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O'Mell gets Beale St. Brass Note Sunday

Entertainment luminary Herb O'Mell will be honored with a Beale Street Brass Note on the historic street's Walk of Fame on Sunday, June 10, 2012. The event will be from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the Band Box at 142 Beale (near Club 152).

His note is the 118th to be awarded and he joins honorees that include composers, producers, singers, instrumentalists and music supporters in genres ranging from blues and gospel to jazz and rock.

O'Mell's is being honored for his long and varied career in entertainment in Memphis and the Mid-South. His involvement and contributions have been historic and he continues to be active in promoting Memphis music and entertainment culture.

Here are just a few of his accomplishments: He was a founding member of the Memphis NARAS Chapter and he put together the city's first integrated band. He has served on the Memphis & Shelby County Film and Television Commission for 25 years, six of them as chairman.

He's been personal manager to Jerry Lee Lewis, Ronnie Milsap and Jim Dickinson. He was business manager of Dan Penn and for Chips Moman and his 3-Alarm Studio. He is also producer of the TV show Memphis Sounds with George Klein. O'Mell has also been a music promoter and publisher, nightclub operator, casino insider, travel agent, movie location scout and Little League coach.

His involvement in the local entertainment industry goes back to after he graduated from Central High School and went to what was then called Memphis State University. He paid his tuition by promoting dances at the old Chisca Hotel. ''I had Elvis Presley playing there for $100 a night before he cut his first record," Herb told The Commercial Appeal in an interview in 1993. "They liked him, but weren't wild about him then."

After college, O'Mell operated a nightclub, The Penthouse, then another, T.J.'s, where Elvis once came to a New Year's Eve party with singer Ronnie Milsap in the club's house band.

O'Mell helped manage Milsap to a recording contract and was business agent for legendary music producer Chips Moman, all while running his own music publishing house, which owns one Elvis song. Herb told the CA, ''It's called If You Talk In Your Sleep, Don't Mention My Name. I'd hate to try to feed my family on any royalties from it."

Memphis' first integrated band came together in the early 1960s because of O'Mell's efforts. The Ben Branch Band included Ben Branch on sax, Floyd Newman on bass sax, Big Bell James on drums, Duck Dunn on bass guitar, Charlie Freeman on guitar and Mickey Collins on keyboard. They played at O'Mell's Penthouse nightclub in Midtown.

While O'Mell is usually behind the scenes, he has made a few contributions to the performing arena. Once he won a twist contest at The Palladium in New York and that got him noticed by producers of the '60s TV series Route 66 who hired him for bit parts in several episodes. ''I never had a line," he told the CA. "They said I couldn't even say 'uh-huh' without a Southern accent.''

One of those producers later hired O'Mell as movie location scout for The Reivers and The Liberation of Lord Byron Jones. Eventually he helped scouting for locations in Memphis and the Mid-South with Linn Sitler of the Memphis & Shelby County Film and Television Commission.

In 1988, Sitler had a staff of one when producers of Great Balls of Fire asked her to scout sites around Memphis. Board member O'Mell's experience came in handy. ''He offered to help and showed up with a duffel bag with a compass, maps, snacks, a phone book and film," Sitler told the CA. "He was amazing."

O'Mell also recruited high-rollers for casino gambling trips to Las Vegas, the Caribbean, Monte Carlo and Atlantic City. On one of these trips, he met his future wife, Laura, who went to work as his secretary and helped set up junkets before becoming his wife in 1980.

Judy Peiser, executive director of the Center for Southern Folklore, told the CA: ''If you tell Herb you need help, he says, 'What can I do?' And he gets things done in a world where a lot of people promise things and don't do anything.''

O'Mell's paternal grandfather was a Jewish immigrant from Russia who came to Memphis as a cobbler and later became a liquor store owner on South Main. The grandfather's last name had been something like ''Maltik,'' O'Mell told the CA. ''But he didn't read or write English. He hired an Irish painter to paint the front of his store, and the Irishman went with him to get a bank loan. Somehow when he got the loan he also got the Irishman's name.'' Herb's father, William O'Mell, owned Dixie Loan and Luggage, a pawn shop and leather goods store.

The story in the CA quoted Herb's cousin, Charlie Wexler, as saying young O'Mell once ran his tricycle through fire, setting the family garage ablaze after seeing a stuntman leap through flaming hoops.

But he tamed those impulses and was "a good student, a member of student government at Memphis State University, a track star and a 'free spirit' with a flair for showmanship," Wexler said.

The Beale Street Brass Note Walk of Fame was founded in 1986 by Performa Entertainment Real Estate to tie the current entertainment district to the musical heritage of the district. The note program is now administered by the  Memphis Music Foundation.

More information on the note program and honorees can be found at



Beale Street kicks off MTV "O Music Awards" June 27

New York/Memphis, June 7, 2012 – Viacom Music Group, which includes MTV, VH1, CMT and Logo, today announced the first batch of diverse artists set to join The Flaming Lips in their quest to break the Guinness World Records title for “The Most Live Concerts in 24 Hours (Multiple Cities).”  And the competition will start in Memphis, on Beale Street, where as W.C. Handy once sang, “…every night is Saturday night!”  There, in W. C. Handy Park, the New Fumes will open for The Flaming Lips before the bands race to the MTV concert tour bus, heading to performance gigs in both Clarksdale, MS, and Oxford, MS, before the night is over!

The selection of Memphis as the kick-off city for the on-line concert competition thrills Memphis Mayor AC Wharton: “We’ll show MTV once again our one-of-a-kind Memphis hospitality!” Memphis civic leader and developer, John Elkington, the single person credited with resurrecting Beale Street in the early 1980s from blocks of closed-up shops and falling-down clubs reacted, “MTV’s ‘O Awards’ – where else would they go but Beale Street? Show biz, fun, and a built-in cool audience watching The Flaming Lips perform on-line and in Handy Park. This is the Beale Street of my dreams.”

Recently, Memphis has been the choice for many other MTV productions, all clients of the Memphis & Shelby County Film and Television Commission. They include Memphis filmmaker Craig Brewer’s on-line music dramatic series, $5 Cover, and the on-line horror dramatic series, Savage County. However, Memphis’ history with MTV stretches back as far as 1998, when the MTV Sports & Music Festival 2 rocked on the banks of the Mississippi River in Tom Lee Park.

Tickets for the Memphis event will be available beginning at 10 a.m. on Friday, June 8, at The “O Music Awards” kick-off is presented in coordination with Performa Entertainment Real Estate, The Memphis & Shelby County Film and Television Commission, The Memphis & Shelby County Music Commission, and The Memphis Music Foundation.



Memphis Film Festival - May 31-June 2

Great interview with legendary actor L.Q. Jones in John Beifuss' story in The Commercial Appeal on the Memphis Film Festival.

The festival begins Thursday and continues through Saturday at the Whispering Woods Hotel and Conference Center in Olive Branch.

A Mid-South tradition for four decades, the festival is an annual celebration of the golden age of Hollywood in general and the Western genre in particular.

Read it here.



CA praises Indie Memphis

In an editorial Friday, The Commercial Appeal praised the Indie Memphis Film Festival for its contributions to the city, including recently being named one of the "Top 20 Events in the Southeast" for the month of November by the Southeast Tourism Society.

Memphis & Shelby County Film and Television Commission clients that have screened at Indie Memphis include the Oscar-winning documentary "Undefeated," the indie comedy "Losers Take All," the MTV thriller "Savage County" and Craig Brewer's ode to Memphis music "$5 Cover."

The Commission has supported Indie Memphis as a sponsor since the second festival. Indie Memphis will present the 15th annual festival in November of this year and again, the Commission will be working with it to showcase the work of our clients.

Here's part of the CA's editorial. For the full text, go here.

"Sometimes we Memphians get so caught up in griping about what we don't have, that we overlook the local gems that make the city special.

"One of those is the Indie Memphis Film Festival ... which engages in a diverse, year-round schedule of cultural and arts events ...

"It takes a lot of pieces to make a city a desirable place to live or visit. The Indie Memphis Film Festival is one of those pieces."



Oxford Film Festival call for entries

The Oxford Film Festival organizers opened submissions recently for the 10th anniversary festival to be held Feb. 21-24, 2013. Submissions will be accepted through Nov. 1. Entries will be accepted in the animated short, documentary short, experimental short, narrative short, documentary feature and narrative feature categories with special prizes for Mississippi films. Mississippi filmmakers are also encouraged to submit music video entries via the festival website for free.

May 9 to July 15, 2012 = Early bird rate

July 16-September 15, 2012 = Regular rate

September 16-October 15, 2012 = Late rate

October 16-November 1 = WAB Extended rate

For additional information, go to the Oxford Film Festival site here


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