Birmingham, not like such Southern cities as Memphis, Nashville and New Orleans, just isn’t usually thought of as a music capital.
However that doesn’t imply that the Magic Metropolis is bereft of a musical legacy.
The town left its mark on jazz, with artists like legendary composer and bandleader Solar Ra and trumpet participant and large bandleader Erskine Hawkins.
Songwriter Emmy Lou Harris was born in Birmingham.
Lately, the Birmingham space produced American Idol winners Ruben Studdard and Taylor Hicks and American Idol runners-up Bo Bice and Diana DeGarmo.
And different nice performers spent at the least half of their lives right here, together with jazz nice Lionel Hampton, Broadway and TV star Nell Carter and R&B legend Eddie Kendricks.
The town additionally has a narrative to inform about its rock n’ roll and punk scenes going again to the Nineteen Seventies, based on native music journalist Blake Ells.
These communities “have quietly thrived for practically 50 years,” Ells writes in his new e-book, “Magic Metropolis Rock: Areas and Faces of Birmingham’s Scene,” revealed by Historical past Press in Charleston, South Carolina.
Ells shares some of the tales of the devoted native musicians, promoters and membership homeowners who’ve quietly constructed a robust native different rock scene.
That tradition “has thrived camaraderie and collaboration” and possesses a real “punk rock ethos,” Ells writes.
Ells not too long ago talked about the e-book, his personal expertise of the music scene on the town, the venues and musicians he loves and the prospects for native artists in 2021 as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.
A graduate of Auburn College, Ells is a contract author whose credit embrace AL.com, The Birmingham Information, The Birmingham Publish-Herald and Birmingham journal.
“I prefer to share ways in which I interpret artwork,” Ells stated.
“It feels good to introduce individuals to new music — like making a mixtape,” he stated.
In the e-book, Ells goes again to Lodge and Telluride, widespread native bands in the Nineteen Seventies and Nineteen Eighties that earned a contact of nationwide consideration.
He charts the new acts that shaped in the metropolis in the Nineteen Eighties after the rise of faculty radio and the inspiring nationwide ascendancy of bands from Southern cities like Athens, Georgia.
These acts included Jim Bob and the Leisure Fits, The Primitons and The Sugar LaLas, which had been led by Mats Roden and Carole Griffin, additionally the proprietor of Continental Bakery and Chez Lulu.
Ells profiles such musicians as Damon Johnson, guitarist and entrance man for the band Brother Cane who later joined the legendary rock act Skinny Lizzie.
Ells talks about Verbena, a Birmingham band that earned some nationwide media consideration.
We meet Matthew Mayfield, who recorded solo and with the band Moses Mayfield; The Grenadines; Taylor Hollingsworth and Kate Taylor, who report solo and as the duo Useless Fingers; and the massively widespread St. Paul and the Damaged Bones.
“Magic Metropolis Rock” additionally celebrates venues, like Zydeco and The Nick, in addition to crucial DIY areas like Cave 9 and The Firehouse.
We find out about Speaking Vessels, a recording studio based by Jeffrey Cain.
Ells, a Rogersville native, additionally remembers how he fell in love with the music scene right here.
“After I was in highschool, my mother would drive me and my associates to 5 Factors Music Corridor for live shows,” he stated. “I at all times bear in mind pondering then, ‘If I can ever get to the massive ‘ol metropolis, I wish to reside proper right here — in 5 Factors.’ And I did that. It was fairly cool.”
Quite a bit of the exhibits Ells attended featured such native acts as Wayne, Adelaide, Suburban Love Junkies and Mars Electrical.
Many of these bands had been getting airplay on native station 107.7 The X, which was programmed by native style arbiter Scott Register.
“That was my first publicity to the scene, and it’s half of why it was vital to me to incorporate that period in my model of the story,” Ells stated. “Usually that interval is a bit forgotten after we replicate again on Birmingham’s music as an entire.”
Ells moved to the Birmingham space proper after faculty in 2005.
“When the April 27, 2011 twister hit my residence, I moved to 5 Factors, and I’ve been in the Southside and downtown space for a decade,” he stated.
Ells stated that he has now lived in Birmingham longer than he lived in his hometown, and the music scene in the Magic Metropolis nonetheless means loads to him.
“Birmingham’s scene is a small group,” he stated. “It’s DIY. It’s a bunch of punk rock children that left the suburbs and got here again downtown when that wasn’t a cool determination, they usually gathered for music and located each other. The spirit of that angle is what makes Birmingham’s scene particular.”
The scene meant sufficient to him that it impressed Ells to put in writing ‘Magic Metropolis Rock.”
“I feel loads of instances, individuals don’t see the magnificence that was inside the struggles fought right here in the curiosity of self-discovery, of defiantly leaving the suburbs to search out your individuals,” he stated. “Quite a bit of those self same fights proceed, however I feel everybody discovered one another and now they don’t at all times must combat these battles alone. Thanks, Gen X.”
Ells named some of his favourite performers, previous and current.
He calls Jim Bob & the Leisure Fits, The Primitons and the Sugar LaLas “the forefathers” of the up to date scene.
“The issues they had been doing by way of the 80s and 90s weren’t one thing you’d count on from a city like Birmingham,” he stated.
Lee Bains III & The Glory Fires are a crucial up to date reference for Birmingham rock, Ells stated.
“After I suppose of what this metropolis ‘sounds’ like in 2020, it’s positively Lee,” he stated.
He additionally has no bother singling out a favourite music venue.
“The Nick is one of the biggest rock golf equipment that ever existed on this nation,” Ells stated. “It’s all the pieces you need out of a rock membership. It’s a group all it’s personal with wonderful individuals.”
He additionally cites Bottletree, the Avondale bar and cafe that closed in 2015 and remains to be missed, and Bottletree’s “extra mature sister,” Saturn in Avondale.
“However The Nick is the punk rock heart of Birmingham,” he stated.
The up to date rock and pop scene in Birmingham deserves extra respect and a spotlight, even domestically, Ells asserts. “There are a ton of nice artists right here now,” he stated.
He praises singer-songwriter Will Stewart, together with his solo work and the music he’s recorded with Janet Simpson of their duo known as Timber.
“Sarah Lee Langford has an awesome report,” he stated, referring to the singer-songwriter’s old-school nation album, “Two Hearted Rounder.”
Ells stated there may be some native assist for the artists.
“I feel the group round helps of us the greatest method they know the way — particularly locations like The Nick and the crew at Birmingham Mountain Radio,” he stated.
After all, as we transfer into the new 12 months, musicians and venues in Birmingham are going through the identical problem that artists round the nation are going through — the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s a scary time,” Ells stated.
“My hope for Birmingham music is that folks that care about arts on this metropolis discover methods to assist assist,” he stated. “If going and sitting on a membership patio and having some drinks isn’t one thing that you simply’re snug with but, purchase merch. Give to a GoFundMe. There are methods that we are able to nonetheless have the issues we cherished earlier than the pandemic. We simply must be a little bit extra artistic now.”
For extra details about the e-book, go to historypress.com.