Pictured is Jonathan Pekar, Director of Ardent Studios’ Film Department, holding his Emmy award for Best Commercial Spot.
Ardent Studios is proud to announce that their mild-mannered Director of the Film Department Jonathan Pekar has won the 27th MidSouth Emmy award for Best Commercial Spot for creating the animated Memphis Music Foundation commercial.
Pekar commented, “I’m stoked to be a part of the entertainment scene in Memphis. The intense level of creativity that goes on here is inspiring.” This project also showcases the talents of painter Lamar Sorrento and Singer/Songwriter Keia Johnson.
Pekar is presently developing a new television series called Kids of Memphis. It is set to air in November 2013.
Reminder to all our UK friends: BIG STAR: NOTHING CAN HURT ME will have its World Premiere on October 20th & 21st at the BFI London Film Festival! Tickets are on sale now. Filmmakers Drew DeNicola, Danielle McCarthy, Olivia Mori and the legendary John Fry will all be in attendance. Hope to see some of you there! And there’s more festival news to come soon so stay tuned!
Ardent Studios is in the news again! This time, we’re on the cover of the most recent ProSoundNews issue, which was distributed heavily at this year’s InfoComm Convention in Las Vegas. The spot highlights our new ISDN capabilities, which you can read more about here in Mix Magazine.
We are sad to report the loss of another pivotal Big Star figure: Ice Water drummer and Ardent Records promoter Steve Rhea.
From Studio Manager Jody Stephens:
Our very good friend, Steve Rhea, passed away today. He was an integral part of Ardent’s history. Steve was introduced to John Fry and Ardent Studios in the late 60s and by the early 70s he had become a part of the creative evolution of what was to become Big Star. He played with Chris Bell in The Jinx and then Ice Water, a late night studio project which involved Andy Hummel. Steve had been playing drums on the projects with Chris and Andy and his return to college in Texas left an opening for a drummer Jody Stephens. Upon graduation, Steve returned to Memphis and Ardent, this time enlisted by John Fry to promote Ardent Records’ releases. His projects included Big Star’s #1 Record and Radio City.
Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family. We will miss him.
Steve Rhea, a key figure in the history of legendary Memphis rock group Big Star has died.
Rhea, a drummer in Big Star precursor bands the Jynx, Rock City and Icewater, as well as an Ardent Records staffer, died on Wednesday morning at his home. The 62-year-old Rhea, who became a successful banker and financial planner, had been diagnosed with cancer last year.
“Steve’s playing just struck me pretty powerfully,” said Big Star drummer Jody Stephens, who took over for Rhea behind the kit in 1971.
“From my perspective, he was such an integral part of Big Star’s evolution,” said Stephens. “And yet, he was somebody fun and very laid back, always great to work with.”
Rhea’s death is another blow for fans of Big Star, which has lost band members Alex Chilton and Andy Hummel, group producer Jim Dickinson, and various other associates, including photographer/logo designer Carole Manning and songwriter Tommy Hoehn, over the past three years. The period has also seen a renewed international interest in the group’s history, thanks to a Grammy winning box set Keep An Eye on the Sky, and documentary film, “Nothing Can Hurt Me.”
A pivotal player in the early Ardent studio scene of the late 1960′s and early 1970s, Rhea was a gifted musician and occasional songwriter. He joined future Big Star founder Chris Bell in the high school garage band the Jynx, before following — along with bassist Hummel — in subsequent outfits like Rock City and Icewater.
Rhea’s greatest contribution was as the writer and singer on the Icewater song “All I See Is You.” The song came out on the 2008 collection Thank You Friends: The Ardent Records Story and 2009 Big Star anthology Keep An Eye on the Sky.
Rhea left the Ardent fold in order to attend college at Southern Methodist University in Texas in 1970. His departure opened up a spot for drummer Stephens who joined the soon to be rechristened Big Star. Rhea would return to Ardent to work as a promotions man in 1972, helping on the campaigns for Big Star’s first two, ill-fated, LPs.
After his involvement in the music business, Rhea went onto a successful career in finance in the Mid-South where he served as a vice president at Leader Federal Bank, Union Planters Bank of Memphis, and the Union Planters Corporation.
He eventually left to work with his father, S. Herbert Rhea, as a consultant at Rhea Financial Corporation. Most recently, Rhea had been the principal at Summit Asset Management.
Rhea is survived by his wife Leigh, and daughters Emily Rhea and Elizabeth Rhea Cook.
In the photo above: Steve Rhea and Chris Bell at the National Street location of Ardent Studios.
A private graveside service will be held on Friday morning May 18th. Visitation will be at Second Presbyterian Church at 12:30 pm on the same day followed by a memorial service in the Sanctuary at 2 p.m. Memorials may be sent to the Second Presbyterian Church Foundation, 4055 Poplar Memphis 38111, to WKNO, 7151 Cherry Farms Road Cordova 38016 or to the Church Health Center, 1210 Peabody Avenue, Memphis 38104. Memorial Park Funeral Home, “Behind the stone wall”, 901-767-8930. Condolences may be offered at www.MemorialParkOnline.com
With everyone from the Ardent camp back home and the dust settling, let’s take a look back at all things Big Star at SXSW.
From the press:
“…with the presentation of a Big Star documentary and a symphonic concert celebrating the band’s music. Playing opposite much-anticipated festival sets by Bruce Springsteen, and various other big names, the Big Star event managed to pack the city’s Paramount Theatre, and generate a rare buzz amid the din and clatter of this massive industry gathering.
“…Such labyrinthine twists provide the ballast for “Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me.” The 93-minute documentary, by New York filmmakers Drew DeNicola, Olivia Mori, and Danielle McCarthy, was screened as a “work in-progress” version at the Paramount. Still, the film was a powerfully evocative piece, eliciting a standing ovation at its conclusion.”
“Ambitious in scope, Nothing Can Hurt Me digs into deeper contexts than the average music doc, encompassing Chilton’s pre-Big Star musical pedigree as the face and voice of the Box Tops; the mentoring influence of engineer-producers John Fry and Jim Dickinson; the clubhouse atmosphere at Fry’s Ardent Studios; the band’s connection to photographer William Eggleston and other artists; Ardent’s historic 1973 promotional stunt, the first-and-last Annual National Association of Rock Writers Convention; the decline of Big Star’s would-be distributor, Stax Records; the post-Big Star solo careers; and a busy culture of reissues, reunions, and homages.”
“The movie is brilliant—a boon to Big Star fans, as well as an indispensible primer for anyone who ever has wondered what artists such as the dB’s, R.E.M., Matthew Sweet, the Bangles, the Replacements, Teenage Fanclub, This Mortal Coil, the Posies and literally thousands of others found so inspiring.
“The second half of Big Star Tribute Night was just as fulfilling as the band’s last surviving member, drummer Jody Stephens, and long-time fans Chris Stamey and Mitch Easter led a large ensemble complete with Mellotron, horns, string section and a parade of guest vocalists through a rendition of Big Star Third/Sister Lovers in all of its soul-wrenching sloppiness and haphazard perfection.
“The procession of cameos included some big names—R.E.M.’s Peter Buck, the Replacements’ Tommy Stinson, Wilco’s Pat Sansone, M. Ward and of course Posies and latter-day Big Star members Ken Stringfellow and Jon Auer—but just as valuable were the contributions of many younger and lesser-known musicians who’ve passed through Stamey’s recording studio in Chapel Hill, N.C. All of them clearly loved the album and poured all they had into songs beloved by fans who never thought they’d get to hear them live: the rousing ‘O, Dana’ and the despondent ‘Holocaust,’ the frightening ‘Kangaroo’ and the furious ‘Kizza Me,’ all building up to a ‘We Are the World’ sing-along on the perfect tune to stand as the band’s epitaph, ‘Thank You Friends.’”
Memphis artist Craig Davis was in Studio C recently, cutting 11 songs over the course of 3 days for what will be the debut album for the Craig Davis Band. Jeremiah Tucker (John Kilzer, Keith Sykes, Levon Helm), who had been co-writing songs with Craig for some time, came in from Nashville to produce the recording. Their choice for an engineer in Adam Hill was a no brainer, as Jeremiah and Adam have known and respected each other for years. When the decision was made to cut this record to analog tape, their attention came to Ardent Studios. From manager Laurena Stanos:
“Craig and Jeremiah agreed that tracking full band live to analog tape was how they wanted to record the album… It needed to be comfortable and provide a room that allowed Craig and the band to make eye contact with each other.”
It was these criteria, along with the know-how and attention to detail of engineer Adam Hill that led them to Ardent.
“Jeremiah had known Adam Hill since the late 90′s and is a fan of his work as an engineer. Craig and I [sic] agreed with Jeremiah that Studio C at Ardent would be the place.”
Point your browser to Craig’s website for more info.
In the Photo, L to R: Producer Jeremiah Tucker, Jody Stephens, Laurena Stanos, Craig Davis, guitarist Chris Johnson, engineer Adam Hill.
With this year’s South By Southwest Music Conference fast approaching, we wanted to make a list of all things Ardent happening in Austin that week. If you’ll be at SXSW, stop in and say hello!
Big Star’s Third Live at SXSW
In it’s third iteration, this performance of the material from Big Star’s Third will feature an all-star lineup including Jody Stephens, Ken Stringfellow (The Posies, Big Star), Jon Auer (The Posies, Big Star), Chris Stamey (The dB’s), Mike Mills (REM), and Mitch Easter (Let’s Active) along with some special guests TBA. Previous shows have included Michael Stipe, Ira Kaplan, Norman Blake, Matt Ward, Matthew Sweet, and many others.
The show will be at The Paramount Theater on March 15th, directly following the sneak preview showing of Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me (see info below).
Video from the first show in North Carolina:
Thursday, March 15 7:00 PM: Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me sneak preview at The Paramount Theater
From the press release: “BIG STAR: NOTHING CAN HURT ME is a feature-length documentary about legendary Memphis band Big Star. While mainstream success eluded them, Big Star’s three albums have become critically lauded touchstones of the rock music canon. A seminal band in the history of alternative music, Big Star has been cited as an influence by artists including REM, The Replacements, Belle & Sebastian, Elliot Smith and Flaming Lips, to name just a few. With never-before-seen footage and photos of the band, in-depth interviews and a rousing musical tribute by the bands they inspired, BIG STAR: NOTHING CAN HURT ME is a story of artistic and musical salvation.
“The film was produced by Danielle McCarthy (who is also the Manager of Publicity & Marketing at Magnilia Pictures), Drew DeNicola whose ongoing documentary project Natural Soul Brother: The Original Black Radio DJs was a finalist at the IFP Market 2007, and longtime costume designer (Shortbus, Cadillac Records) turned first-time producer Olivia Mori. The Executive Producers include John Fry who started Ardent Studios where Big Star recorded their three seminal records, which Fry also engineered. Spirit Awart Producer of the Year nominee Gill Holland also serves as Executive Producer. Holland is a partner at The Group Entertainment.”
For more info on the film: http://www.bigstarstory.com/
Friday, March 16: Second Stage show at the Radisson Austin at 7:00 PM
Saturday, March 17: Lucero Family Picnic at Cedar Street Courtyard (time TBD)
Star & Micey's Muxtape
Long time Ardent clients and friends The Scruffs (www.thescruffs.com) will be playing an official showcase at SXSW this year. Ardent’s Adam Hill plays 0n, records, and helps produce their releases here at Ardent.
Saturday, March 17 8:00 PM: Official Showcase at Ten Oak Lounge
Memphis southern rock and country act The Dirt Brothers have been in and out of the studio this year and last, working on 14 songs that will make up their LP debut, Riding Dirty. Most recently the guys have been in Studio A under the guidance of Nashville producer and engineer extraordinaire Mike Clute (Faith Hill, Diamond Rio).
Ardent’s Mike Wilson has made Clute’s and the band’s settling in as smooth as possible, making whatever they need available to them at a snap of the fingers.
But with the Dirt Brothers, it’s more a stomp of the foot than a snap of the fingers. The band stands firm on its commitment to Memphis as a hometown, and their belief in what they do has been heard echoing through the halls of Ardent throughout the time they’ve been working here. Those who would say that country is a Nashville thing, take heed – The Dirt Brothers are comin’.
Look for their 14 track LP to release in March of this year, and keep an eye out for The Dirt Brothers on the road in support of Riding Dirty.
In the picture, L to R: Producer/engineer Mike Clute, Chad Gatewood, Justin Gatewood, Mike Wilson, Andy McCullough, Traci McCullough, John Salazar, and John “John Boy” Hall.