Thursday, March 24, 2011

Remembering Aashid Himons, 1942-2011

Posted By on Thu, Mar 24, 2011 at 9:02 AM

In this week's Scene, Daryl Sanders recounts the life and ever-changing career of one of the city's most colorful music figures, the late Aashid Himons, who died Saturday at VUMC after a long bout with diabetes and vascular disease.

A dreadlocked giant with wide-ranging talent and great reserves of charm, Himons had been a child prodigy in the 1940s, a doo-wop vocalist in the ’50s, a soul singer in the ’60s and a bluesman in the ’70s before having an epiphany late that decade at a Bob Marley concert. The reggae group that resulted, Afrikan Dreamland, was one of the seminal indie bands on Nashville's club scene. Sanders, a longtime observer of the city's clubs, sets the scene:

To say that Afrikan Dreamland stood out, even among Nashville's burgeoning punk and college-radio scene of the early 1980s, is beyond understatement. Fueled by a high-stamina live show, they soon became one of the city's most popular acts, drawing large, enthusiastic crowds who danced nonstop to the group's irie rhythms. Before disbanding in 1987, they became the first American reggae group to get a video on MTV ("Television Dreams" in 1984) as well as the first Nashville-based act to release a video album (Apartheid Kills in 1985). They were also the first act in the city to mix drum machines with live drums.

But of course, nothing topped the spectacle of a larger-than-life reggae-soul shaman before throngs of adoring Vandy frat kids. A new day had dawned in Music City.

It's a piece that'll probably have a lot of people agreeing with veteran music scribe Robert K. Oermann's assessment: "They made me proud to be a Nashvillian."

UPDATE: Here's the link Nashville Jumps host Pete Wilson posted on the Nashville Cream thread, which will let you hear a rare 1960s R&B side Himons recorded under his "Little Archie" moniker.

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Monday, September 6, 2010

Remembering Ray Bell: 'A Rock, a Fighter and a Teddy Bear'

Posted By on Mon, Sep 6, 2010 at 2:23 PM

Ray Bell
  • Ray Bell
I didn't know Ray Bell, but I had long heard there was more to him than the gruff, rumpled, pugnacious persona he affected in public life. Now that he's gone, those who knew the whole man have been sharing memories of him for the reaction story I have put up at

It's a work in progress. I hope to get further comments after the holiday. But the ones that have come in so far have been eye-opening:

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Friday, June 11, 2010

Remembering Mr. King and His Inn

Posted By on Fri, Jun 11, 2010 at 1:09 PM

Robert H. King, who has passed away at 84, had his own set of rules for his pub, King's Inn, at 4403 Harding Road.


If you could shave, you could drink. In 1980, when I was 16, Mr. King sold me the first beer I ever bought at a bar: a Hudepohl, served (as always) in a fully frozen mug, for 50 cents.

I was following in well-trodden footsteps. One Nashville nostalgia website recalls: "In the 1950's in West Nashville, it was practically a rite of passage for a young man to have his first beer at King's Inn (where no one ever asked for an ID)."

But a young person enjoying the Inn's hospitality was expected to behave. On one of my first visits, as I watched the ice slide down the outside of my mug, I overheard a muttered blasphemy from the old-fashioned pinball machine over my shoulder.

Mr. King heard it, too. And that was OK — as long as Mrs. Grace King was not within earshot. But she was just then serving a cheeseburger at the bar, and Pinball Boy had broken a cardinal rule by cursing in front of her. Mr. King summarily expelled him from the premises.

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Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Naming Our Dead

Posted By on Wed, May 5, 2010 at 6:06 PM

Michael Silence has the names and circumstances of the known dead from this weekend's weather.

As the waters recede and cleanup continues, I think we have to guess that there will be more.

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Thursday, March 11, 2010

Services at 1 p.m. for Nancy Saturn at West End Synagogue

Posted By on Thu, Mar 11, 2010 at 12:04 PM

Nancy Saturn, who died at her Whitland Avenue home Tuesday after a long bout with recurring breast cancer, is being remembered by friends, colleagues and artists across the city as one of the pivotal figures in the development of local arts. Those whose lives she changed will honor her memory today at West End Synagogue, 3810 West End Ave., in a service at 1 p.m., with burial to follow.

A Detroit native who moved to Nashville in 1969 with her husband, attorney Alan Saturn, she was perhaps best known for her artisanal crafts boutique The American Artisan, which she operated for nearly four decades until last year. The American Artisan Festival, which she founded (and which celebrates its 40th event this June in Centennial Park), blossomed into one of the premier arts and crafts festivals in the nation, according to Anne Brown, owner of The Arts Company.

"She pulled us up to a different level," said Brown, who knew Saturn personally and professionally for more than 35 years. "She used the term 'artisan' deliberately, because it means someone who brings beauty into function, and art into craft.

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Monday, February 8, 2010

Richard A. "Pete" Peterson, Country Music Scholar, Dead at 77

Posted By on Mon, Feb 8, 2010 at 1:38 PM

Pith is sad to pass along that scholar and Vanderbilt professor of sociology emeritus Richard "Pete" Peterson has died. Peterson was one of the earliest academics to treat country music as a subject worthy of consideration. His book Creating Country Music: Fabricating Authenticity is one of the most important scholarly works ever written about the genre. Peterson wrote that the tension between "keeping it real" and "appealing to the widest audience with the deepest pockets possible" is not something that just came to light with the likes of Taylor Swift or Billy Ray Cyrus or whomever; it's built right into the music's foundation. Maybe that's one reason his book seems as fresh and insightful today as it did when released. (I've long thought rap aficionados and scholars would find it illuminating as well.) Peterson was a well respected professor at Vanderbilt and a genial friend to many folks around town. He will be missed.

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Thursday, January 7, 2010

Funeral Services for Nashville R&B Legend Earl Gaines Tomorrow

Posted By on Thu, Jan 7, 2010 at 1:30 PM

It's as if a forest of sequoias toppled in one killer wind. After losing Ted Jarrett and Johnny Jones within months--not to mention Theodore "Little Teddy" Acklen Jr., whose father ran the renowned Del Morocco club--it didn't seem that 2009 could hold any worse news for Nashville's R&B community. But it did. On New Year's Eve, Earl Gaines, one of the finest vocalists in any genre to record in Nashville, died at St. Thomas Hospital. He was 74. Gaines is best remembered for the 1955 smash "It's Love Baby (24 Hours a Day)" by Louis Brooks & His Hi-Toppers, on which he sang lead vocal. But when labels both here and overseas began to reissue his vintage '50s and '60s Nashville recordings in the mid-1990s, a new audience discovered his classic sides for Excello, Poncello, Champion and other imprints. Rougher-voiced than his life-long friend and fellow Nashville R&B giant Roscoe Shelton, Gaines made a song sound emotionally immediate but never rushed his way through it: as proof, check out his fine 1975 cover of Joe Simon's "Nine Pound Steel" above. From Michael Gray, who co-produced the Country Music Hall of Fame's monumental "Night Train to Nashville" exhibit and CD sets (and wrote a moving tribute last week to Jarrett and Jones for the Scene), we have word that Gaines' funeral services will be held tomorrow at St. Luke CME Church, located at 2008 28th Ave. N. Visitation begins at 10 a.m., followed by a musical tribute at 11. The funeral itself is scheduled for noon.

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Friday, October 16, 2009

Commie FAIL: Best Local Liberal Curiously Absent From Our Best of Nashville Readers' Poll

Posted By on Fri, Oct 16, 2009 at 12:29 PM

Sad commie.
  • Sad commie.
Man, for a bunch of pinko commies, we sure did miss a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to advance the agenda of our own kind. The Scene and Fidel Castro are sorry to report that we left out an entire category from the 2009 Best of Nashville Readers' Poll results in the print edition of the paper. And of all the categories we could have overlooked, we actually left out "Best Local Liberal." Hey, the irony's not lost on us! And just like all lofty liberal social efforts, hierarchical confusion and a proven inability to agree on one simple platform means we just now got around to telling you. So go ahead and take your best shot: Just don't call it a Freudian omission, and don't revoke our membership from the Bosom of Bleeding Hearts. As you were. And the results are...

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Thursday, October 15, 2009

Johnny Jones, 1936-2009

Posted By on Thu, Oct 15, 2009 at 11:17 AM

A vital piece of Nashville's R&B history fell silent yesterday with the death of legendary blues guitarist Johnny Jones. The longtime frontman, sideman and guitar slinger was found dead at his apartment yesterday morning by exterminators. He was 73. Jones was an integral part of the Music City R&B scene chronicled in the Country Music Hall of Fame's 2004 Night Train to Nashville exhibit. That project's Grammy-winning CD compilation and its sequel introduced a new audience to Jones' historic recordings, made with famed Nashville producer/songwriter/label owner Ted Jarrett in the 1960s.

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