Category Archives: jazz

The 2nd Annual Astrodome Jazz Festival

astrodome jazz

A couple friends found this program from The 2nd Annual Astrodome Jazz Festival 1973 and rightfully decided I would appreciate owning such a piece of Houston history. You may ask, why am I posting about jazz when this site is dedicated to all things soulful? Well the two genres have always ran hand in hand. A ceaseless back and forth of using each others styles, musicians and even covering each others songs. I would equate it with today’s constant collaborations between contemporary r&b artists with that of hip hop artists. All of these musicians and the sounds they make or made are the results of influencing each other. Endless musical reverberations for better of all mankind.

The festival, which was spread out over two days, featured Aretha Franklin, The Staple Singers, Billy Paul, Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Herbie Mann, David Newman, Bobby Womack, Ella Fitzgerlad, Stevie Wonder, Ray Charles, B.B. King, Charles Mingus and Freddie Hubbard. This all took place in the Astrodome, the world’s first domed stadium and aptly nicknamed “Eighth Wonder of the World,” which could accommodate nearly 60,000 raving concert goers or sports fans. The festival was like Houston’s answer to Wattstax.

The one thing that bothered me is that the concert program doesn’t list any local musicians. Surely, with such fertile grounds as Houston, you would welcome some local talent on the stage, right? Well I dug around and turned up evidence to the contrary. According to the Lubbock Avalanche Newspaper, the concert made room for the Fifth Ward Express featuring BoBo Mr. Soul as well as Bubbha Thomas and the Lightmen. I love to envision The Lightmen playing “Luke” for 60,000 people in the same place J.R. Richard struck out every batter that walked into the place. I’ll try and upload some scans of some of the advertisements in the back of the program in the future.

In case you’re curious, ticket prices ran from $5.50 to $10.


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Filed under Bayou City Soul, jazz

R.I.P. the Texas Twister

Guitarist Melvin Sparks

Though it had been many years since he called Houston home, it still deeply saddens me to report the Texas Twister himself, guitarist Melvin Sparks left this mortal coil yesterday. Tuesday March 15th 2011, Melvin Sparks passed from complications related to diabetes one week before he was to turn 65 years of age.

If you ask anyone that saw Sparks perform in his early years here in Houston, they all will tell you the same thing. It was always apparent he was destined for great things. He cut his teeth playing alongside as well as studying under the tutelage of the Elder Statesman of Houston soul and jazz, Leon Mitchison. After which Sparks joined Grady Gaines’ The Upsetters Band (Gaines still performs to this day around Houston) where he backed nothing short of a laundry list of some of the greatest singers and musicians the world has ever seen including Marvin Gaye, Sam Cooke, The Supremes, Little Richard, Solomon Burke, Stevie Wonder, Wilson Pickett and Jackie Wilson amongst others.
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Filed under Bayou City Soul, jazz