WYXR 91.7 FM explores the Memphis music that fans may have missed with “WYXR Stereo Sessions presented by nexAir and MEMPHO,” a monthly series of hi-fi album listening parties.
Starting in February, WYXR invites the public to Memphis Listening Lab for a free music seminar that celebrates rare albums from Memphis’ musical past. These are the often unheard albums that have become cult favorites over time, as local musicians share memories of them backstage at venues across the city and dedicated collectors search feverishly to add them to their record shelves.
Each album in the series reveals the unique sonic ambitions of pioneering Mid-South musicians whose contributions remain influential, even if they aren’t household names or failed to enjoy widespread commercial success. Represented genres include garage rock, psychedelic rock, hip-hop, sweet soul, and funk.
Along with the ability to comfortably sit and listen to each album in full through Memphis Listening Lab’s state-of-the-art, locally-crafted EgglestonWorks sound system, visitors also will hear interviews with the musicians who made the music, as well as those who drew inspiration from it. Scheduled guests for upcoming installments of the series include producer Lawrence “Boo” Mitchell, rock artist Sam “The Sham” Samudio, and music journalist Andria Lisle.
The series launches on February 16 at 6 p.m. with “Reap The Lost Dreamers,” a hidden 1977 gem and the sole LP released by Memphis-based progressive rock band Companion. WYXR program manager Jared “Jay B.” Boyd and multi-instrumentalist Pat Sansone (Wilco, The Autumn Defense) will lead a discussion with Companion keyboardist Mike Russell.
“When we launched on FM in October 2020, we knew that rare Memphis music would be paramount to developing a radio station based on discovery and building community,” Boyd says.
“When we find ways to spotlight the musical contributions of Memphians that aren’t always in the forefront of the stories we tell about our music heritage, we are driving home the purpose of our mission. Whether the initial impact was small or large, we cherish that the output and ingenuity of people in the Mid-South linger the more we examine it with a new context.”
Sansone, a native of Meridian, Mississippi, who volunteers as a WYXR DJ between his career as a renowned recording artist, has maintained a pointed interest in Memphis music since discovering records as a child. The Companion album mystified him when he spotted it on a trip to a Nashville record store several years ago. Though he attempted to buy it, the store owner, taken by its sound, decided he wanted to keep the little-known musical treasure for himself.
He says he’s continually drawn to the progressive rock concept album as an outlier within what many designate as the “Memphis sound.”
“It’s very charming to see albums like these come out of scenes where they are a little bit unexpected,” Sansone says.
“It just reminds you that things are way more colorful than they are often mythologized.”
The album’s keyboardist, Mike Russell, says he’s “more than shocked,” at the record’s status as a collector’s item over time, now fetching an asking price of well over $100 for an original vinyl copy in used record marketplaces.
“I think it boils down to the term ‘progressive rock.’ We didn’t think of what we were doing, at the time, as ‘progressive’ in the ‘70s, but it has proven to be the kind of music that bends through time, along with time itself,” Russell says.
This series is brought to you by a grant from Humanities Tennessee. This session is sponsored by Tamburrino, Memphis Listening Lab, VIA Productions, and Goner Records.
Guests can RSVP to attend the first “Stereo Sessions” to hear and discuss Companion’s “Reap The Lost Dreamers” at the link.