As a legendary entertainer, the greatness of blues pianist Memphis Slim, AKA John Chatman, can't be denied. Unfortunately for decades the condition of the house he and his father once occupied in the "Soulsville" community deteriorated into a grand "mess" of an eyesore. But, soon Slim's former abode will be transformed into a haven for future musicians, artists and students to hone their craft inside Slim's "collaboratory." It's the first step in the grand plan to revitalize Slim's old neighborhood through promoting the creativity of the arts. It'll be spearheaded through the collaborative partnership of the Soulsville community and the University of Memphis city and regional planning program, Memphis Music Magnet.
"Soulsville is really the perfect neighborhood for that because of the heritage of this neighborhood. The musical heritage and the assets that exist here now with the Stax Museum, with Lemoyne Owen College, with organizations like the Memphis Black Arts Alliance," explains Charlie Santo with U of City and Reg. Planning.
When the house's renovation is completed in about a year, it'll roll out the welcome mat to a recording studio, reading rooms and space for community meetings. However, before the make-over can take place some vital landscaping had to be done ASAP.
LOC Community Dev. Dir. Jeffrey Higgs says, "Really today is about getting the tree off the house cause it was about to fall...make the house fall over. So, we're getting ready. They're clearing it out so we can start the renovation in earnest."
The weekend will also see a neighborhood concert on Sunday featuring the Memphis Symphony Orchestra and guest artist Booker T. Jones. Rest assured Slim, the ole homestead is in good hands. Just think of it as a place where old memories will give way in favor of making some new ones.
"It's place where on the front porch Memphis Slim would hang out with guys like Rufus Thomas, Isaac Hayes. So, it's an important part of the heritage. The rich musical heritage of this neighborhood. It's worth the hard work," says Santo.