The Story of
John Gary Williams
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John Gary Williams Ticket

Join us for a special pre-show party honoring the Memphis musicians behind the legendary sound of 1970s Memphis soul on the night of its historic return to the Levitt Shell.


Meet original STAX artist John Gary Williams plus members of The Mad Lads, The Bo-Keys, the Memphis Symphony Orchestra’s Opus One and other special guests. Hors d’oeuvres, beer and wine provided.

PURCHASE TICKETS

Date: Saturday, September 28, 2013

Time: Party begins at 6:45pm

Location: VIP tent at the top of the Shell


Proceeds will help fund “I See Hope,” the feature documentary on the life of John Gary Williams. Each purchase is tax deductible as provided by law, less the $25 fair market value of each ticket.*


*Funds administered by the Southern Documentary Fund, a registered 501c3 nonprofit organization. Tax ID number 75-299-3148.


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If kindness and repentance were dollars, John Gary Williams
would be a millionaire many times over.

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Stax

Instead, Mr. Williams — an influential architect of American soul music — has lived largely out of the spotlight for long ago having chosen principle over profit, and friendship over fame. The “I See Hope” project marks his professional re-emergence, and his effort to tell his story to the world as a means to effect positive change.


As lead singer of The Mad Lads, one of Stax Records’ original 1960s acts, Mr. Williams’ stellar voice led The Mad Lads’ elegant blend of Southern soul and East Coast-style harmonizing to help the legendary label make headway into the mainstream pop market. Beloved the world over, the Mad Lads’ major charted hits include “Shop Around,” “I Want Someone” and a cover of Glen Campbell’s “By the Time I Get to Phoenix.”

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Mr. Williams was one of Stax’s most important vocalists, yet also one of its most star-crossed. Among other setbacks, he was drafted into the Vietnam War at the height of The Mad Lads’ popularity.


Upon returning from war, he rejoined The Mad Lads — but his newly discovered political consciousness also led him to the Invaders, a Memphis offshoot of the Black Power Movement. He thus became a unique figure in American popular music — soul singer by day and soul brother by night. While Curtis Mayfield, James Brown and others sang about African-American empowerment, Mr. Williams stayed silent on the issue in his music, yet actively risked his career to work for that goal.

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On a night in August 1968, Mr. Williams’ worlds collided when his efforts to sabotage a hastily formed shooting plot hatched by fellow Invaders backfired. Later at trial, several witnesses corroborated Mr. Williams’ version of events, and a judge handed him a far lighter jail sentence than others. Nonetheless, the incident again scuttled his career.


In 1973, a subsequent self-titled comeback album featuring the acclaimed tracks “I Believe the Whole Damn World is Going Crazy” and “I See Hope”, among others, was mired in distribution troubles that ultimately led to the involuntary bankruptcy of Stax, one of the world’s greatest record labels.


The padlocking of its doors separated Mr. Williams from other recordings he made, which remain unreleased to this day. And, as it did for all too many incredible soul artists, Stax’s demise also meant the end of Mr. Williams’ career as an entertainer. Since its closure, he has largely lived a life out of the spotlight.

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UNTIL NOW.

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In recent years, Mr. Williams has begun to sing again with a new version of The Mad Lads and occasionally front The Bo-Keys, a Memphis-based soul band led by noted composer/producer Scott Bomar. On Sept. 28 at Memphis’ Levitt Shell, Mr. Williams will join with The Bo-Keys and the Memphis Symphony Orchestra’s Opus One to reprise his long-lost solo work and perform it live for the first time.


For Mr. Williams, each appearance brings questions about his past — and the past is quite a tangled tale. Through “I See Hope,” Mr. Williams invites you to learn his story, listen to his music and join him on a future that is filled with possibility and hope.

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THE MISSION

Our team seeks to help John Gary Williams, an influential Stax Records artist and lead singer of its group, The Mad Lads, tell his remarkable life story in his own words to fans of American music throughout the world.


THE FILM

“I See Hope” is a forthcoming feature-length documentary centered on the life of influential Stax Records artist John Gary Williams, set to premiere in 2014. We need your help in making this film a reality.


THE MASTER TAPES

We are helping Mr. Williams locate master tapes of his solo work recorded just before Stax Records was forced into involuntary bankruptcy. Mr. Williams would like to see these original Stax songs released for the first time, as well as record new music later this year. More details soon.

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THE CONCERT

Mr. Williams will be featured at a special concert at the Levitt Shell in Memphis, Tenn. on Sept. 28 with The Bo-Keys soul band and Opus One of the Memphis Symphony Orchestra. More details soon.


THE COMMUNITY BENEFIT

We are working with Mr. Williams and various organizations within Memphis and the Soulsville neighborhood where Stax Records was born to ensure that “I See Hope” can shine a light on the community at large — and benefit worthy charities in the area. More details soon.

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TEAM

JOHN HUBBELL, Project Leader
JONATHAN EPSTEIN, Co-Director, Co-Producer
LANCE MURPHEY, Cinematographer, Co-Producer
RYAN GOBLE, Cinematographer, Co-Producer
MICHAEL CARPENTER, Art Director

SCOTT BOMAR, Score
JONATHAN KIRKSCEY, Score
JAMES BLAGDEN, Animation
CHRISTOPHER ISENBERG, Animation
DREW FLEMING, Associate Producer

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PROJECT ADVISORS

JOHN BASS, Mike Curb Institute for Music, Rhodes College
AL BELL, former Executive Vice President, Stax Records
HODDING CARTER III, professor of leadership and public policy, UNC Chapel Hill
WILLIAM R. FERRIS, Center for the Study of the American South, UNC Chapel Hill
PETER GURALNICK, author
BRANDON KNISLEY, V.P. of Artistic Engagement, Memphis Symphony Orchestra
JOCELYN R. NEAL, Center for the Study of the American South, UNC Chapel Hill
DEANIE PARKER, former publicist, Stax Records
ANNE PITTS, Executive Director, Levitt Shell, Memphis, Tenn.
TOM RANKIN, Center for Documentary Studies, Duke University
SCOTT SAUL, Professor of English, UC Berkeley
SUZANNE SMITH, Professor of History, George Mason University
MATT SULLIVAN, Founder, Light in the Attic Records
H. HOLDEN THORP, Chancellor, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
TIMOTHY B. TYSON, Center for Documentary Studies, Duke University
LOADED FOR BEAR, Memphis, Tenn.

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For more information, contact John Hubbell, Project Director
john@oldbridgemedia.com



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