THE BLUFF CITY BACKSLIDERS formed in 1999 around several veteran Memphis musicians who shared a hankering for great old sounds from the pre- World War II era. They found between them a hearty repertoire of early jazz, jug band, old-time country, and proto-bluegrass tunes that cried out to be resurrected. In early 2001 they brought these songs down to clubs on historic Beale Street, where, ironically, most of them had not been heard in perhaps 75 years. This series of performances drew so much enthusiasm that the band spontaneously grew into an 8-piece ensemble, drawing in a full range of instrumentation and some of the region’s best players.
At the hands of the new lineup, these almost forgotten songs morphed into a high-powered, hip-shaking, barrelhouse hoodoo music that's as profane as it is glorious. At bottom, it’s a wholly Southern musical sound, reaching from Memphis to Appalachia and all the way down to New Orleans, often all at once. Performing with a back-porch soul and the ferocity of the best punk bands, the band brings a new-fangled sensibility and some youthful energy to a deep heritage.
During the latter half of 2001, the band spent a few months perfecting their sound with weekly sets at Midtown Memphis’ Young Avenue Deli. These shows raised eyebrows all over town and far beyond. The band was invited to perform at the 2001 Memphis Music and Heritage Festival, as well as the annual showcase of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS).
The Bluff City Backsliders knew that this distinctive sound was too good to be kept to Memphis local audiences. In early 2002, they visited Sounds Unreel studios in Memphis to record their debut CD. This much awaited, self-titled release was unleashed upon Memphis on June 1, 2002 by Yellow Dog Records. The CD was enthusiastically received, and has been featured as the subject of live interviews and performances on Memphis’ WEVL, WUMR, and the FOX Morning show.
Currently, the Bluff City Backsliders are in demand for appearances at a variety of clubs in Memphis. A series of regional appearances in Oxford, Nashville, New Orleans, Little Rock, Saint Louis, and other cities in striking distance of their Memphis base is being planned for fall 2002.
Something archetypal in the band’s music seems to thrill music lovers of all kinds, old and young. Feet stomp. Throats howl. Grandparents dance with grandchildren. Joy abounds.
"This Memphis superband can deliver the soulful, spirited, and often very funny sounds that first made Beale Street famous... Ah, at last — something authentic on the street that Mr. Handy built." Chris Davis, Memphis Flyer.
Jason Freeman: Throaty vocals & finger-plucked guitar
"Blind Dog" Clint Wagner: High-dollar fiddle & vamping banjo
Mark Lemhouse: Slide lap-style guitar that makes ex-convicts cry & sweet harmony
Memphis Graber: Dog-bite mandolin, barking kazoo & sweeter harmony
Mike "Trombone" Powers: Sliding sonorous metal mating calls
John C. Stubblefield: Extra large fiddle
Adam "Wigglehead" Woodard: Stride and strut keys
Steve Barnat: Snare and kick drums, gew gaws & cheap suit