Memphis will now be the home of a national program deploying music industry veterans to mentor young and up-and-coming musicians.
David Porter, the songwriter who co-wrote such classics as “Soul Man” and “Hold on I’m Comin,” announced the program Tuesday in Memphis. He said the initiative to develop a talent pool of new musicians is called “The Consortium MMT” – the acronym standing for “Memphis Music Town.”
The program seeks to nuture successful professional musicians to help restore Memphis’ reputation as a capital of soul music, said Porter, who wrote for artists recording with the famed Stax Records.
Along with soul music, Memphis also is a cradle of rock and roll, where Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash and others recorded hits on the Sun Records label.
Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr. lauded the program, noting the city’s popular music history. Music drives a steady tourism business in the city. “The one thing about our soul music is that wherever you go, the story of Memphis is told,” Wharton said.
Stax Records helped create the “Memphis sound,” featuring artists such as Sam & Dave, Otis Redding, Booker T. and the MGs and Isaac Hayes, who was Porter’s songwriting partner. Porter’s two biggest hits, “Soul Man” and “Hold on I’m Comin,” were made famous by the soulful duo Sam & Dave.
Al Bell, former owner of Stax Records, is a consortium committee member. So is James Alexander, an original member of the Bar-Kays. Others involved in the program include drummer-producer Steve Jordan, songwriter-producer Ray Parker Jr., saxophonist Kirk Whalum and rapper Al Kapone.
Porter, a member of the National Songwriter’s Hall of Fame, said the influence of a professional on a young artist’s career could turn a good musician into an exceptional one.
“If we don’t give back, we’ll have done an injustice to the place that we love, which is Memphis,” Porter said.