I55 Productions...what's cooking? by Robert "Nighthawk" Tooms

Posted on 11/09/2009 by Robert "Nighthawk" Tooms

(Memphis, Tennessee) Tonight we visit with old friend Brad Webb who is the engineer and main man/producer/guitarist for I-55 Productions, a new label out of Memphis, Tennessee. Steve Bryson is the Executive Producer and President of I-55 and Steve is a noted entrepreneur and owner of many successful businesses.

I55 artist Billy Lavender

Brad Webb

Billy, Brad Webb, Tony Adams, Steve Bryson

I met with Brad and Steve recently and was delighted to learn that Steve has been appointed to the Board of Directors for the Blues Foundation. These guys are not only honoring the blues but taking proactive measures to release new music and promote blues artists.

From their website:

"I55 Productions LLC derived its name after the main highway traveling through Memphis, Tennessee. The idea behind the record label came from a Memphis native who found himself looking for ways to share some of the best local talent in his beloved hometown with the rest of the world."


Willie Foster

I-55 has bought the old Mempho label record catalog and will soon release such great blues artists as the late Willie Foster and my old friend and band mate Fred Sanders, who played for decades in Memphis at one of the city's first big blues club, Blues Alley(now defunct) and also played tons of gigs around town and even in my band for at time.

Fred's cd, cut by Brad Webb

Willie Foster's last cd, "My Inspiration," will soon be released on I55. I was fortunate to play keys on the recordings (and even a harp solo on one of the tunes). It is a fine blues cd and Mr. Willie played and sang with vigor on it despite his diminishing health.

He was a double amputee and was playing the blues from a wheelchair during this time. A couple of days after his second leg amputation, I saw him play a gig at the Black Diamond on Beale Street. The club owner, Bob Harding, worried about Willie's health , told him he did not have to play his last set that night. Mr. Willie was indignant and assured Bob that he WAS going to play the last set as he had promised the crowd he was coming back and he "would not let down all those nice people." Ain't that a man?

Billy Lavender and Vince Johnson

I-55 has signed Billy Lavender and they have already released Billy's cd, "Memphis Livin". It feature's performances from my friend and former band mate Tony Adams on drums, Brad and Billy on guitars, and Brad, Danny Cochran and Mike Stoker on bass parts.

Billy Lavender

Danny Cochran thumps the bass guitar

Reba Russell, Tony Adams, harp man Vince Johnson all share the vocal tasks with Billy Lavender. Blind Mississippi Morris also plays harp on one of the record's tunes.

Billy Lavender and Brad Webb(photo by Ralph)

This is a fun blues based rocking Memphis record that offers lots of variety of sounds. The record has met with excellent reviews and I particularly like the Reba Russell song on the cd.

Tony Adams, Morgan Freeman at Ground Zero Blues club, Clarksdale, MS
from TAD website

Tony Adams, Scott Phillips got some drums
from TAD website

Tony Adams is also famous for writing a great book called "Drum Tuning Theory" and has worked as the drum tech with such fine artists as Matchbox 20 and Creed. Tony and I played lots of gigs with Brad Webb and Dan Cochran in Blind Mississippi Morris and the Pocket Rockets blues band. Here's a link to Tony's site where you drummers can check out his cool book:

Blind Mississippi Morris and Robert "Nighthawk" Tooms

Brad has played and worked with Blind Mississippi Morris of the past 15 years and I shared a great experience touring England as keyboard player in Morris' band with our friend, Eddie Juke in the year 2000. Eddie has a cool studio in Mansfield, England and here's a link:

Eddie Juke
photo from TAD website

Morris and Brad at the Rock and Soul Museum, Memphis

Brad Webb and Blind Mississippi Morris
at the Blues Shock Stage
Memphis in May Beale Street Music Festival
photo by Mark Simpson

Over the years Brad has cut (engineered and performed on)5 cd's on Morris. Brad is now employed full time with I55 Productions but Brad and Morris still perform frequently at B.B. King's in Memphis.

Blind Mississippi Morris on harp

Blind Mississippi clutches the Marine band

As you can tell the label is embarking on lots of projects, not the least of which is a cd on my old friend Phillip Dale Durham who became famous for his fine drumming and singing with the band, Moloch, which recorded here in Memphis in the 1960's. The band, featuring Lee Baker and Don Nix, was famous for the recordings "Goin' Down" and my favorite, "Same Old Blues," which Phil just sings the hell out of both on the record and in live performances.

old band mates Phillip Dale Durham and Robert "Nighthawk" Tooms

Phil and I have played in all sorts of bands over the years including an impressive stint we did with an Elvis impersonator and Phil is a delightful person and a monolithic talent. He constantly smiles, tells jokes and delivers some screaming vocals to this very day. As one of the unsung heroes of Memphis music, a celebration of Phil and his music are a well kept secret that is long overdue for being manifested to the world.

Memphis Mike Forrest and Phillip Dale Durham
(that's Victor Wainwright from last week's blog in the background)

Wampus Cats' Bill Bailey and Mike Forrest with Phil

I know the music world is looking forward to hearing all the new products that I55 will be putting in the market. I will provide updates from them as time rolls on.

©2009, Robert "Nighthawk" Tooms


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