It is customary for the WLOK Stone Soul Picnic to start with opening prayer.
But during the course of the evening, a lineup of gospel artists – all from the cultural enclave of Memphis – will turn up the volume to communicate their message through soul-stirring gospel music at Tom Lee Park Saturday, Aug. 30th, from 1 p.m. to 10 p.m.
The lineup includes performances by Courtney Little, Mighty Kings of Harmony, Melodic Truth, Stevenson Clark, Spiritual Excitement, the Bell Singers, Moses Tyson Jr., the Jubilee Hummingbirds, the Bogard Brothers, STAX Music Academy, the Supreme Harmonettes, the Baptist Ministerial Male Chorus, the Salem Harmonizers, the Strong Family, the WLOK Anniversary Choir, the Brown Singers, and Darrel Pettis.
The free annual music festival often features local and national gospel artists, such as Dottie Peoples, Shirley Caesar, Dorothy Norwood and Vickie Winans.
This year, however, the local talent – many of them are chart-toppers and nationally recognized – will be the main focus all daylong at the foot of the Mississippi River in Downtown Memphis.
The Stone Soul Picnic, Memphis’ longest running outdoor festival, is in its 40th year. It is a “Memphis tradition,” the moniker of WLOK-AM 1340, which is owned by Art Gilliam, president/CEO of Gilliam Communications Inc.
“It is a tradition for WLOK and for Memphis as well,” said Gilliam, who first launched the picnic at Martin Luther King Riverside Park when it was just show of appreciation for the station’s listening audience.
“It’s something we did every year to show our appreciation for our audience, supporters and advertisers. It started out as a traditional showcase for Memphis Music. It’s been rewarding. Now it’s the longest running event in this region.”
Memphis is a hotbed for cutting-edge music. Dubbed the “Memphis Sound,” it can be attributed in large part to the entertainers and performers from the STAX era. The rebirth of STAX now is manifested through its younger performers.
Gilliam pointed out that WLOK and STAX have been inextricably linked.
“There is a tremendous relationship between WLOK and STAX. We helped to get STAX going,” he said. “We played the music, and now over at the STAX museum, that relationship is showcased.”
STAX Music Academy will play an integral part at the park, said Gilliam, and “perform for one hour.”
There also will be eclectic gospel music throughout the park – from traditional gospel music to contemporary gospel music and gospel music with a touch of jazz. Picnickers may also find themselves swaying their body and tapping their feet to the quartet sound.
“We’ve gone back to our roots,” said Gilliam, referring to the Memphis lineup.