Brass Note No. 124 will be dedicated on the Beale Street Walk of Fame in the next week, just in time for the start of the annual Memphis In May festival.
In order to be honored with a Brass Note, one has to have made a significant contribution to Memphis music. But the newest recipient of the award does not sing, dance, or play a musical instrument.
The latest Brass Note will be presented to Lyman Aldrich, the founder of the Memphis in May festival, an event that has promoted Memphis and Memphis Music around the world for more than 36 years.
A ceremony will be held May 2 at 5 p.m., inside the Rum Boogie Cafe.
The first ever Memphis in May festival was in 1977. The state was set up at Third and Beale Street right in the middle of ... not much. The Peabody Hotel had not reopened.
The Orpheum Theatre was not to reopen for years down the road, and yet some people with a dream of what Memphis could one day become had a dream. They called it Memphis in May International and Aldrich was the first president. He had a budget of zero to pull off the first music fest, but pull it off he did and in a huge way with the help of another great Memphian, Irvin Salky.
"You look at who was on the original program it's Al Green, Furry Lewis, B.B. King," said John Elkington of Performa Inc. "It's all these great musicians that really are the history of Memphis Music and certainly of that era. This was all put together by Irvin Salky and by Lyman Aldrich and they should be rewarded."
Rodney Baber was on that very first Memphis In May board and still can't believe the line up that launched a 36-year tradition.
"The Beale Street thing was amazing because Irvin Salky was working on that and had pulled together an incredible festival," Baber said. "Go back and look at the people that were there. That first year, oh my God can't believe all this. But he heard about Memphis In May and called me and said, 'Listen, I got this thing going on. We ought to talk,' and he threw in with Memphis In May."
From that first year Memphis In May grew by leaps and bounds because an international festival.
"We had as many as 2,500 volunteers one year," Aldrich said. "It grew so fast so many people wanted to be involved because they had not seen anything grow like this. It was exciting, it was an exciting time."
To give you an idea of how big Memphis In May is to the economy of Memphis, 20 percent of the income on Beale Street each year comes during the month of May. What was created as a way to bring people and money to Memphis has been more successful than anyone could have ever imagined, even for those dreamers who sat on that first Memphis In May board lead by Aldrich.
"National Geographic this year picked Memphis as one of the 12 places in the world to be and it's because of Beale Street Music and barbeque," Aldrich said. "That's phenomenal."
That is why a guy who can't sing, play a musical instrument or dance is getting a Beale Street Brass Note.
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