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Cincinnati: Music Capital of the Midwest

By John Fox · November 19th, 2008 · Editorial

A few weeks ago I read about a group of Cincinnati business executives and Chamber of Commerce types visiting Minneapolis to learn how that city markets itself to the world. These people made a similar trip last year to Charlotte, N.C.

The idea is that Cincinnati needs to identify a unique characteristic, a selling point that sets us apart from other cities and regions, in order to attract visitors, conventioneers, new residents, new businesses and all the money they bring along. Apparently the Powers That Be are having a difficult time agreeing on our chief selling point and thus look to socalled successful cities for examples of “best practices.”

I’d like to think our business leaders and government officials are so swamped with distinctive Cincinnati hooks that they just can’t narrow them down to one marketing concept. Yet, as with any committee — particularly one dominated by executives from large corporations — I fear they’ll choose the least provocative and most “family friendly” option.

Cincinnati: Home of the Cheese Coney! That ought to wow them on both coasts.

The answer, of course, has been staring everyone in the face for years: Cincinnati is a music town.

What’s more, the scene here is as good as it’s ever been.

On Sunday, much of the area’s musical talent will be at the Emery Theatre for the 12th annual Cincinnati Entertainment Awards. It’ll be an incredible convergence of the city’s past and present music heritage, possibly a once-in-a-lifetime gathering of what’s made Cincinnati such an important force in the history of American popular music.

Sunday gets started with the unveiling of a historical marker at the old King Records studio and offices in Evanston. Terry Stewart, president of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, which designed and built the marker, will be in town to recognize King’s place in the development of today’s Pop, Country, Bluegrass, Rock, R&B and Hip Hop music.

As Rick Bird points out in his feature story on King Records, the studio had more than 400 hits on the Country, R&B and Pop charts, and more than 10 Rock Hall of Famers have ties to King. Stewart has said many times that there are three cities with a rightful claim to be the birthplace of Rock & Roll: Memphis, New Orleans and Cincinnati.

Later on Sunday, everyone reconvenes downtown for the CEAs, which have a distinct King flavor this year. Rock Hall of Famer Bootsy Collins kicks off the show with a rare live performance in tribute to James Brown, King’s best-known artist. Bluegrass legend and Grammy Award winner Ralph Stanley, who gained fame with his brother as “hillbilly” artists on King Records, closes the evening with a 30-minute set.

In between, 19 awards will be handed out to the best musicians working in Greater Cincinnati today — many presented by King musicians, staff and family gathered for the day’s festivities.

I know you’ll be there, but will the city’s Powers That Be? Let’s hope they’re not busy with another out-of-town trip trying to figure out what makes Cincinnati so damned cool.

CONTACT JOHN FOX: jfox@citybeat.com



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