January 2010 Archives

A call for a cease-fire in the South's water lawsuits

An editorial in the Press-Register of Mobile, Ala., calls for a truce among Southern states in the escalating "water wars." This week, of course, Memphis won a battle in court against Mississippi, which had claimed that Memphis is essentially stealing from the Magnolia State's share of an aquifer that is shared by portions of Tennessee, Arkansas and Mississippi. The Supreme Court declined to hear the case, and now Mississippi officials want to try to reach a settlement with the other two states.

Water lawsuits are raging among other states as well, as the Press-Register points out:

Rapid growth in metropolitan areas is putting more and more pressure on water supplies, with the result that seven Southern states now are fighting over water in the courts.

Maybe Mississippi, Tennessee and Arkansas will set an example for other states by reaching a fair and balanced water-sharing agreement.
The Alabama man who is accused of beating his mother to death and who led Memphis and Mississippi authorities on a 40-minute chase will be returned home. Justin Denson, 30, waived his extradition hearing and will be taken back to Gadsden, Ala., sometime today or Wednesday. Denson was arrested on credit card fraud charges after the chase last Thursday. He is suspected in the death of his 63-year-old mother, Nina Gay Denson, whose body was discovered in her home on Jan. 18. Denson's girlfriend, Molly Stevenson, was arrested in Mississippi a few hours before he was caught.

Does anyone around Memphis remember Cheryle Robinson, now Cheryle Robinson Jackson, Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate from Illinois? The Chicago Sun-Times ran a series of candidate profiles today, and Jackson's briefly mentions her time in Memphis.

FIRST JOB: "Drawing maps on computers freshman year at Northwestern. In Memphis, I worked as a waitress. I almost got fired my first day because I didn't sound Southern enough."

According to her campaign bio, Jackson was born in Chicago but moved to Memphis as an infant with her family in the mid-1960s. The family lived in East Memphis, and Jackson attended White Station High School. After earning her degree at Northwestern, she did graduate work at the University of Memphis, then began her career at WKNO before moving on to National Public Radio. More recently, she was a regional vice president for Amtrak and a press secretary for former Gov. Rod Blagojevich, and now she is the president of the Chicago Urban League.

The Senate primary in Illinois is Feb. 2. The seat up for grabs is the one formerly held by Barack Obama, and shrouded in controversy around the appointment by Blagojevich of current Sen. Roland Burris. Huffington Post broke down the latest primary polls and said Alexi Giannoulias maintains a comfortable lead on the Democratic side. However, HuffPo adds that Jackson could make up some ground in the next week.


The St. Louis Post-Dispatch has a nice profile today of Missouri basketball star Laurence Bowers, a product of St. George's Independent School. The peg for the story is that Mizzou, yours truly's alma mater, hopes to knock off the hated No. 3 Kansas Jayhawks tonight on the road, something that hasn't happened since 1999 (when I was still in school). Bowers figures to be a key part of any Mizzou upset bid; he is filling the shoes of departed teammate and Memphis Grizzlies rookie DeMarre Carroll, blocking shots, rebounding, and generally bringing lots of energy to the floor.

The Post-Dispatch article peaks back at Bowers' upbringing and his longstanding ties to Mizzou coach Mike Anderson, and catches us up with how he's getting along on campus:

He dates an Eritrea-born nurse named Feven Melake ("Great catch," he says), has considered studying nursing himself and rooms not with teammates but friends from his dorm last year.

"I don't want to be just known for basketball," he said. "I think it's important to embrace relationships with people of different cultures and beliefs."
Cable network TNT has ordered a pilot and nine additional episodes for the Memphis-themed series "Delta Blues," starring Jason Lee as a Memphis cop who lives with his mother and moonlights as an Elvis tribute artist. The show, executive produced by George Clooney, is expected to debut later this year.

Here is a synopsis from the Los Angeles Times, quoting TNT's announcement:

In "Delta Blues," Lee plays Dwight Hendricks, a Memphis police officer who lives with his mother. His intimate connection with the city and its people sets him apart from his fellow officers. Alfre Woodard plays Lt. Tanya Rice, a demanding boss determined to keep Dwight on a short leash. Also starring in "Delta Blues" are Celia Weston (Junebug) as Dwight's mother; Sam Hennings as Charlie White, a.k.a. Whitehead, his partner; Robyn Lively (Saving Grace) as Charlene, Dwight's ex-wife; Leonard Earl Howze (Barbershop) as Reginald Greenback, a detective who works with Dwight and Whitehead; Abraham Benrubi (ER), a detective who uses Chickasaw tribal wisdom in his work; and DJ Qualls (My Name Is Earl) as Sutton, Dwight's protégé.

UPDATE: Bump on homepage.

Memphis in May honor 'a good opportunity' for Tunisia

Tunisia-logo-2010----color.jpg I have wondered over the years whether the Memphis in May International Festival draws any attention in the honored countries. Word does seem to have gotten out in this year's honored country, Tunisia. AllAfrica.com ran Wednesday an item from Tunisia Online News, which notes, "The event will be a good opportunity for Tunisian tourism to strengthen its presence not only on the US market, but also on the Northern American markets."

A Memphis delegation, led by MIM chairwoman Susan Arney, will visit the North African country in March, the article says.

Meanwhile, I have found a couple of articles to give you a sense of Tunisia, which is being touted as "the next Morocco" for its budding tourist appeal:

Food & Wine: Journey to Djerba: Tunisian Chef Abderrazak Haouari
Conde Nast Traveler: Desert Bloom
Travel & Leisure: Sleep in the Desert

The cholesterol-lowering drugs known as statins are being investigated as a possible treatment for sickle cell disease. Research on mice suggests that the drugs could help lower the risk of bacterial infection in children with the genetic disorder.

A study by researchers at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis was published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation. Here are some more details from a PR Newswire release:

In this study, scientists reported that statins prolonged the lives of mice with sickle cell disease following infection with the pneumococcal bacteria. Researchers also reported that a day after being infected, the treated mice had fewer bacteria in their lungs and blood, suggesting statins slowed the spread of the infection.

Golfer Doug Barron fights on against suspension from PGA Tour

Following up on Monday's news that Memphis golfer Doug Barron -- serving a suspension from the PGA Tour -- will compete in a developmental mini-tour in North Carolina, Lawrence Donegan of The Guardian retraces the story from November, and notes that this major golf event seemed to disappear once the Tiger Woods sex scandal broke on Thanksgiving weekend.

Barron was the first golfer to be suspended under the tour's anti-doping policy. He sought last fall an injunction to block the suspension -- based on a steroid and beta blockers he was taking for medical conditions -- but the request was rejected by a federal judge. However, he is pushing on in his legal fight, and his case has the potential to bring to light some information that could make golf's governing body quite uncomfortable:

In the courts, too, Barron is battling on, albeit with very limited resources. His contention is that he was taking beta-blockers and testosterone for medical purposes and that the tour was aware of this fact (it had rejected his request for a therapeutic exemption, allowing him to continue to play in its events while taking his medicines). His agent Art Horne said Barron's case in still on-going and is currently in the "disclosure phase".

The information Horne is asking the PGA Tour to disclose includes the names of those players who have asked for and have been granted the kind of therapeutic exemption denied to Barron; and also the names of those players on tour have failed drug tests.

"All we trying to do is get justice for Doug Barron, and allow him to continue to make his living,'' Horne said today. "The case goes on."


New York Times asks Memphians about Harold Ford Jr.

As Harold Ford Jr. fever continues to afflict New York state, The New York Times dispatched a reporter to Memphis to ask the hometown crowd what they think of the former congressman and potential U.S. Senate candidate.

The Times' Nicholas Confessore writes that he talked to more than two dozen Memphians, "Democrat and Republican, political pros and average Joes." Those quoted range from conservative radio talker Ben Ferguson to GPAC development director Deni Hirsh to Johnson Matthews, a diner at the Piccadilly, and Suzanne Shankle, a marketing director at one of our orthopedics firms.

There are a couple of embarrassing-Southerner moments in the article, such as this kicker near the end:

"Someone's got to show Hillary the door," said Sandie Griggs, a claims adjuster and registered Republican. Reminded that Mrs. Clinton had already left the Senate to become the United States secretary of state, Ms. Griggs was unfazed.

"Yeah, but there's fear that she'll return," Ms. Griggs said.

The News & Observer of Raleigh, N.C., has a story today about an exhibit of photographs taken in Memphis and Atlanta in the days immediately following the April 4, 1968, assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King in Memphis.

Photographer Burk Uzzle captured images of friends and family members viewing King's body at a Memphis funeral home, as well as pictures of the funeral procession back in Atlanta. Some of the images in the exhibit were published in news magazines at the time, while others had never been printed.

"This is not art," Uzzle is quick to say, but a record. The 20 photographs capture the raw grief of people who knew and loved King, the shock of those who believed in the hope and inevitability of his message, and the indifference of those who believed one nation could live as two races, together but apart.

Uzzle is a native of Raleigh who now lives about 50 miles away in the small town of Wilson. King had been scheduled to travel to Wilson before he was fatefully called to Memphis that April.

He was supposed to come to Wilson on April 5, 1968. He had accepted an invitation by local black leaders to come and speak at Jackson Chapel First Missionary Baptist Church, and on the lawn of the library. There was to be a march.

"I was going to march," Cornell Jones recalled last week. Jones was 21 years old in 1968, working in a chicken-processing plant in Wilson. He was enthralled by King, wanted to be a part of what he was doing, wanted to walk down the street in broad daylight and say he was as good as anybody else.

People had been making preparations. King was supposed to come in on the train, and residents had planned to meet him at the station.

But King was called away to Memphis instead

Next stop, Memphis: It's International Blues Challenge time

With the International Blues Challenge set to kick off next week in Memphis, blues musicians from all over are making their way to Beale Street to prove their mettle. As I have written before, many of us here in Memphis take the Blues Challenge for granted, but for the acts involved it's both a serious competition and a chance to represent their corners of the world in front of the global blues community.

* From Phoenix, the Sugar Thieves are headed to Memphis for their second appearance at the International Blues Challenge. The band brings brings a youthful energy and a unique sound to the competition, according to a piece in the Phoenix New Times:

While they are not as traditional sounding as some others, they are soulful and sassy, sincere and optimistic in a way that only the blues can be. Sharp-dressed, gritty, and doing plenty of Jäger shots before taking the stage, they own their shows, and this year, they've decided that they're "in it to win it."

Note: The Sugar Thieves were formerly known as the Mikel Lander and Meredith Moore Band. A couple of the members are pictured in this GoMemphis story.

* Topeka, Kan., will be well represented at the Blues Challenge. Two acts making their way to Memphis will play Saturday night at a kickoff party at a Topeka blues spot called Uncle Bo's.

In Memphis, the Nick Hern Band will participate in the IBC's Youth Showcase, a noncompetitive event staged in conjunction with the blues challenge in which Josh Vowell & The Rumble will compete against blues acts from around the globe. Two Topekans -- Suki Willison, Topeka Blues Society president and talent buyer for Uncle Bo's, and Stacy Jeffress, writer for Blues Revue -- will serve as judges for the semifinal round of the International Blues Challenge.

* Up in Corvallis, Ore., fingerstyle picker Adam Scramstad has been busy polishing his act for his first-ever trip to Memphis.

"It's the birthplace of the blues," Scramstad said. "There is a whole lot of history there."

He and Al Rivers, who competed in Memphis last year, are playing a show Saturday in Beaver Town to help raise some cash for expenses.
Former Memphis congressman Harold Ford Jr. continues to take a pounding for his avowed interest in running for the New York state U.S. Senate seat that is currently held by the appointed Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand.

Jonathan Martin of Politico.com features comments from former Ford colleagues in the House of Representatives, including a certain member who holds Ford's former District 9 Tennessee seat:

Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.), who holds Ford's old House seat, voices what many Democrats in Tennessee, Washington and New York privately believe to be the case -- that Ford's traditionalist positions on cultural issues were less heartfelt than tailored for a Bible Belt electorate.

"I suspect that Congressman Ford's positions that he is espousing now are more in line with the positions that Congressman Ford in fact holds, and that he's [got] much more of a New York-type political mentality than a Tennessee mentality," said Cohen, himself an unapologetic progressive.

Here is outspoken Queens Rep. Anthony Weiner:

"If he thinks that its an appealing argument to position yourself as being somebody who will stand up to Harry Reid and Chuck Schumer, well I don't think we need another Joe Lieberman," Weiner told Politico.

"Maybe when his helicopter lands in Queens next I can ask him," he said.

The helicopter crack was in reference to Ford's interview this week with The New York Times in which he claims to have landed in all five New York City boroughs (including once in Staten Island).

Elsewhere, New York Gov. David Paterson gets into the smack-Ford act, calling the former Memphian a "carpetbagger."

New York magazine captures an interesting moment in which Ford and Gillibrand are photographed standing close together at Al Sharpton's press conference on Haiti earthquake relief efforts.

the awkwardness, area metaphysicists report, was nearly intense enough to create a tear in the space-time continuum.

The New York Post, which, seemingly alone among the New York media, has been carrying a torch for Ford, reports on the former congressman's admitted -- and sometimes mocked -- fondness for pedicures.

In a recent interview, the potential candidate and recent transplant from Tennessee admitted to indulging in regular pedicures -- to treat a foot condition, he claims.

No need to pussyfoot around your vanity, Ford! New York's awash with dudes and their pumices. You might need to justify that kind of thing down South, but 'round these here parts, there's no shame in a man who likes having his feet well groomed.

Despite the rough treatment he has been receiving this week, Ford can take solace in the fact that the "Harold, call me" actress wishes him nothing but the best.

The bubbly blond actress who winked and cooed, "Harold, call me!" in an attack ad widely seen as helping throw Harold Ford Jr.'s Tennessee senate bid off the rails told The Post she thinks he has every right to run wherever he wants -- and she wishes him well.

"He's a good Christian man," Texas would-be thespian Johanna Goldsmith said in an interview. "I'm not the authority on whether he can run ... I don't have anything against (him running in New York)."

"I wish him all the best in all his future endeavors," she said.

"He's obviously a very educated man."

UPDATE: Remember Hillary Rodham Clinton's "listening tour" of New York state before her Senate run in 2000? Gawker has created a handy Google map of Harold Ford Jr.'s own "barnstorming tour of the state, which has taken him from the luxury hotels of midtown Manhattan to the exclusive restaurants of downtown Manhattan."

Roundup of news, tributes on Jay Reatard's death

I'll use this post to round up links involving the sad news of the death of Memphis garage-punk icon Jay Reatard at age 29.

* Pitchfork has a couple of videos from live Reatard performances.

* Brooklyn Vegan was tracking rumors of the death during the afternoon, as we were here at the CA, but it soon became clear that they weren't just rumors. BV also links to an interview with Jay from October, as well as a collection of fantastic photos from a 2008 show in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

* AV Club also links to an interview, this one from last January, right before Jay's Matador debut, Watch Me Fall, dropped.

* The Los Angeles Times has a condensed bio that covers all the bases, including Jay's unfortunate flirtations with controversy:

The troubled performer, whose entire band quit in October over an undisclosed dispute and whose rising star was occasionally besmirched by negative publicity over stage violence, leaves behind a legacy of energetic, angry and often melodic recordings with a variety of bands.

In fact, another one of those controversies had popped up just a day or two before Jay's death. This one involved a feud with New Jersey band Liquor Store.

* As Lydia from Earsucker.com points out, music site Prefix had very unfortunate timing in naming Jay's Watch Me Fall as one of the worst album covers of 2009.

* Says Carrie Brownstein on NPR's Monitor Mix blog:

It's a sad day for music because we lost a guy who made the kind of songs most of us -- in our heart of hearts -- really love. We love it because before we got all worldly and esoteric in our tastes, all we wanted was for our music to rumble and roar, to give us that teenage feeling, forever.

* Celeb Stoner digs up a 2008 interview with Jay after a show in Boston. In the video, Jay talks about getting started in music as a teenager, and he talks frankly about using drugs.

UPDATE: Plenty more links to get to on the day after Jay's death.

* Creative Loafing, the alternative weekly newspaper in Atlanta, has a roll of images of the always-photogenic Jay playing an in-store show with his former band. As well, some comments about Jay's final record, 2009's Watch Me Fall:

It was his breakthrough record that saw his songwriting move beyond the confrontational Ramone's style speedy and abrasive melancholy punk blasts, to a more refined blend of noisy pop songs. Nevertheless, he was an irreverent performer known for the frenzied energy he released during his shows. On-stage he couldn't get through his songs fast enough, while his band mates fought desperately to keep up.

 * MTV has reactions from the Pixies, with whom Jay recently toured, and Beck, whose "Gamma Ray" Jay once covered. Says Bradford Cox of Deerhunter:

"He was transgressive and honest. His flaws were something he focused on and overdubbed and distorted until they made you forget who he really was: a person with feelings and a good heart. He loved music and worked hard from a young age to pursue it. He was a self-made and unmade man. I am truly sickened to see him go."

 * A news site from British Columbia digs up another old interview that occasionally sounds eerily prescient in parts:

"You know what? I'm gonna fade away. I'm gonna be that person. I'm definitely not gonna burn out. To burn out, you have to have this big f**kin' fire and this big explosion.

"It's not gonna happen for me. I'm gonna slowly dwindle into more obscurity than I ever started off with. I want to be Amadeus [laughs]."

* Denver music blog Westword presents "Video Evidence of Jay Reatard's Ass Kicking Life," including a clip from Gonerfest 6 in Memphis.

Cranking out songs of furious energy and blinding brevity, confounding expectations at every opportunity and generally kicking the shit out of everything around him, Jay Reatard was one of the most promising rockers, not just in punk, but in all of music.

* Photographer Jacob Blickenstaff, whose work is on display at the Stax Museum of American Soul Music, posts some of his stunning pictures from 2007's Gonerfest 4, along with links to today's NPR and New York Times pieces. The Times piece, by the way, contains a quote from a Spin magazine review of Jay's Watch Me Fall that sums up why his untimely death stings so much:

"Few indie-rockers have ever been on a roll like this."

CNN features Memphis woman struggling with no electricity


The Huffington Post has video from a segment on today's edition of CNN's "American Morning" in which a Memphis woman talks about being out of work and living without electricity for nearly a year. Jacqueline Mosley was among Memphians who had their heat temporarily restored during last week's severe cold snap. Before that, she used a propane heater at home and and spent mornings at the library to warm up.

Mosley, who is in her 60s, moved back to Memphis from Maryland to care for her mother, who has since died. She says her struggles with poverty have made her a more humble person. She also appreciates the way the city has helped out; after her power was restored, a pipe burst in her kitchen, and she lost her water service. However, the city told her a crew would fix the pipe for her.

Happy Birthday, Elvis! Fun facts, tributes and remembrances

Today would have been Elvis Presley's 75th birthday, of course, so I have rounded up King-related news from all over the world to observe the occasion. While you are in an Elvis mood, be sure to check out our story from earlier in the week on an event in Washington to commemorate the bizarre 1970 meeting of Elvis and President Richard Nixon. It was featured on Yahoo's home page throughout the morning.

On to the links:

* The Washington Post reports that the National Portrait Gallery opens today an exhibit of Elvis portraits "ranging from realistic portrayals to mythical, spiritual and earthly images goes on display with works by such artists as Andy Warhol, Ralph Wolfe Cowan and Red Grooms." The exhibit runs through Aug. 29. The portrait gallery is a Smithsonian museum, so admission is free.

* There are plenty of Elvis fun-facts out there today, some of which are probably not all true. At any rate, they are amusing. Here's one from Newsday, which includes such nuggets as:

He met Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys in 1975, but Wilson says the meeting ended badly when he made an unexpected karate move on Presley after Presley asked him not to.

Along with a computer-simulated picture of what Elvis might have looked like at age 75, the Sun tabloid has its own list of 75 Elvis facts, including this one:

At its height his daily food intake was an estimated 94,000 calories a day. An Asian elephant consumes only 50,000.

Totally unbelievable, right? But read the very next one on the list ...

He loved Fool's Gold Loaf, a hollow loaf filled with a jar of peanut butter, a jar of grape jelly and a pound of bacon. It had 42,000 calories. 

A couple of Fool's Gold Loafs, and Elvis would only need about 10,000 more calories to make his daily quota.

* ABC's Nightline travels to Las Vegas to check in on the city's continuing love affair with the King. A diverse cross-section of Elvis tribute artists -- a little person, an African American, a woman -- are featured.

* A 39-year-old man in Colombia has changed his name to Elvis Presley as he strives toward "total emulation of his beloved hero."

* The New York Times' Diners Journal blog shares a recipe for Elvis' beloved fried peanut-butter-and-banana sandwiches, and even suggests a wine pairing (a cab-merlot mix).

* Speaking with Matt Lauer on NBC's "Today" show, widow Priscilla Presley suggested that were Elvis alive today, he might be doing some preaching along with his singing.

"He loved to teach and loved the Bible. He always would have been dedicated to his music, that's for sure.

* The Chicago Sun-Times checks in with disgraced former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, a big Elvis fan who has even done some EP tribute work to help pay the bills. Besides being a fan of Elvis' music and movies ("a nice happy world with happy endings"), Blago is superstitious about the King:

And Elvis' Jan. 8 birthday is not just any day in the Blagojevich datebook. In his memoir, The Governor, Blagojevich said he launched all his campaigns on Jan. 8. "I picked it because, as a big Elvis fan, I liked the karma of starting on his birthday," Blagojevich writes.

And then ...

His federal corruption trial is scheduled to begin June 3. In Elvis' world, June 3 is the day Elvis graduated from Humes High School in Memphis, where he majored in shop, English and history (and got a C in music).

Special thanks to newsroom librarian Rosemary Nelms for gathering these links.

Reaction is pouring in to this morning's New York Times story on Harold Ford Jr. considering a Democratic primary challenge to Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, and little of it is positive for the former 9th District Tennessee congressman.

* Politico focuses on a report of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg working behind the scenes in prodding Ford to run. The billionaire's two recent attempts to get involved in federal races were spectacularly unsuccessful:

Bloomberg's aides pushed Caroline Kennedy's abortive bid for the seat Kirsten Gillibrand now holds, and Bloomberg himself pushed hard for Alan Khazei in Massachusetts, where he ran third. And if the wheels come off Ford, that's a bad pattern for Bloomberg.

* The Village Voice suggests that "the pro-Ford folks ... don't seem too worried about annoying Barack Obama," who once considered Ford for a Cabinet post.

* Andrew Samwick of Wall Street Pit calls the Ford mini-boomlet "a Sad Commentary on Politics": "It's about donors and fundraising, not issues and constituencies."

* On the left end of the spectrum, Daily Kos blogger Jake McIntyre drops the "C"-word (carpetbagger) and dismisses any analogy to Hillary Rodham Clinton's Senate run. In fact, he mentions another former senator to whom he believes Ford's bid would be more comparable.

* Another blogger of the left, David Dayen of Firedoglake, points to Ford's ties to both Wall Street and the centrist Democratic Leadership Council and hopes that liberals could mobilize against two betes noires at once.

Look, if Wall Street wants to buy a Senate seat for the chair of the DLC, they can certainly try. But it's pretty obvious that this would seriously energize the Democratic grassroots, perhaps in a way that no other candidate would. This is akin to Joe Lieberman making a primary challenge today.

* NPR: "If you're a Democratic strategist worried about maintaining the 60 seats needed to end filibusters in the Senate, a divisive primary for the Senate seat is the last thing you want right now, especially on the heels of the news that Democratic senators like Byron Dorgan of North Dakota and Chris Dodd of Connecticut aren't standing for re-election." MSNBC's First Read has more on that.

* Wonkette plays the story for a few laughs:

(O)n the minus side, Ford does not support gay marriage. This may put him at a disadvantage in New York City, which is 98% homosexual.

* Gawker covers the gossip angle, including some background on the infamous 2006 attack ad with the blonde panting, "Harold, call me!"

A couple of thoughts: First, that racially coded Republican attack clearly stuck -- nearly every post or story I have read about the possible Ford run has mentioned it. New York voters might know of Ford only from that ad; political junkies might recognize him from his appearances on cable news talk shows, but Junior never really sets the world on fire when he's on TV.

Second, as many have pointed out, Ford is running as a Wall Street guy -- from scandal-plagued Merrill Lynch, even! -- with major Wall Street backing, in the aftermath of a Wall Street-fueled economic meltdown. Not exactly the position a Democratic candidate wants to be in. Then there's his No. 1 backer, bigshot financier and Democratic check-writer Steven Rattner. Rattner was appointed by President Barack Obama to oversee the unpopular bailout of the auto industry, and he himself is tainted by scandal:

(T)he private equity firm Rattner co-founded is the focus of pay-to-play accusations made by the New York State Attorney General and Securities and Exchange Commission. While Rattner has not been charged with anything, he was an executive at the firm during the time the alleged misdeeds took place and reportedly may have met with those accused of criminal activity.

A Memphis connection: Recall that Memphis-based Consulting Services Group also is being investigated for its possible role in the same scandal, which involves alleged kickbacks in exchange for business with the New York state pension fund.

Rounding up Willie Mitchell obits, appreciations

The death of legendary Memphis musician and producer Willie Mitchell appears to the the top-ranking Memphis news item of the day, so I thought I'd round up some of the more interesting Pops-related stories and posts for your browsing convenience. If you haven't read Bob Mehr's early story on commercialappeal.com, check it out here; he's updating it throughout the day.

* Jesse Walker of Reason Online posts his favorite Mitchell collaboration with Hi Records artist O.V. Wright, and he links to a collection of Al Green/Mitchell classics and a sampling of Mitchell instrumental favorites from the '60s.

* Variety's obituary covers all the bases, including Mitchell's work with white artists including Jesse Winchester, Paul Butterfield and Wet Wet Wet.

* David Danks, writing for Exclaim.ca, places Mitchell in the Memphis jazz continuum and even mentions a link to Elvis Presley.

More to come throughout the afternoon and evening.


* Carrie Brownstein of NPR's Monitor Mix blog: "I spent many years tracking down Willie Mitchell 45s in thrift stores and record stores. I still cherish those singles, spinning them at the occasional dance party, but mostly putting them on the turntable when I'm alone, so that I can shuffle my feet and nod my head and twirl around the room in amazement."


* CNN's story points out that Mitchell's work with Green went beyond merely capturing the singer's voice: "Green has often talked about how important Mitchell was to his sound, working him until his voice was just so -- a difference that can be heard on his pre-Mitchell songs, such as 'Back Up Train.'"

UPDATE: Many more Mitchell obituaries are out today:

* The New York Times points out that, fair or not, Hi Records is usually No. 3 on the typical rundown of Memphis labels (after Sun and Stax). Here's a nice quote from Al Bell:

"We had just gone past what was called race music and blues, which was looked down upon, to this R&B, this soul," Al Bell, a former owner of Stax who is chairman of the Memphis Music Foundation, said in an interview on Tuesday. "We worked with each other so we could grow and improve our music, and Willie provided that kind of leadership. His handprint, thumbprint, footprint, heart print is all over Memphis music."

And one from the deceased himself, describing that lazy yet insistent groove:

"It's the laziness of the rhythm," Mr. Mitchell said in Peter Guralnick's 1986 book "Sweet Soul Music: Rhythm and Blues and the Southern Dream of Freedom." "You hear those old lazy horns half a beat behind the music, and you think they're gonna miss it, and all of a sudden, just so lazy, they come in and start to sway with it. It's like kind of shucking you, putting you on."

* Here is The Recording Academy's official obit. The Academy honored Mitchell in 2008 with its Trustees Award, his first-ever Grammy.
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Deputy Online News Editor Mark Richens takes you through all the news about Memphis from sources outside the Mid-South.