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VOL. 124 | NO. 22 | Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Coordinated Effort Sought To Save Musicians’ Homes

By Tom Wilemon

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BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE: Blues musician John “Memphis Slim” Chatman once lived in this house on College Street. The home is being targeted for preservation. -- PHOTO BY TOM WILEMON

The childhood home of Aretha Franklin may already be on Soulsville’s wish list, but another structure on the campus of the Stax Museum of American Soul Music appears in need of more immediate attention.

A team from Memphis Heritage Inc. will do a walk-through this week of the “Memphis Slim” home at 1130 College St. to look for ways to stabilize the structure. John “Memphis Slim” Chatman was a famous blues musician and composer who was born in 1915 and died in 1988.

Though a sign outside the house states that renovations are coming soon, little has been done since the LeMoyne-Owen Community Development Corp. acquired it in 2005.

Jeffrey T. Higgs, the executive director of the CDC, met last week with June West, the executive director of Memphis Heritage, to talk about the former homes of the Memphis music legends.

Higgs described the meeting as a focus on “nuts and bolts work” and discussion of ways to get other stakeholders involved in the preservation efforts.

“Money is going to be the issue with all these properties,” Higgs said. “We’re in a world financial crisis. … It was a good meeting, I think. That’s probably the first step is to kind of do a walk-through at the “Memphis Slim” house. The next step is to talk to the owner of the Aretha Franklin property and see if we can look at it and determine what’s best. Do we fix it over there? My preference would be to move it over here. That’s sort of the conversation.”

West said the “Memphis Slim” house appears to be in greatest danger of being lost. She said the childhood home of Aretha Franklin on Lucy Avenue, which is several blocks west of the Stax Museum, was boarded up securely and appeared not to have any evidence of people breaking into it.

Jeffrey Higgs talked about moving it (and) all that,” West said. “I think we need a focus group to sit down and talk about that. It’s hard to think the LeMoyne-Owen Community Development Corp. is going to go as far westward at that. It’s a tough neighborhood. I’m kind of on the fence there.”

Higgs and West agreed that a coordinated effort should be organized to preserve the homes of the famous musicians.

“We’re in the examining stages right now,” West said.

To read our original story on Aretha Franklin’s old home, visit www.memphisdailynews.com.

PROPERTY SALES 56 56 9,658
MORTGAGES 49 49 10,665
BUILDING PERMITS 212 212 21,170
BANKRUPTCIES 49 49 6,157