On a sweltering hot Sunday earlier this month music on the First Tennessee Stage kicked off day two of the second annual Mempho Music Festival with a soulful set of rhythm and blues from Don Bryant & The Bo-Keys.
The Bo-Keys precise and smooth jams set the tone for a perfect Sunday afternoon to enjoy the Mid-South’s newest music festival.
There was a former Covington Charger point guard behind the drum kit who some 1990s graduates may remember. David Mason, CHS class of 1993, was a 6-5 skilled guard who once gave 10-year NBA guard Tony Delk all he wanted on the court.
“Actually, man, I never bring that up,” Mason said when asked if he still brags to people about it. “The only time might be when someone else brings it up who was there ... But y'all don’t remember, after that he went off for 35 points.”
Mason went on to play college basketball at St. Catharine College in Kentucky and also began his musical career.
“I started playing with O’Landa Draper & The Associates (Grammy Award-winning Gospel music artist) in ‘94,” he said. “Up until then my auntie and my cousin were the only two that really inspired me musically. Being around a professional choir you start to run into other musicians and you’re just trying to keep up. My auntie played piano and was the music teacher at Colonial Middle School in Memphis. She started me out on drums in church, then she taught me bass. Then I went back to drums. I’ve been fortunate to do a whole lot of things."
Trips abroad are now part of his musical career.
“I leave to go back to Europe on the 24th with Don Bryant & The Bo-Keys," Mason said. "I’ve been overseas with Preston Shannon (Memphis blues legend who died in January of this year). I went to Tunisia with him. I’ve been overseas with Queen Ann Hines ... When you spend time on the road with your band you become family. You’re with them more than your family.”
His current family is fronted by Don Bryant, who co-wrote the 1973 hit “I Can’t Stand the Rain” with his wife Ann Peebles.
“He put his career on hold because she blew up, and he just started back performing on the world stage in 2016, I think,” said Mason. “He said I’m ready to give this another run and he’s still got life left in him, man, he’s got so much knowledge, so many stories. You learn a lot from him.”
The rest of The Bo-Keys are musical directors Mark Franklin (trumpet) and Scott Bomar (bass), the two who started the band. Joe Restivo (guitar) and Kirk Smothers (sax), as well as Memphis legend, Archie “Hubbie” Turner (keyboardist, hi rhythm section member) round out the talented lineup.
“All these guys are vets and for them to recommend me is kind of mind-blowing. They really believe in me,” said Mason. “For guys like these, your peers, to think you are good enough really means a lot. We just got back from the blues festival in New Orleans. Next week we leave for Denmark, Norway, Sweden and London with Robert Cray Band.”
“Last year I went to Mempho Fest. Just as a fan, I wasn’t playing last year,” said Mason.
“I’m highly impressed with what they’re doing. The hospitality, especially. When you make a musician comfortable, you have no choice but to go out and kick butt,” said Mason of the festival held at Shelby Farms Park. “I like how the VIP is set up. Man, it’s just nice.”
Don Bryant & The Bo-Keys travel to France later this November. Learn more about Mempho Music Festival at MemphoFest.com.
Jeff Ireland is The Leader's sports editor. To contact him, call 901-476-7116 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.