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Live Album Celebrates Local Community’s Musical History


Deep Ellum signage | Image by Shutterstock

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Deep Ellum, one of the most historically and culturally significant neighborhoods in Dallas, will celebrate its heritage with the upcoming release of a new album titled The Sound of Deep Ellum. The album will be released to coincide with the 150th anniversary of the community, which was established in 1873. 

Originally settled as a freedman’s town after the Civil War, Deep Ellum soon came to be known as a hub for music and entertainment. The Black Elephant, a black-owned vaudeville theater, thrived in the neighborhood in the 1890s. Other similar businesses enjoyed success in the early part of the 20th century.

Scores of blues and jazz musicians flocked to Deep Ellum in the 1920s and 1930s in search of work, drawn to the area by the success of performers such as Blind Lemon Jefferson and T-Bone Walker.

Blind Lemon Jefferson, born in 1893, was one of the most popular blues singers of the 1920s and has been called the Father of Texas Blues. The blind musician was one of the earliest and most prominent figures in the development of the blues movement in Deep Ellum. 

It was in Deep Ellum that Jefferson met Aaron Thibeaux Walker and taught him to play the guitar.

In 1929, Walker made his Columbia Records debut as Oak Cliff T-Bone. Walker grew up in Oak Cliff’s Tenth Street neighborhood. He played at local clubs and on the street corners of Deep Ellum.

Walker went on to perform with Ma Rainey and was the inspiration for Chuck Berry’s dancing style. It has been reported that rock musician Jimi Hendrix learned how to play guitar behind his head and with his teeth after seeing Walker do it. 

Walker became a band leader and recorded the hits “Stormy Monday” and “Your Hit Parade.” He died in 1975 from a stroke and was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987. 

Over the years, Deep Ellum has been home to musical acts such as Huddie “Leadbelly” Ledbetter, Bessie Smith, Texas Bill Day, Tripping Daisy, Old 97’s, Toadies, Charley Crockett, Leon Bridges, Erykah Badu, and many more.

Deep Ellum 100 is a nonprofit working to advance the musical legacy and preserve the creative culture of the east Dallas neighborhood. The organization is the driving force behind The Sound of Deep Ellum project. 

Deep Ellum 100 will select 10 artists to perform live at the Trees venue on October 5, and Idol Records will produce a limited vinyl release of the event. 

“I’m excited about the collaboration between musicians and having them all share a space where there is room for everyone to thrive and make their mark,” says Deep Ellum 100 Co-founder Gianna Madrini.

In 1987, Island Records issued a CD titled The Sound of Deep Ellum. It was re-released in 2017 by Field Day Records and included songs by The New Bohemians, The Trees, and Reverend Horton Heat.   

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