in the face of tragedy, soon recruiting vocalist Larry Dodson. The new Bar-Kays became the premier house band for Stax Records. This edition of the Bar-Kays went on to play on records behind such artists as Carla Thomas, Rufus Thomas, Johnnie Taylor, Albert King, Soul Children and Isaac Hayes. The Bar-Kays were integral to Isaac Hayes’ iconic albums such as “Hot Buttered Soul,” “Black Moses” and the Grammy Award-winning album “Shaft.”

Members of The Bar-Kays include Larry Dodson, lead singer; James Alexander, bass player and founder of the Bar-Kays; Tony Gentry, guitar; Ezra Williams, keyboards; Carlos Sargent, drums; Mark Bynum, keyboards; Darrel Stanley, background vocals; Archie Love, background vocals; Bryant Nesbitt, sound engineer; and Mike Anderson, guitar.

A recent stint with Curb Records saw a hit for The Bar-Kays with “Everybody Wants That Love,” and, in 2011, they had radio success with “Return of the Mack.”

“James and I are old pros but our band is very youthful,” said Dodson in the band’s biography. “As a result, we have always been able to bridge the gap between old and new and reach many people.”

Singer/songwriter William Bell has come to define the essence of “soul” during a distinguished 40-year career that started with the band The Del-Rios in the late 1950s.

Born in Memphis but based in Atlanta since 1970, William Bell was one of the pioneers of the classic Stax/Volt sound, joining such other illustrious musical forces at that label as Otis Redding, Sam and Dave, Isaac Hayes, Booker T. & the MG’s, Albert King, Eddie Floyd, Carla and Rufus Thomas, The Staple Singers and the Bar-Kays, among others. He is probably best known for his debut single, 1961’s “You Don’t Miss Your Water.”

After a two-year stint in the Armed Forces, William released his first full-length album in 1967, the classic “The Soul of a Bell,” which included the Top 20 hit single, “Everybody Loves a Winner.” That same year, blues great Albert King recorded what came to be his signature tune, “Born Under a Bad Sign,” also written by Bell, which has since become one of the most-recorded blues songs. The song also was recorded by Cream.

Bell’s 1967 “Every Day Will be a Holiday” was featured in the 2010 sci-fi thriller “Repo Men.”

According to a biography on the artist’s website, Bell released a brand new studio album, “New Lease on Life,” in the spring of 2006. In addition to “New Lease on Life,” other standout songs in an album full of highlights include the testifying “Playaz Only Love You (When They’re Playing),” the soulful duet with Jeff Floyd on “Somebody’s Gonna Lose A Good Woman” and “My Body Don’t Know.

Bell also continues to produce and develop a number of new artists on his Wilbe label, such as Jeff Floyd, Lola, Dave Morris and Reginald “Wizard” Jones and The Total Package Band.

Tickets start at $39. Call 893-7832 or visit www.themahaffey.com.
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