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Special Projects

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Memphis Soul Preservation Project

The Smithsonian National Museum of American History’s Memphis Soul Preservation Project, Washington D.C.

In 2016 School Music Productions became involved with Professor John Hasse, curator at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History, in developing The Memphis Music Preservation Project.  The project’s goal is to locate, collect, archive, exhibit – and most importantly - preserve the important work and influence of American Soul Music: Memphis Rhythm and Blues  artists, composers and musicians.


This project recognizes the cultural and historical significance of Memphis R&B as one of the U.S.A’s most original music platforms, which also represents the first and widest-reaching transracial and integrated musical collaboration in American musical history.


We are honored and privileged to have this wonderful opportunity to support the museum in pulling this collection together so it is justifiably preserved forever. Music is for everyone and made by everyone. At a time when black and white people could not eat together nor go to the same schools, the music in Memphis was born. This early 1960‘s interracial collaboration among musicians framed the foundation of what became Memphis rhythm and blues.  The raw honesty and passion of these efforts lives on decade after decade, “Often imitated; never duplicated.”


When people come together there is no limit to the innovation, creativity, inspiration, and partnerships that are possible.


Roger, Kaufman

Founder Old School Music Productions

January 1, 2016

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To listen to and/or read an interview about the Memphis Music Preservation Project with Roger Kaufman on NPR Radio's “All Things Considered” hosted by Ed Hardman, please click HERE.

In the video above, Old School Music Productions Founder Roger Kaufman is intereviewed on WPKN FM’s “Sometimes Classical” with Richard Epstein. January 10, 2018. The discussion covers, Ragtime composer Mel B. Kaufman (Start-24.19), The Smithsonian's Memphis Music and Modern Music collections, Steve Cropper, Stax Records (24.19), and the many contributions Sally White made to music lovers in Westport, CT (43.21).

The Smithsonian's Memphis Music Collection Official Launch

The official launch of The Smithsonian 's Memphis Music collection took place in Washington, D.C. on December 1st, 2016 with a recognition of Steve Cropper’s contributions.


Steve was honored during this event with a video broadcast, interview, meet-and-greet and the accession ceremony Steve's priceless musical objects to the collection. Joined by family, friends, fellow performers and music lovers, it was a grand evening. (Smithsonian article HERE.)

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A Special Thank You to Contributor Steve Cropper

The Memphis Music Preservation Project is most fortunate and appreciative to have Steve Cropper’s invaluable assistance and support. For over 50 years he has been an integral part of the R&B community. He has accompanied the preservation team to Washington DC several times and is actively helping to organize former collaborators, artists and friends who were central to the creation and development of the Memphis sound.

More About Steve Cropper

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Just before the widespread success of Berry Gordy's Tamla Records in 1959 (later to become Motown Records) Steve Cropper was a Memphis music-loving teenager. He was heavily influenced by the music of Ray Charles, Little Richard and "The 5 Royales" (Lowman “Pete” Pauling, Johnny Tanner, Eugene Tanner, Otto Jeffries, Obadiah Carter and Jimmy Moore.). He acquired his first guitar at the age of 14.


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A few years after high school, Cropper was hired to record a session with local Memphis high school organist Booker T. Jones for the young Stax Records company. The recording equipment was left on during one of their impromptu blues jams and Booker T & the MG’s was born when that recording became the B-side of the record. "Green Onions” became a number one record… and marked the beginning of the Stax dynasty as Soul music's "hit machine", following local DJ Rufus Thomas' 16-year old daughter Carla Thomas’ recording of "Gee Whiz". Cropper played performing and producer roles in many of the significant recordings at Stax from 1961 through 1970.

Mid 1960s:

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During the mid 1960’s, brushing aside the infamous call out by James Brown for what would become his signature guitar lick on "Soul Man", Cropper went on to both co-write and play guitar on three gold record million-sellers: Otis Redding’s, “Dock of the Bay”, Eddie Floyd’s “Knock on Wood”, and Wilson Pickett’s “Midnight Hour”.


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Celebrating the launch of their partnership to secure Memphis soul music’s well-deserved place in American history at the Smithsonian Museum. 

(L to R: American jazz and blues scholar and curator John Hasse, guitarist and composer Steve Cropper, and musician and producer Roger Kaufman).


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A year later, at The Palm in Washington DC, celebrating the the continued progress as they move forward with the Smithsonian Museum’s Memphis Music Preservation Project.

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During a visit to the Smithsonian, Steve, Smithsonian’s Professor John Hasse,  and Old School Music’s Roger Kaufman are invited to view the private archives of the Smithsonian Museum of American History where they enjoyed an up-close viewing of music mementos from many of their most beloved musicians.  On the left, Cropper holds the actual 1959 Apollo Theater performance document of his favorite - The 5 Royales, and on the right he and Hasse have a glimpse of Ray Charles’ piano, complete with acetate braille presets!


50 years after starting his music journey at Stax, Cropper continues to be a creative force in both music and music history.


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The Smithsonian’s Professor John Hasse and Old School Music Productions' Roger Kaufman visit Steve Cropper’s home in Nashville where they met with Aubry Preston, owner, savior, and champion of the famed RCA Studios in Nashville. Aubry took them on tour of the studios. During this visit, Steve  shared  several insruments “of note” (two of his guitars pictured here) slated for accession to the Smithsonian collection. Each instrument has a unique story of having been played by Steve on the historic recordings of “Dock of the Bay” and “Green Onions”. The trip to Nashville was made complete by Aubry Preston’s adventurous map - the route of a “Roots Music Pilgrimage” being planned. Aubry, like Steve, John, and Roger, is devoted to preserving the music... along with the physical buildings, studios, homes, and the rich musical history of the region.  

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