/Still playing’ for loyal listeners Meridian native Steve Forbert honored for excellence in music

Still playing’ for loyal listeners Meridian native Steve Forbert honored for excellence in music

These were Mississippians who had been long-time fans of a Jackson radio show. One was a seventh-grader when Forbert first heard him at a Meridian teen centre. Forbert said that loyal listeners were what the show was all about. “That’s mostly what I’m still playing for,” Forbert says. Eric J. Shelton/Mississippi Today, Report For America Forbert was recently awarded the Governor’s Award for Excellence in Music. He is one of five recipients in this annual celebration of mastery and achievement in Mississippi’s creative culture landscape. It’s an honor. It’s an honor. I’ve been doing this for 50 years. I keep track of Meridian. I tried my best to write great songs, so it’s amazing to be able to get this kind of recognition. He says that it might be a sign that I’m growing older. This prompts him to do the same cool auditory double as his most clever lyrics. He was awarded a star on Mississippi Arts + Entertainment Experience’s Walk of Fame last May in Meridian. A remastered collector’s vinyl edition of “Jackrabbit Slim”, which he released in December, celebrated the 40th anniversary of the album. The first batch of red vinyl was snapped up by collectors. In a few weeks, the next batch of green vinyl (not numbered) will be available. He is a major draw at the Americana UK festival this summer in England. Forbert’s debut cover album, “Early Morning Rain,” is likely to be on the horizon in April. He says that it’s one of his favorites, and only one of them is Bob Dylan’s “Dignity” which was recorded after 1973. It features Jimmie Rodgers’ “Frankie and Johnny”, Elton Johns’ “Your Song”, and the Gordon Lightfoot song of the same title. He says that he wishes he could release the record like a magic wand, reaffirming appreciation for the lyrics and fine craftsmanship of these songs. His music is appreciated by many. John Flynt, a Jackson attorney and longtime fan, nominated Forbert to receive the Governor’s Award. Flynt said that Forbert’s “The Magic Tree”, his most recent album, is as great as any music made in the 1970s or 1980s. Forbert, in his 20s, left Mississippi to pursue a career as a musician. This journey saw him perform on high-profile shows, release critically acclaimed albums, and his hit “Romeo’s Tune.” He was also nominated for a Grammy for his tribute to Jimmie Rodgers. Other notable performers performed his songs on “An American Troubadour : The Songs Of Steve Forbert,” among other things. His songs continue to be loved by people across the country, four decades after their creation. It is time to look back on all the great music and look forward to more. Forbert’s memoir “Big City Cat”: My Life in Folk-Rock, written with Therese Boyd (friend and editor), has been praised for its warmth, stories, and humor. It started out as an idea for an opera, with songs and anecdotes to be performed on stage. But logistics weren’t working and Forbert decided, stories in hand: “Why don’t I just keep going?” This is Forbert’s conversational look back at his many years spent on America’s music scene. It’s possible that the play idea is not dead. He says that “I Just Work Here”, a song from the 2004 album “Just Like It’s Nothin’ to It”, still has potential for such a presentation. He says, “It’s someone complaining about having to work hard and continue to make ends meet…. That still kind of gets my going about this idea. But one song, in fact, does not seem to be a successful play-make.” He laughs and shrugs. “The Magic Tree” is his companion to his memoir. “Good songs that deserved being exposed.” He describes the collection of demos, live performances, and some new tunes. He smiles with a weary grin. “They put them out on vinyl, so they had to draw a middle point, so you could have side A and side B again, as we used to.” His music and songs reflect his Mississippi roots. “The music hasn’t really changed that significantly. Most songs can be played on an acoustic instrument. It is still folk rock or folk music. It hasn’t changed much over the years, so it’s what I brought to New York. It was tougher on the streets, in folk clubs, and auditions up there. It was just right to be tough, so when we finally made “Alive on Arrival”, which was almost a year and half after I was there, it wasn’t as innocent as it should have been. It was ready for a major label. “I feel like I’m still doing the same style, so it would need to be a lot Mississippi. He says that ‘Going Down to Laurel’, ‘What Kinda Guy’, and ‘Romeo’s Tune’ were all written in Meridian. “I must do those songs in every single show, pretty much,” he says. Nashville was his home from 1985 to three years ago when he moved to Asbury Park (New Jersey). He says that he decided to return to the north with his new band, The Renditions. It’s been a good decision. Photo by Jay Blakesberg. But, at this moment, he looks back over the decades to that Meridian day in 1974 for a classic Mississippi story. Forbert said that he and a group of Laurel bandmates were going to play The Coast’s Vapors, which was “the gig to get into the state”. Johnny Rivers discovered Chris Ethridge playing The Vapors. “So we felt good. We were excited. We had lots of equipment, including a Hammond B3 Organ. We rented a UHaul truck with one the automatic platforms on it,” he said, “bzzzzz”. We thought it was so amazing that, when we reached Laurel from Meridian, and were loading up the Hammond organ with the moving platform, we continued to play, over and over again. We didn’t know that we were running out of battery. We had three hours to get to sound check. He laughs, “We couldn’t start it,” he said. “We were directed to return home. We drove back to Laurel, but we never played The Vapors. “So I had to go New York City to start.” He also had to return to Mississippi to embrace the pride of his home state with the Governor’s Arts Awards. The 2020 Mississippi Governor’s Arts Awards honor Eric J. Shelton/Mississippi Today and Report For America Henry Danton for Lifetime Achievement In Dance. Danton, 100, a well-known ballet dancer and teacher from Petal, still shares his vast knowledge with students at Belhaven University and south Mississippi. At 21 years old, a professional career in dance included performances with international dance companies in London or Paris and the founding of the Venezuelan National Ballet. Eric J. Shelton/Mississippi Today Report For America — The Jackson Southernaires for Lifetime Achievement In Music, the pioneering gospel group formed in 1940. They were the first to incorporate guitar, drums, and bass into gospel music. This practice is still in use today. The Grammy-nominated, Stella Award-winning group has released 28 albums. 11 of those albums have charted on Billboard’s Gospel Albums Chart. Eric J. Shelton/Mississippi Today Report For America Richard Kelso for Excellence in Visual Art — Kelso is originally from Cleveland but now lives in Jackson. His studies with Sammy Britt, at Delta State University, and Henry Hensche, a famed colorist at the Cape School of Art in Provincetown in Massachusetts helped him to see and capture Mississippi’s natural beauty. Eric J. Shelton/Mississippi Today Report For America Tougaloo college Art Collections, for Preservation of the Arts — The college has a fine art collection that includes 1,500 works. It was started in the 1960s by Sammy Britt at Delta State University and Henry Hensche at the Cape School of Art in Provincetown, Massachusetts. This collection represents important contemporary American, European and African artists as well as cultures. It is an important educational resource and serves the cultural needs for the wider community. Come join us in Steve’s hometown, Meridian, for Marshall’s Mississippi Thursday March 12th at The MAXX.