Little Rock native Robert Palmer, the chief pop music critic for the New York Times during the 1980s and author of the 1981 treatise “Deep Blues,” has his imprint all over a blossoming project by his daughter Augusta Palmer, to be titled “The Blues Society: A Documentary Film.” In what Memphis artist Randall Lyon called “poetic furor,” a group of blues musicians and enthusiasts launched the first Memphis Country Blues Festival at the Overton Park Shell (now The Levitt Shell) in 1966. It challenged the paradigm of racial segregation in America during the 1960s; bathrooms at the Overton were still segregated, and the KKK had held a rally there only a week prior. The first festival featured the likes of Booker T. and the M.G.s, Canned Heat, Bukka White, Albert King and Furry Lewis.
The Memphis Flyer reports on the festival’s revenue generation:
The first Memphis Country Blues festival was assembled with almost no money. According to legend it was kickstarted with $50 from Jim Dickinson’s paycheck and a chunk of hashish that ranges from baseball to softball size depending on who’s telling the story.
Fundraising has become a little more transparent since 1966, and Palmer’s Kickstarter project aims to raise enough money to take a film crew to Memphis, where she’ll capture stories from audience members, artists, and the festival’s organizers to accompany the interviews she’s collected thus far, with Robert Gordon, author of “It Came From Memphis,” and Peter Guralnick, author of “Sam Phillips: The Man Who Invented Rock n’ Roll,” among others. Palmer’s collected a special selection of vinyl from Fat Possum Records to entice investors, which you can check out here.