Monday, November 30, 2015

Gospel singer anchors ‘Redwood’ in Bartlett and expects to tower over the competition

     William Ross Jr. has a penchant for music – all genres. He sings gospel – tenor, baritone and bass – and entreats his audience to worship the Lord and serve Him gladly. In church, his voice resonates throughout the sanctuary at Greater Community Temple Church of God in Christ. And resonates in the community, where he sings with various choral groups sending up praises to the Lord for his continual blessings.
Ross is also a businessman. On Nov. 21, he was aglow and counting his blessings when Redwood Music Group, a concept he finally brought to fruition since childhood, opened its doors to aspiring singers, songwriters or musicians seeking to improve his/her vocals, musicianship or business affairs.
William Ross Jr. (left) launched Redwood
Music Group to help aspiring singers, songwriters
or musicians seeking to improve his/her vocals,
musicianship or business affairs. Ben Salter will
teach clarinet and saxophone and Inho will teach
classical piano. Janice Hall is Redwood's executive
administrator. (Photo: Wiley Henry)
 I had a passion and wanted to help. I wanted to give excitement to the music industry. And as time passed I’m now able to go into…and invest in a music company,” said Ross, Redwood’s CEO and president.
Ross named the music group after the sky-scrapping Redwood tree, a species native to the forests in California. “It’s very strong and deep,” he said. “And I just want Redwood Music Group to be just that – as a strong company, tall and rising above the rest of its kind. And also just to have a deep legacy.”  
Located at 5154 Stage Rd., Suite 101, in the Primacy Oaks business district in the Bartlett community, Redwood offers vocal and instrumental development, branding and management to help artists “reach for perfection.”
The company’s philosophy is “making musical dreams a reality” – which means any artist, skilled or unskilled, can apply or call in for an interview to become a Redwood partner, said Ross, or a part of the group.
The coaches or consultants on staff at Redwood are contract professionals with a degree in their field. They are prepared to teach individuals five and up. “They are very versed in their music capabilities,” Ross said.
• Inho Yang will teach classical piano and other genres of music.
• Ben Salter, a Shelby County Schools band teacher, will teach students how to play the clarinet and saxophone and other instruments as well.
• Kenya Nichols, a vocal trainer, will also teach piano, particularly to the very young students.
• Tamara Hart Louis, a vocal trainer as well, will teach beginning piano.
Other coaches and trainers will be added to the roster as well, said Ross, who has two musically gifted siblings. His brother, Tony Ross, is a recording artist. And his sister, Dominique Ross, is a vocalist. Their mother, Elnora Ross, also sings; and their father, the Rev. William Ross Sr., is an avid supporter and pastor of Pleasant Grove Baptist Church in Somerville, Tenn.
“I want Redwood to become a household name,” said Ross. “I learned from some of the best to watch the industry and I’m trying to make the right steps, do the right thing, to make sure Redwood is a company of integrity and also known for its professionalism. We actually help and not just talk.”
Ross also envisions Redwood as the catalyst to help students in public schools yearning for a more music-and-art-based curriculum, particularly when the often-wielded budget axe is used to cut away music and art programs from public schools.
Hopefully, Redwood will be able to partner with the local school system,” said Ross. “We definitely would want to contract with them to bring music into those schools that don’t have music.”
Unlike Stax Music Academy – which “inspires young people and enhances their academic, cognitive, performance, and leadership skills…with an intense focus on the rich legacy and tradition of Stax Records” – Ross said Redwood is a one-stop shop, a boutique, designed to leverage success in the music industry.
I look up to Stax,” he said. “We would actually like to think that Redwood is going to customize the training for those that may not be as talented to get into Stax, but they can come here and we’ll actually nurture them.
“I know they’re doing similar things like Redwood, but this has been a dream from childhood up. Stax is definitely a great facility, a great organization, and they have some of the most popular, famous, individuals there at Stax.”
Fame just may be the final outcome of Ross’ efforts to position Redwood in the forefront of the music industry. If it happens, he hopes to heap much of it on the artists who walk through the doors and leave with a professional makeover.
“We are starting today with the legacy of Redwood,” said Ross, showing friends and supporters at the “open house” the journey the music group is about to embark on.
For more information about Redwood Music Group, visit or call Janice Hall, the executive administrator, at (901) 379-8120. 

Monday, November 23, 2015

Perignon’s premieres ‘Sunday Gospel Showcase’

Customers patronizing Perignon's Restaurant on Sundays, like Anthony "Ambee" Johnson
(left) and David Tate, will be treated to a delectable meal and "Sunday Gospel Showcase," a platform
for gospel singers and musicians to entertain the Sunday crowd. Patrice Myers (right) is the manager and
Thadesha Barber is one of the servers. (Photo: Wiley Henry)
Worship the LORD with gladness; come before him with joyful songs.” – Psalm 100:2 (NIV)
The scripture is an exhortation to praise God in song – and that’s what Robert Myers will be doing each Sunday, starting Nov. 22 at 5 p.m., when liturgical dancers, gospel singers, poets, choirs and quartets take to the stage at Perignon’s Restaurant for “Sunday Gospel Showcase.”
The gospel showcase is a platform for gospel artists and musicians, said Telisa Franklin, an on-air personality for AM 1380 WLRM, who will host the weekly showcase. “I want to give the new artists a platform to perform, to showcase their gifts and talents, to give them an outlet,” she said.
The world needs to see noted and aspiring gospel artists and musicians, said Franklin, particularly those on the local level, who have the desire to serve the Lord through spirited gospel music and entertainment.
Telisa Franklin
 “I want to be this generation’s Dr. Bobby Jones (host of Bobby Jones Gospel, which premiered in 1980 on Black Entertainment Network). I want to take the baton and take it to the next level,” said Franklin, who plans to air the gospel showcase on various TV networks.
It didn’t take much to convince Myers, though, that the church-going crowd is just as gung-ho about gospel music and entertainment as the un-churched is about secular music. The only difference is the choice of music and entertainment and, of course, the patron’s age.
Myers launched Perignon’s three years ago as a restaurant and lounge, which often filled with very young patrons – the hip-hop generation. Now he’s rebranding the facility to attract an older, more settled, crowd.
 “We stopped calling it a lounge, because it didn’t attract the church crowd,” he said. “The gospel showcase will give the restaurant a (new) twist…from a gospel standpoint. I want to keep it gospel or gospel jazz.” 
The showcase is open to anyone who wants to sing or bring in a choir. Myers is not sure about adding rap to the lineup or whether the genre has the potential to reach the “settled” adult crowd that he’s looking for.
“I’m more traditional, some contemporary, when it comes to gospel music,” said Myers, a member of Breath Of Life Christian Center in the Raleigh-Frayser community. “This is based on faith, but I do want people to know that we do good business.”
So Myers spiffed up the restaurant to enhance the ambience and aura of fine dining. He’s also trying to make the restaurant the go-to place and where singers and liturgical dancers, for example, can ply their skills.
“We will introduce you and you can present your skills,” said Myers, offering an opportunity to anyone interested in showcasing their talent or anyone looking to build a rapport with a settled, adult audience.
Perignon’s is located in the Timbercreek Plaza in the Raleigh-Bartlett community. The restaurant is located on the east side of the building and adjacent to a banquet facility on the west side. Myers owns both, including a hair salon in the area – Valentinos Hair Salon.
“We are a family-owned and family-friendly business,” said Myers. His wife, Valerie, operates the salon, which opened 25 years ago. Their daughter, Patrice Myers, is Perignon’s manager; and their son, Valentino Myers, is employed at Perignon’s.
Before Perignon’s was born, there was V’s Café and Mr. V’s Wings, two businesses that preceded the sleek and dainty restaurant, which was named, Myers explained, after a fine and exquisite champagne, Dom Pérignon.
“We didn’t want to do anything ordinary, something that everybody was doing,” said Myers, hoping the launch of Sunday Gospel Showcase will be more than an ordinary platform for gospel artists and musicians.
“We want to give something that people can relate to,” he said.
For more information about Sunday Gospel Showcase, visit or call (901) 373-9952.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Tennessee Mass Choir celebrates 25 years in honor of its founder

Jason T. Clark (center), choral director for The Tennessee Mass Choir, assumed the role
after the death of his mother, Fannie Mae Cole Clark, in 2013. (Courtesy photos)
Jason T. Clark gets a little emotional when he talks about his mother and her arduous job of corralling a group of singers and fine-tuning their voices into a melodic blend of traditional and contemporary gospel music.
“It definitely makes me emotional to know that she taught us so well to the point that we have the ability to carry out exactly what she placed in us,” said Clark. “We haven’t missed a beat for the last two years.”
The beat will go on Sunday, Nov. 15, when Clark pays tribute to his late mother, Fannie Mae Cole Clark, and when The Tennessee Mass Choir, the choral group she founded in 1990, celebrates its 25th anniversary at First Baptist Church-Broad, 2835 Broad Ave.
Hosted by Michael Adrian Davis of 95.7 Hallelujah FM, the concert will start at 5 p.m. Special guest artists include Karen Brown, Everett McBee, Tara Clark, Tabitha Adams, and more. The concert is free and open to the public. 
Mrs. Clark, who once led The Fannie Clark Singers prior to founding the TMC, died in 2013. She’d become an integral part of the local gospel music scene and was regarded as the quintessential choirmaster.
Fannie Mae Cole Clark
She was such a giant in everything she did,” said Clark, who now presides over the choir. “I get emotional even just thinking about the fact of…first of all…this being a milestone of 25 years of something that she built, even though she’s no longer here with us.”
Mrs. Clark led, directed and promoted the TMC, using wit and personality to bring attention to the choir and her ministry. She was a one-woman, public relations guru, who would ferry press releases and photos to the media and follow up with a kind word.
She was determined to catapult the choir to the “big stage,” on which they’d eventually share with nationally known gospel recording artists such as Fred Hammond, John P. Kee and Shirley Caesar. They’ve also performed at upscale events such as the Titanic Exhibition, the Memphis Sunset Symphony, and the Southern Governor’s Regional Convention.
“She prepared us well,” said Clark, one of his mother’s four children. The Rev. Derek Clark, pastor of Rejoice in the Covenant Church in Memphis, is the eldest, followed by Mignonette Clark Durham of Carrollton, Texas, Jackie B. Clark, and the youngest, Jason Clark.
“We’re (the TMC) like a well-oiled machine…a level of professionalism that she instilled in us, a level of service, a level of community. It’s not just in me as a leader, but it’s in all of us. We’re like a big happy family.”
The “family” consists of 35 members, in addition to the seven or eight choir members Clark added after he took over as choral director. He brought on new members, he explained, to expand the choir and to take them farther in ministry than where his mother had taken them, including adding to their repertoire of songs.
“We are very, very diverse. We do everything from down home gospel to praise and worship to inspirational to spirituals and a cappella numbers. And we do contemporary songs,” said Clark. “That’s why over these 25 years we’ve been able to reach so many ages and be relevant to the times.”
The people who attend the TMC concerts are as young as nine and as old as 90, he said. “There is something for everybody…something that everybody can relate to. Again, that’s just a testament of who my mother was.”
Leadership is also important, said Clark, adding that each member of the TMC is just as capable as he is when representing the choir and ministering to God’s people. His mother, he said, had set the example.
“All of us can lead in our respective communities,” said Clark. “I just know within my heart that she would be proud because of the simple fact that we’re really carrying out the legacy exactly the way that she taught us. We haven’t deviated at all.”
Clark said his mother had never met a stranger that she didn’t feel good talking to and vice versa. “As a ministry, that’s what we aspire to do even in our music. We want you to be able to experience our concert and walk away from it knowing that there was something that we sang or something that we said or spoken that inspired you.”
That’s what Clark intends to do when the TMC unleashes a plethora of songs in concert. The audience can expect a spirit-filled afternoon, Clark said, when the Holy Spirit shows up.  And in the coming months, the choir will rev up the spirit once again when they start recording for a new album.
Clark said he and his mother had talked about recording two years ago. She had given the album a name. “I was like, ‘We already have a name for the record: Timeless Message, New Revelations.’ The thing that I’m carrying out is…all of the things that we talked about…”
Music is in the family’s blood, said Clark, recalling one of his fondest memories as a child when he cap-napped on an amplifier while The Fannie Clark Singers were in concert. He was a willing musician, but he couldn’t keep his eyes open.
“I was about six years old,” said Clark. “And back then I used to play the tambourine. I would sleep on the amp during the concert and then wake up and start back playing the tambourine. I was always around it (music).”
The enthusiasm that Clark had shown then will be amped up as chorale director, which he plans to channel when The Tennessee Mass Choir celebrates its 25th anniversary and pays tribute to its founder, Fannie Mae Cole Clark.
To learn more about The Tennessee Mass Choir, go to For concert information, contact Jason Clark at (901) 503-4611 or email him at  

Controversial author and social activist Shahrazad Ali will speak at MLK Labor Center on Nov. 14.

Shadrazad Ali (Courtesy photo)
        Shahrazad Ali, a noted author, activist and social commentator from Cincinnati, Ohio, will be in Memphis Saturday, Nov. 14, to discuss the topic “A Nation Can Rise No Higher Than Its Woman: Where There’s No Decent Women, There's No Decent Men” at the Martin Luther King Jr. Labor Center, 485 Beale St.
The Men-nefer Project, an African-centered concept that was developed to create and develop unity in Memphis, is bringing Ali to Memphis. The doors will open at 4 p.m. The show will start promptly at 4:30 p.m.
A bestselling author, independent publisher and social activist, Ali is one of the nation’s most “controversial” speakers. She is a self-taught educator who has worked for over 35 years specializing in social issues affecting the black community.
“Sister Ali will bring vital information (to Memphis) regarding the black family structure, one of the areas we need to focus on in order to strengthen the black family,” said Titus Robinson, representing The Men-nefer Project.
Robinson said he collaborated with Ali on the topic of her lecture, which comes from a message espoused by the late spiritual leader Elijah Muhammad – the “Messenger of Allah,” his followers had called him – who led the Nation of Islam (NOI) from 1934 until the time of his death in 1975.
Ali rose to fame after her book, “The Blackman's Guide to Understanding the Blackwoman (1989),” drew widespread controversy, criticism and ridicule, which led to appearances on several national talk shows such as “Tony Brown’s Journal,” “The Sally Jessie Raphael Show,” “The Phil Donahue Show and Geraldo.”
Here’s an excerpt from the book: “Her unbridled tongue is the main reason she cannot get along with the Blackman...if she ignores the authority and superiority of the Blackman, there is a penalty. When she crosses this line and becomes viciously insulting it is time for the Blackman to soundly slap her in the mouth.”
“The truth is always controversial especially when people are attractive to falsehoods and lies,” said Robinson, who doesn’t advocate hitting women. He pointed out that Ali, however, the mother of 12 children (nine adopted), doesn’t place women on pedestals.
“She brings them back to earth,” he said. “She is telling all the black women’s secrets and the method she uses to keep a black man in her web.”
Ali’s reputation and tongue-lashing remarks have been fodder for news stories and commentaries in more than 1,000 newspapers, journals and magazines throughout the country. She has been a constant presence on TV and heard on the radio for over 20 years.
“People will come looking for an alternative and a solution. People want help for their marriage and family based on cooperation,” said Robinson. “She talks about how to survive in America without being killed by the enemy…and what must be done.”
Ali has penned other books as well: “The Blackwoman’s Guide to Understanding the Blackman (1992),” “Are You Still A Slave? (1994)” “Things Your Parents Should Have Told You (1998),” “How Not To Eat Pork: Life Without the Pig (1985)” and a textbook called “Urban Survival for the Year 2000.”
Ali is also featured in the critically acclaimed documentary “Hidden Colors,” a four-part film series suggesting the marginalization of African Americans in America and the world.
After a brief hiatus from the airwaves, Ali emerged in 2013 as a guest commentator on HLN’s “Dr. Drew on Call,” where she expressed indignation after George Zimmerman was found “not guilty” for killing 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.
Although controversy continues to follow Ali, the activist has earned numerous awards and citations for her efforts to help solve some of the problems affecting black people: crime, waywardness, a lack of family values, and errant relationships.
“We’re dealing with the same issues that we dealt with in the 1930s, ‘40s, ‘50s and up to 2015,” said Robinson, who believes Ali can help shed light on many of those issues and provide a workable solution for black people in Memphis.
Aside from Ali’s lecture, attendees will be privy to music, food and entertainment. Advance tickets can be purchased online at or by calling 901-502-3481. For More information, call (901) 864-5008.