Tunes for Tots

Musicians for Le Bonheur raises money for children’s hospital

By RICHARD J. ALLEY

Just as Jim Jaggers, meteorologist for WREG News Channel 3, uses the power of his bike pedals to raise money and awareness for Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital through Go Jim Go, his son Justin is using guitar pedals to do the same.

Lahna Deering and the Rev. Neil Down of Deering and Down perform in the lobby at Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital with other artists from the Musicians for Le Bonheur project.  

(Photos: Lance Murphey)

The younger Jaggers and business partner Rae Williams founded Angry Nerd Productions and created Musicians for Le Bonheur. Through the program, they have elicited the help of musicians and recording technicians across the city to produce a CD and stage live shows all for the benefit of Le Bonheur.

This isn’t the first time Jaggers has used music to fundraise. In 2010, while searching for ways to market his own musical concern and promote the charity, he put together 18 musicians for a 20-track CD. The following year he tied it in with his senior project as a music business major at the University of Memphis and staged a battle of the bands to raise $1,200.

This year, he brings to the table a renewed vigor to the cause and more than 30 local artists crossing many genres willing to record and donate nearly 50 tracks so far, requiring a double album and bonus, digital B-side compilation for download.

Artists already committed to participating include FreeWorld, Star & Micey and The Bo-Keys, among many others.

To set this year apart from others, the partners knew that “we need to make the events bigger, we need to try and brand more and promote more and really try and present Memphis music on a whole new level,” Jaggers said. “Both of us have just been amazed at how quickly this has grown this year.”

The double CD will drop in the beginning of September with a release party on Sept. 13. The project formally kicks off a series of live shows around town throughout the spring and summer at Hard Rock Café on Beale Street the weekend of May 17, a bold move considering locals and visitors alike will be flooding the area for the Memphis in May World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest.

The $5 cover that night will go toward production of the CD, and all proceeds from sales go directly to the Le Bonheur Foundation.

The majority of the foundation’s money comes from major gifts and events of different sizes, said Stephanie Snow, events coordinator for the Le Bonheur Foundation.

“It’s really been great to see how this has grown and Justin has really just taken the reins and run with it,” Snow said of the grassroots effort by Jaggers, adding, “Children respond so well to music, too, so Justin has made a point, since Le Bonheur is a children’s hospital, for his CD and music to be family friendly as well.”

A preview was held last week for those benefiting from the charitable contribution – the children of Le Bonheur – and staff members in an afternoon acoustic set held in the hospital’s new building. For musicians used to smoky bars and late nights, the bright lights and antiseptic air of the main lobby was a welcome change.

Amber Lantrip with daughter Rayne Lantrip, 6 months, listen to a performance by artists from the Musicians for Le Bonheur project in the lobby of the hospital. 

One such act was Deering and Down, a bluesy duo popular for their down-home lyrics and jangly guitar, turning the environment into a honky tonk hospital. When asked why they agreed to be a part of Musicians for Le Bonheur, Lahna Deering was quick to answer with “Why not?” Her partner, the Rev. Neil Down added, “It’s just a great opportunity to do the right thing.”

The duo has played charitable benefits in Alaska where their partnership began, and at a school for refugees while touring in Switzerland. Down was the recipient of help from fellow musicians last year following an accident that damaged his hip and left him with a limp and a cane.

Other acts that day included Kaci McAnally, Megan Myles, Jeff Moss, Matt Williams and singer-songwriter AJ Levin, who joked with those in attendance and to the children in their rooms watching via closed circuit television from a wall-mounted camera in the lobby.

“I’m used to saying good evening instead of good afternoon,” Levin said.

Some of the patients were also treated to visits from the musicians and impromptu concerts by the strolling balladeers. Myles enjoyed the company of one little one who came out into the hall to dance with her.

The project hopes to bridge the city’s community of musicians with its medical community. For Jaggers, helping the hospital is somewhat of a family tradition while, for others, such as Rae Williams, it’s personal.

“My daughter was a patient here when she was 2; she had double hernia surgery,” Williams said, “so I know the staff here all love children and it’s such a great hospital.”

For more information or, if you’re a band and would like to join the cause, visit musiciansforlebonheur.com.