On Race Music

 

Underground is the opening number in Memphis: The Musical, which received 8 Tony nominations while winning 4 (2010) – including Best Musical. The story (loosely true) is about a white DJ in Memphis who played black music in the 1950s to a White audience. The musical’s script includes “race music” as a descriptive phrase.

In my almost 66 years, I haven’t heard “race music” before, well – until 10 days before attending a community theater performance of Memphis: The Musical when we saw the premier of a new play – Cincinnati King – a story about Cincinnati-based King Records. (Click for video ad.) From not ever hearing the term to it crossing my path twice within 10 days is a bit odd – but also a sign for a blog post.

Within a week after attending Memphis: The Musical, we saw a new movie (well, new at the time) – Green Book – many thumbs up! (Click for trailer.) Although not about race music, this movie involves both music and racism. Another timely event for my November and this post. However, this post is about Memphis and Cincinnati – so, let’s jump to Cleveland.

Cleveland is in the diagonally opposite corner of Ohio from Cincinnati – a 4 hour drive downtown-to-downtown. Cleveland is also home to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (Hall). Besides putting up the money to get the Hall, the location is based on Alan Freed, a Cleveland DJ (WJW) who coined the term rock and roll. Interestingly, Freed’s “sign-on” song was on the King Records label.

Then there is Terry Stewart, the Hall’s longest serving CEO and current President Emeritus, who said the following: “There are only three places in the country that can claim to be the birthplace of rock and roll: New Orleans, Memphis, and Cincinnati.” (Reminder of the two plays that I saw.)

Image from Wikipedia

King Records is the reason Cincinnati is in that quote. Syd Nathan, a local sales hustler, started King Records in 1943. With Cincinnati being home to one of the nation’s most powerful radio stations (WLW) and the local population having many Blacks and poor Appalachian Whites, Nathan saw a musical opportunity.

In time, Nathan grew King Records into one of the most successful independent record labels in the country, Nathan also controlled the recording, mastering, pressing, and shipping processes because they were typically done in-house – therefore a quick turnaround from recording to store shelves.

By realizing the importance of music to different populations, Nathan’s stable of artists included country & western, rhythm & blues, gospel, bluegrass, rockabilly, and boogie woogie. On the “B-side” of 45s, he often put a crossover song or artist to expand the music to different populations. Yes, Nathan promoted and distributed race music.

Fever was a hit for Peggy Lee in 1958 – but did you know that King Records Little Willie John recorded Fever two years earlier?

 

Everyone knows the success with The Twist. Did you know that the song was first done by Hank Ballard and the Midnighters on King Records? Ballard was unavailable for American Bandstand, so Dick Clark (who wanted the song on the show) turned to a local artist to perform the song as a cover – enter Chubby Checker.

 

Music buffs may know King Records names as Albert King, Grandpa Jones, Joe Tex, The Dominoes, The Charms, Freddie King, and John Lee Hooker – but the biggest name at King Records was none other than the Godfather of Soul – James Brown – with this mega-hit that won Brown his first Grammy Award (Best R&B Performance, 1966).

 

Syd Nathan died in 1968. Although King Records final demise would shortly follow, it’s impact on the music industry would last forever. Meanwhile, the City of Cincinnati is considering a King Records Museum. Let’s toast the pioneers of race music in Cincinnati and Memphis. Cheers!

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On BLINK Murals

Cincinnati is blessed that ArtWorks has added over 120 murals throughout the city – many of which are downtown. Along comes BLINK, which adds murals 10 murals to the collection by artists from Belgium, Brazil, England, Lithuania, Netherlands, Puerto Rico, Peru, Spain, and the United States. Enjoy the ones I saw.

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We didn’t see all the murals that evening, but here’s a glimpse.

 

To see all the murals, click to visit the BLINK page on murals. 

To see other posts about BLINK, click here.

To see past posts featuring Cincinnati’s ArtWorks murals, click here.

For those who enjoy murals and street art, I encourage you to visit the one who got me interested in this topic –Resa @ Graffiti Lux & Murals.

On BLINK with Rosemary

George Clooney is one of Cincinnati’s beloved native sons – but he wasn’t the first famous Clooney in the area. Locals know George’s dad (Nick) from his many years in local news, but before that, it was George’s aunt who made a name for herself here and on the national stage – Rosemary Clooney  -who ArtWorks featured on the Swing Around Rosie mural. (My past post about it.)

 

For BLINK, Agar (a social intelligence company) transformed the Swing Around Rosie mural into a projection display of song and dance called Swing & Sway. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a full video with good song quality – so I recommend following the suggestions associated with each of the videos below.

This one has the best audio, but excludes the beginning and ends too soon. If you get bored, forward to 1:40.

 

Audio isn’t very good, but it shows more. Start at 0:40 so it overlaps with the previous video.

 

Here’s the full clip, but the sound isn’t very good. At least you can see the beginning (the first minute).

 

To see other posts about BLINK, click here.

On BLINK with Harper

Charlie Harper is an American artist known for his unique use of geometrics in his wildlife drawings. Because he is regarded as a local treasure, ArtWorks honored him featuring his work on a mural (seen below). Readers may recall my post featuring the two bluebirds titled Homecoming.

 

For BLINK, We Have Become Vikings (a local multimedia company) transformed this mural into their own tribute to Charlie Harper by projecting other Harper creations onto the mural. Enjoy Our Own Homecoming.

To see other posts about BLINK, click here.

On BLINK with Ruthven

John Ruthven is an American artist known for painting wildlife in the style of James Audubon. Awarded a National Medal of Arts in 2004 and an area resident, ArtWorks honored him by featuring one of his paintings as a mural (Seen below). I also posted about this mural – Martha: The Last Passenger Pigeon.

For BLINK, Foster & Flux (a local animation studio) transformed the mural into a vivid and beautiful story. Enjoy the video showing For the Birds.

To see other posts about BLINK, click here.

On Two Forms of Energy and Grace

Hmmmm …. I wonder what these represent?

 

I still can’t tell what’s going on, but this is whimsical to me.

 

Even though it is difficult for me to apply meaning, I like this abstract design

 

Is this representing a bug or a fish?

 

But it connected to something.

 

Yet it all comes together forming Energy and Grace – after all, energy and momentum are connected.

 

When I first saw the ArtWorks mural, the abstract side of me liked it, but it doesn’t deliver the boldness that I also enjoy. I see fun, but it also bores me relatively quick. Yet, it served as ArtWorks first abstract mural.

Three reasons exist for Energy and Grace:

  1. Saluting the resurgence of the downtown neighborhood known as Over the Rhine (OTR)
  2. Celebrating the Art Academy of Cincinnati (AAC), which moved to OTR in 2005
  3. Honoring an internationally acclaimed local artist who is also a faculty member at AAC

ArtWorks and AAC collaborated in 2013 to transform one of Kim Krause’s paintings into this mural located at 16 E. 12th Street in downtown Cincinnati. Energy and Grace’s design displays energy and momentum in a fun and whimsical way.

Not long ago I introduced BLINK Cincinnati to readers. For BLINK, Brace Berlin (a production services company) transformed this mural with projection mapping into their version of Energy and Grace – and it is featured below in this 30-second promo for BLINK. Enjoy.

 

To see more of my posts about the murals of Cincinnati, click here.

To learn more about artist Kim Krause, click here to visit his site.

Thanks to Resa (Toronto’s leading lady) whose posts about street art in Toronto and Winnipeg, got me interested in outdoor art in my area. I invite readers to visit Resa’s blog (but tell her I sent you).

On Introducing BLINK

I was probably like many Cincinnatians who unknowingly wondered about the BLINK event when it was announced and eventually promoted. I was also one of the many Cincinnatians who attended the 4-day event in mid-October that left enthusiastic and in awe. Officials estimate 1 million people attended BLINK.

2017 was the first year for BLINK in Cincinnati. I recall reading that this was the first event of its kind, but I couldn’t confirm it. Nonetheless, BLINK unquestionably shined a light on the city and I’m confident the future will bring BLINK-like lights to other locations.

BLINK was a light and art festival spanning 20-city blocks from near the river through city center into a rejuvenated downtown neighborhood. Because it was a festival of lights, the event didn’t start until dusk.

BLINK was a free event – no admission charge – all people needed were good shoes for walking and a wandering nature to find the featured displays of projection mapping (22), lighted displays (5), light art (35), new murals (10), and music. Interestingly, artists from all over the world provided the displays. Over time, I will do have several posts about BLINK, but wanted to introduce it first.

Here are two short videos delivering snippets of the great show – and I hope you watch both. The first is a 3-minute video posted by the Cincinnati Enquirer. Because I couldn’t embed it, click here. The video below is worth the 2 minutes. Enjoy the glimpses of BLINK.