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Sid Selvidge

A singer and songwriter with an uncommonly strong and evocative voice, Sid Selvidge was a superb example of a successful regional artist -- he opted to stay in his adopted home of Memphis, Tennessee rather than pursue opportunities that would lead him out of town, and trusted his muse over the whims of the music business. Selvidge was born in Greenville, Mississippi in 1943; he took up the guitar as a teenager, but his first step into a career as a performer came when he landed a job as a weekend disc jockey on Greenville's WDDT-AM after winning a high school talent contest. Selvidge's show was devoted to jazz and rock & roll, and he cited the experience as valuable training in how to use his voice as well as making him a local celebrity. After visiting Memphis, Selvidge fell in love with the city ("Getting up to Memphis was like pulling up the shades," as he put it), and he soon took a job with KWAM-AM, a radio station in West Memphis, Arkansas, across the river from his new home. Selvidge enrolled at Southwestern College in Memphis and began exploring the city's musical community, where his circle of friends came to include blues legend Furry Lewis and cheerful musical iconoclast James Luther Dickinson. While Selvidge would go on study anthropology at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, he maintained close ties to Memphis, and was performing regularly at local venues, where he preferred to work with just his guitar as accompaniment. In 1969, Enterprise Records (a division of the mighty R&B label Stax) signed Selvidge to a record deal, and released his debut album, Portrait. While the album spawned a regional hit single, "The Ballad of Otis B. Watson," Selvidge was unhappy with the production and arrangements on the album, and rather than commit to music full-time, he took a teaching position at his Memphis alma mater, now known as Rhodes College. Selvidge was eventually lured away by a contract with Elektra Records, but the album he cut for the label was never released, and when he recorded his third album, he did so on his own with the help of a friend and financier. Produced by James Luther Dickinson (who occasionally performed with Selvidge in the experimental blues group Mud Boy & the Neutrons), 1976's The Cold of Morning was released by Selvidge's own Peabody Records label after his business partners walked away from their deal, but despite the fact it was effectively distributed by Selvidge himself out of the trunk of his car, the album received enthusiastic reviews and respectable local sales, and led to a run of shows in New York City that were praised by the New York Times, who declared, "his voice is an astonishing instrument." Despite the modest success of The Cold of Morning and offers of major-label record deals, Selvidge chose to remain in Memphis, playing small venues on his own terms rather than reaching for a brass ring he wasn't sure he wanted. In Memphis, Selvidge performed regularly and ran Peabody Records, where he oversaw projects as diverse as Alex Chilton's purposefully shambolic Like Flies on Sherbert and an album of standards sung by actress Cybill Shepherd. In 1993, Selvidge finally released a major-label record when he was signed to Elektra/Nonesuch as part of their American Explorer series; his album Twice Told Tales raised his public profile and led to a return to New York, where he was accompanied by his son Steve Selvidge, who was launching his own career in music. While there was no immediate follow-up to Twice Told Tales, in the 21st century, Selvidge returned to recording at his own languid pace, releasing three albums through the local Archer Records imprint -- 2003's A Little Bit of Rain, 2005's Live at Otherlands, and 2010's I Should Be Blue. Selvidge told a reporter that his greatest goal in life was to perform at the Levitt Shell, a prestigious outdoor venue in Memphis' Overton Park, on his 100th birthday, but fate had other plans; cancer claimed his life in 2013 at the age of 69. In 2014, Omnivore Records reissued The Cold of the Morning in a remastered and expanded edition, a project that began with Selvidge's cooperation in his final year. His son Steve has gone on to a successful career as a member of the Hold Steady and Lucero, and collaborations with the North Mississippi All Stars, Todd Agnew, and Big A** Truck. ~ Mark Deming
full bio

Selected Discography

x

Track List: Goin' Down South: Blues Sampler Vol. 2

1. Old Black Mattie

2. Country Days

3. Goin' Back To Memphis

4. So Many Roads So Many Trains

5. Chicken And Gravy

6. Hoochie Coochie Man

7. I Got A Feeling

8. Railroad Blues

9. Mama You Don't Mean Me No Good

10. Bad Boy

11. Steal Away

12. Junior's Place

13. I've Kissed My Last A**

14. Mississippi Heavy Water Blues

15. Rock'n'roll Blues

16. Lord Help The Poor And Needy

17. Swing Low Sweet Chariot

x

Track List: It Came From Memphis, Volume 2

5. Let Your Light Shine On Me

7. Shake Your Boogie

8. Calvin's Boogie

10. Trip To Bandstand

12. You'll Do It All The Time

15. Back For More

16. Special Rider

17. Bottle Up And Go

x

Track List: Thank You Friends: The Ardent Records Story ( - Madison 1970s)

Disc 1

5. Halfway Down The Stairs

14. Psychedelic Stuff

15. Free Again

19. Lovely Lady

20. Every Day As We Grow Closer

21. Guess Things Happen That Way

23. The Emi Song (Smile For Me)

24. Think It's Time To Say Goodbye

Disc 2

1. In The Street

2. Feel Alright

3. When My Baby's Beside Me

4. My Life Is Right (Alternate Mix)

5. Back Of A Car (Demo)

6. I Love You Anyway

7. I Got Kinda Lost (Demo)

9. Mod Lang (Alternate Mix)

12. September Gurls

15. For You

17. Kizza Me

18. Holocaust

19. You And Your Sister

21. Thank You Friends

22. Blow Yourself Up

23. My Mind

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