February 19, 2024

Black History Month Spotlight: “Soulful Sounds of Derbytown”

Kevin Wilson, KyCAD’s Director of Special Projects + Board Liaison, recently caught up with local writer Michael L. Jones to discuss his passion for preserving Louisville’s African American musical memories.

Over the years, Jones has been associated with some of the top publications in our city, including LEO Weekly, Louisville Business First, Louisville Magazine, and the Courier-Journal.

Additionally, as a historian and musicologist, Jones has also been behind the books, “Louisville Jug Music: From Earl McDonald to the National Jubilee,” for which he was the sole author, and the brand new release, “Soulful Sounds of Derbytown,” a creative collaboration from six area experts.

Besides himself, Jones indicated that this latest project features contributions from: Ken Clay, founder of Legacies Unlimited and co-author of “Two Centuries of Black Louisville;” Keith Clements, former blues columnist for Louisville Music News and Board member of the Kentuckiana Blues Society; Ron Lewis, a longtime R&B guitarist and owner of Mr. Wonderful Productions; Gary Falk, a jazz musician and owner of the recording studio Falk Audio; and Wilma Clayborn, a respected choir leader and the former owner of the first gospel record store in Louisville.

Jones also shared that this volume "was 8 years in the making and explores the legacies of Black musicians and entertainers in Louisville through hundreds of biographical sketches, historical essays, information on music venues and promoters, and historical and contemporary photographs that document a wide range of genres, including gospel, jug band, blues, jazz, R&B, hip-hop, rock, and classical and theatrical music."

Interestingly, "each section begins with a historical essay, and moves on to bios of important figures," Jones said. "We also have sidebar Q&As with some people like Harry Pickens talking about his life in jazz.”

Wilson’s full conversation with Jones will appear in the March 2024 issue of the VOICE-TRIBUNE. But the “Soulful Sounds of Derbytown” book is already available at fine booksellers all across Kentucky (and beyond).