Bar-Kays’ 50th anniversary celebrated in Memphis

The Bar Kays close out a year of golden anniversary with benefit gala.

The Bar Kays close out a year of golden anniversary with benefit gala.

Memphis, TN–The world-famous Bar-Kays enjoy celebrations throughout 2014, marking the year of their golden anniversary—50 years in the music business.

The legendary band culminated their anniversary festivities during the Bar-Kays 50th Anniversary Celebration on Dec. 4 at the Cannon Center for the Performing Arts in Memphis, their home town, which is also known as the ‘home of the blues and birthplace of rock ‘n’ roll.’

Memphis native and actress Elise Neal of TV One’s Hollywood Divas hosts the black tie gala. Neal is also a celebrity ambassador of St. Jude, a benefiting charitable organization. The Bar -Kay’s 50th Anniversary Celebration was co-hosted by actor Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs who starred in The Jacksons: An American Dream.

Bar Kays 50th Anniversary Celebration, a history-making event, had the attention of the entertainment industry and fans from across the nation. Many traveled to Memphis to celebrate and pay tribute to the Bar Kays, one of the best bands in the country.

The Bar-Kays donated a portion of the proceeds raised during their golden celebration year in support of the Bar-Kays Foundations coined the ‘Fab Five Charities,’ including: Down Syndrome Association of Memphis; United Way of the Mid-South; St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital; Stax Music Academy; and Allen Jones/Marjorie Barringer/Bar-Kays Scholarship Fund in support of LeMoyne Owen College.

Philanthropy is only one of their passions. Their other passion is music, along with majestic moves and their funky sound, which through five decades, impacts audiences from across the world.

From performing at the White House for President Obama and his guests, to Iraq for our troops, they show no signs of slowing down. Their music career includes five gold albums, one platinum and more than 20 top-10 singles and albums.

The Bar-Kays’ career is documented in music institutions such as the Stax Museum of American Soul Music and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. There are exhibits of their iconic stage garb and musical equipment. The Stax-inspired group was also inducted into the 2013 Memphis Music Hall of Fame.

Conceived in 1964, originating as the Stax Records’ house band in 1966, the Bar-Kays were born from soul music and turbulent times. Selected by Otis Redding as his touring band, the highly sought after Stax band faced tragedy in the midst of a successful career.

After the 1967 tragic plane crash that killed Redding and several members, Alexander reformed the band with Dodson singing lead and continued on as he felt the original band members would have wanted him to. Though tragedy knocked on their door, the Bar-Kays continued to have many successes in the studio and on stage where they felt most at home ‘burning it up live.’

“Our stage show was important,” said Alexander. “However, we came up in an era where you didn’t need a record to work. If you had a great show you could work.”

For 50 years, the Bar-Kays remain a powerhouse of funk, R&B and soul music. They continue to release new music that crosses generations, like their 2012 hit, ‘Grown Folks,’ which reached the top-10 on Billboard’s Adult R&B charts. Alexander’s son, award-winning rapper and record producer, Phalon ‘Jazze Pha’ Alexander, who was named after deceased band-member Phalon Jones, produced it.

The single, ‘Up and Down,’ was written by Grammy nominated songwriter and producer, Alvin Garrett, who is credited for writing the hit single, ‘I’d Rather Have a Love,’ for the recording artist Joe.

“James and I are old pros but our band is very youthful,” said Dodson, reflecting on the Bar-Kays recent successes. “As a result, we have always been able to bridge the gap between old and new and reach many people.”