Meridian Star

Local News

September 19, 2013

‘Meridian Taste’ of the Hwy 80 Songwriters Fest

MERIDIAN —     Meridian Main Street, in partnership with Lauderdale County Tourism, and its other sponsors are inviting the public to enjoy the "Meridian Taste" of the Hwy 80 Songwriters Fest on Saturday at Dumont Plaza in downtown Meridian.

    The event kicks off at 5 p.m. and runs until 9 p.m.

    Twelve songwriters from Alabama and Mississippi, including Johnny Barbato, who tours with The Lucky Doggs, which have opened for The Mississippi Allstars, the Black Crows, BB King, and Marshall Tucker; Stephen Lee Veal, who has co-written with successful songwriters like Wood Newton, Thom Shepherd, Jimbeau Hinson, CJ Watson, and Tammy Vice; Donnie Mills, who has opened for Leon Russell, Loretta Lynn, and others, and has played Merle Haggard's birthday party for three years; Debbie Bond and Rick Asherton, who have toured with Alabama blues musicians Little Jimmy Reed, Eddie Kirkland, Shar Baby and Carroline Shines. These are "tastes" of what's to be on Sept. 21.

     The Meridian Taste emcee, Marty Gamblin, executive director for the Mississippi Arts and Entertainment Center said, "Songwriters are the very backbone of the creative process. It's an oft but never overused cliché; It all begins with a song."  

    Gamblin added that while many songwriters go on to be legends, others remain local and regional, writing for the pure pleasure of expressing emotions through words and music. Both are successes.

    Through The Montgomery Institute's West Alabama/East Mississippi Initiative to build rural communities through creative economic development, and brainstorming between Demopolis Mayor Mike Grayson and songwriter Richelle Putnam, the wheels turned, partnerships formed between Meridian and Demopolis, and the Demopolis "Taste" was held on July 6 with 19 songwriters from Alabama and Mississippi, the majority of Mississippi songwriters in attendance being from the Meridian area, to an audience of around 500 people — in the rain!

    "Songwriting is truly the creative side of music," said Ken Rainey, long-time music/songwriter supporter and promoter of the Jimmie Rodgers Festival. "My hope is that the Hwy 80 Songwriters Fest brings to Meridian and surrounding areas an appreciation of songwriters and the ability to realize and capitalize on our songwriting heritage."

    The mission of the Hwy 80 Songwriters Fest is to provide songwriters throughout the southeast a platform to showcase original works at diverse indoor and outdoor venues along the Highway 80 corridor and to provide venue owners an opportunity to expand business through artist performances. The educational aspect will have songwriters and students writing lyrics and putting them to music.     "Reaching across the state line expands tourism, plus gives smaller rural communities along and around the Hwy. 80 corridor an opportunity to highlight their area by hosting songwriter venues," a press release states. "It's a give-give, win-win situation."

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