24 Jun 2011
- Written by Carlee McCullough
A native of Grenada, Miss., Walker serves as the executive director of the Memphis & Shelby County Music Commission. She is the only woman ever named senior vice president of promotion for the Island Def Jam Music Group and was instrumental in launching the careers of Redman, Method Man, Onyx, Montell Jordan, Jay-Z, Musiq and Foxy Brown. She was also responsible for the successful marketing of “Def Comedy Jam,” Phat Farm clothing and Russell Simmons’ produced movies, “The Nutty Professor,” Jackie Chan’s “Rush Hour 1 and 2” plus several No. 1 Gold and Platinum albums from Sisqo, Kelly Price, Ashanti, Ja Rule, DMX, LL Cool J, Dru Hill and others. As Head of Black Music for DreamWorks Records, she handled the musical careers of The Isley Brothers, Floetry, Burt Bacharach and many others.
Kurt “KC” Clayton is a Grammy nominated producer, songwriter, arranger, and artist. He is the former president of the Memphis Chapter of N.A.R.A.S. and former chairman of the Memphis & Shelby County Music Commission. He has collaborated with Stevie Wonder, George Clinton, Chaka Khan, and Academy Award winning rap artists Three-6-Mafia. And his production skills earned him Grammy nominations for his work with Ann Nesby, formerly of Sounds of Blackness, and for The Canton Spirituals.
Barron “Baba” McGlothlin, a native Memphian, was the former musical director of an award winning gospel choir while at Southern University in Baton Rouge. Through his management company, Divine Connections, Barron has built a track record that includes work with Yolanda Adams, O’Landa Draper and the Associates, Jennifer Holliday, Kath Taylor Brown and most recently the Billboard-charting gospel group Perfection (“What is This”).
Carlee McCullough: How do you think Memphis music has evolved from the days of the past?
Kurt “KC” Clayton: It is a lot more diverse than it has ever been. With the past, most people only think of STAX, Hi Records, and Sun Studios. But now with the rise of hip hop, in Memphis you have Three 6 Mafia that has won an Oscar, Free Soul has a major record deal, (and) Kurt Whalum is here. Gospel has a strong presence. Memphis is not just R&B or Rockabilly anymore. Memphis is gospel, jazz, country, blues, and hip hop. It is everything, which is a good thing. Memphis is able to change with the times.
Barron “Baba” McGlothlin: We are making history in the music business. People across the country know that Memphis has talent and we are going back to good music.
Carlee McCullough: How can Memphis Music evolve?
Johnnie Walker: We have to assign value to it. And it has to be valuable enough to move past our borders. We cannot expect others to value our music if we don’t. People do not buy, support, nurture or grow anything that they do not care about. When we embrace our music, add value to it, we purchase it, we support it, radio is pressured, the studios are booked, venues are utilized, etc. The entire music community has to connect and interact with each other to affect this evolution.
Kurt “KC” Clayton
Barron “Baba” McGlothlin: We can evolve by staying true to who we are. We just need to make good music.
Carlee McCullough: Why do Memphis’ rising stars go to other markets to get into the industry?
Johnnie Walker: Creativity breeds and follows creativity. When you have hubs of creativity, music, and activity, people or musicians flock to be a part of it. When a city is stagnant with music and it doesn’t appear to be thriving or vibrant, artists will go to the hub or go where they believe their music has a chance. Much of the music infrastructure that is needed is not here. But there are things that we can do to keep our music vibrant and keep our “would be” stars at home. Just like the fans believed in the Grizzlies… music fans have to believe in our music. We have to support it and the musicians that create it.
We need promoters and bookers to get on shows both major and small. We need more publicists that are exclusive to the music and entertainment industry that can get us placed in Rolling Stone, Billboard or other music-based publications, websites, ezines, or on television. In the legal arena, the perception is that musicians have to go out of this market to get good representation. Nothing could be further from the truth! However, we have to provide the connectivity to all local service providers to show our artists that the services they need are here to support them.
Kurt “KC” Clayton: Sometimes artists and musicians do not feel that there is enough industry here. For example, BMI and ASCAP are not here. It is not about the labels so much as there is about the day-to-day operational units are not here.
Barron “Baba” McGlothlin
Carlee McCullough: What can Memphis do to support the crafts of our rising stars?
Johnnie Walker: If Memphis viewed music more as a business rather than something to sing and dance to, I believe they would attach more value to it and the avenues of support would be created. Take Austin, Texas, that’s an example of adding value. Austin has one nationally recognized star that I’m aware of, which is Willie Nelson. But Austin has taken that ,coupled with an annual music conference, a PBS TV show with imported artists, and created a vibrant “live” music scene and the perception that people can come to Austin and become a star.
Memphis is the Birthplace of Rock & Roll! We have to act like it! We have to activate that slogan. When we make that decision, we will connect the singers, songwriters, musicians, producers, studios, the venues, clubs, the tourists, the schools, promoters, and the retailers, all into one big economic circle.
Kurt “KC” Clayton: Support Memphis music across the board regardless of genre. Encourage. Come out and see them. Support music-driven events. We will go out of town to a music conference but won’t go to one in our own backyard with the same information. Three 6 Mafia won an Oscar. But half of the city did not support them. What that tells their label, Sony, is that we do not want them here. You are telling Warner Brothers, who gave Three Six Mafia a label deal, that we do not want you here. You are telling MTV that gave them a television show that we do not want you here. Sometimes we cut off our nose to spite our face because we do not like who is out front. It shouldn’t matter who is out front. What matters is who benefits on the back end.
Barron “Baba” McGlothlin: We can get behind the artists by supporting their music, going to shows, buying their music, and supporting the Music Commission.
NEXT: The Renaissance of Memphis Music.