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VOL. 122 | NO. 134 | Thursday, July 19, 2007

Ready to Rock

Musicians organize 'Rock for Love' concert for Church Health Center

By Andy Meek

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FEEL THE LOVE: Marvin Stockwell - the public relations director for The Church Health Center - sings with his band Pezz, one of several groups performing at a benefit concert for the CHC next week. -- Photo Courtesy Of Amanda Raney

When Dr. Scott Morris settles into the front row at a benefit concert later this month in honor of the nonprofit clinic he started 20 years ago, he, like the rest of the crowd, will be ready for some loud exuberant rock music.

But that show, for which eight local bands are slated to take the stage at the Gibson Beale Street Showcase July 27, also will mean something more for the founder of the Church Health Center of Memphis Inc. (CHC).

The concert, "Rock for Love," was organized by the Memphis record label Makeshift Music as well as Marvin Stockwell, the CHC's public relations director. It's intended to raise money and awareness for the clinic founded by Morris, silver-haired and soft-spoken, to the scores of uninsured patients given affordable care at the CHC.

The sound of appreciation

"Rock music is about the vitality that is thriving to make life exciting. And we really think that's what the (CHC) is about, more than anything else - joy in peoples' lives. That's what health is about. It's not just the absence of disease."
- Dr. Scott Morris,
Founder and head of The Church Health Center

And, naturally, many of those people who walk through the clinic's doors on a tree-lined stretch of Peabody Avenue are musicians. Band members don't exactly get a benefits package in exchange for strapping on a six-string.

That's why it already gives Morris pause to reflect on the fact that the lineup for the coming benefit is filled with uninsured musicians, many of whom have been patients at his clinic. And because the CHC continues to be a saving grace for those and other local musicians, Morris notes with pride, the city's beat goes on.

"They've been a part of our MEMPHIS Plan (a CHC health care coverage program) as well as just come to the clinic, and it's very moving for me to think that they would want to give back to us through a concert like this," he said.

Those appreciative musicians who've grasped at the CHC's lifeline include Christian Walker, bass guitar player for the punk-rock band Pezz, which will perform at the benefit. Stockwell sings and plays guitar for Pezz.

By day, Walker takes on freelance construction work around town. From 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., five days a week, he usually can be found hammering, painting, remodeling and renovating homes of all kinds.

Friday, July 27, at the Gibson Beale Street Showcase.
Doors open at 7 p.m. Show starts at 8 p.m.
Tickets are $8 in advance or $10 at the door and are available at the Gibson Retail Store, Goner Records, Shangri-La Records and online at gibsonshowcase.tickets.musictoday.com.

The work is enough to pay the bills, but not enough to assure him of health care that goes beyond simply hoping he doesn't face a major injury or illness.

"I'm a self-employed carpenter, musician and actor, so I don't make a whole lot of money," he said. "The way the health care system is nowadays, there's not a lot of support for the working poor, and (the CHC) provides that service for people like me. If I was to get hurt on the job without insurance, it would break me."

Symphony of collaboration

Because of the CHC, Walker doesn't have that same worry anymore, nor do the 36,000 patients who visit the clinic each year.

The appreciation of that fact is where the idea for the show came from. J.D. Reager, co-owner of Makeshift Music, was hanging out with Stockwell one day and started kicking the idea around.

Reager already has been a member at the Hope and Healing Center - the CHC's companion wellness facility on Union Avenue - for about a year.

"Marv and I just got to talking," Reager said. "And just over the course of talking about stuff came this idea of, 'Wouldn't it be great to throw a rock show benefit?' Then, we just started brainstorming ideas."

Then, the concept grew into something bigger. What began as a conversation about throwing a small concert bash for the health clinic ballooned into a charity event that scores of Memphis businesses, artists and musicians have asked to take part.

Local groups sponsoring the show and a companion CD that will be released include Ardent Studios, the Center City Commission (CCC), TCB Concerts, the Memphis Music Commission and Spin Street. Music Commission officials will be on hand the night of the concert to sign up anyone interested in enrolling in the CHC's Memphis Musician's Healthcare Plan, which is offered through a partnership with the CHC.

Quality of life

The artists performing at next week's show also have contributed songs - along with other artists not on the bill next week - for Makeshift 5, a compilation album whose release will benefit the CHC. And the "Rock for Love" concert will be filmed for a DVD to be released later this year.

"The original idea we hatched has now become something five times bigger than what we thought we were setting out to plan," Stockwell said. "It's a very hard life being a working musician. Only a small percentage of musicians make a really healthy living."

For those who do choose that career and accept its inherent challenges, such as finding affordable health care, Morris said, next week's concert is proof the CHC serves as a port in the storm for them.

"Rock music is about the vitality that is thriving to make life exciting," Morris said. "And we really think that's what the (CHC) is about, more than anything else - joy in peoples' lives. That's what health is about. It's not just the absence of disease."

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