Nelson George - Author, Director, President of Urban Romances
Looking for help with ‘Soul Cities’
By Nelson | june 12, 2008 | Post a comment
I’ll be traveling around America this summer in search of bands, singers, bars, clubs and clothing stores and interesting stuff related to the feeling and culture of Soul for my VH1 series Soul Cities. I’m not looking for tourist spots but places and spaces that only the locals know. The cities I’ve visiting are New Orleans, Memphis, Chicago, San Francisco/Oakland and Philadelphia. Send me what ever you can think of. Links would be great and much appreciated. The show is scheduled to air on VH1 Soul, the digital network, in the late fall. peace
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13 comments for 'Looking for help with ‘Soul Cities’'

buy steroids on march 3, 2011 at 00:44:22 PM says:

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Omar J. on november 27, 2008 at 02:06:51 PM says:

I am not a native of baltimore but I'm finding out that it has great jazz roots,Eubie blake, Billie Holiday, Cab Calloway Chick Webb & Ruby Glover all called Baltimore home. Also R&B artists like Toni Braxton, Dru Hill, Mario, Lil Mo & Ruff Endz.

Superbizzee on november 13, 2008 at 09:23:57 AM says:

I heard you plan to do an episode on my native city, Washington D.C.

As far as food, you HAVE to visit Ben's Chili Bowl. It has been a fixture in the U Street corridor for the past 50 years. African-American celebrities have patronized this spot for decades on stops through town.

Howard University is a given. Roberta Flack, Donny Hathaway, Puffy, Phylicia Rahsad & Debbie Allen, and a host of other contemporary Black artists have walked the halls of this lauded HBCU.

Bohemian Caverns is a must.
A historic jazz nightspot that has been home to many jazz legends such as Duke Ellington and Billie Holiday. It's also where Ramsey Lewis recorded his The In Crowd album for Chess records back in 1962.

Too bad the Howard Theater revitalization project never took off. You could have definitely spotlighted that, being that it was one of the pivotal performance spaces in the Lichtman Chain for Black artists.

D.C. has a rich musical history. There's tons more where these ideas came from...

Patrick Patterson on september 21, 2008 at 05:25:18 PM says:

Somewhere between Cymande and View From the Hill our paths crossed, well starred.
London and Anguilla can work, spread wings.
Maybe the music can persuade you.
Life Support was a truly fine piece of work
Best regards

Leo Spizzirri on august 28, 2008 at 11:08:20 PM says:

Hello Nelson,
It’s Leo from Giordano’s in Chicago. I just wanted to drop you a line and tell you what an honor it was to make pizzas with you! The whole day was great fun and I appreciate the opportunity for having spent the day with you. I can’t wait to get some info about the show airing. We are sending you all pizzas and I think they are scheduled to go out soon. Please drop me a line or email, maybe you’ll be back in Chicago soon! You can get a hold of me at the restaurant at 312-951-0747 or my email is

Teloca on august 10, 2008 at 00:28:44 PM says:

In the Bay Area I would like to suggest two spots in Oakland….the Funky Soul Stop Record Store at 1811 Jefferson - where you can buy hard to find, local, and the good old stuff …..and More Public Radio at 1801 Jefferson hearable on internet as well as the airwaves. Both of these are totally Black owned businesses with knowledable owners about the soulful history of their craft.

PaulAtreides on july 30, 2008 at 02:56:57 PM says:

Hey Nelson, if you happen to visit Mississippi ( a slight, albeit unlikely, possibility since you will be in Memphis) there are few really great jazz, reggae, soul and blues spots there in the capitol city Jackson. One such is 7 All Arts Cafe.

Tonyaa Rodgers on july 16, 2008 at 11:06:04 AM says:

Hi George. I see that you’re in Memphis this week. ‘Hope you’ll get the time to check out Will Graves & Soul while you’re here. We will be at Euphoria @ the Complex (704 Madison) on Friday, July 18th from 9p-1a. You may contact me @ 901-230-0287 for further details.

OvaQualified on july 11, 2008 at 05:28:50 PM says:

Hot spots in Memphis…Hattiloo Theatre (aka Tonya Dyson’s Post), Cafe Soul (Will Graves & Sol always perform there) Onix (restaurant just starting a neo soul happy hour on Tuesdays) among other happenings…just wish Memphis was a lil more open minded…you would think with all these children of the diaspora they would be….:)

nyrnsf on july 10, 2008 at 02:50:53 PM says:

Hi, Nelson:

I live in Oakland and have come across some incredible artists and places that add to the soul of Oakland:

Design Studio:

FiveTen Studio: To get unique art, furnishing and decorative objects, go to FIveTen Studios. The owners of FiveTen Studios have a deeply personal mission to support and encourage emerging art in Oakland as well as a strong commitment to the commercial development of Old Oakland, where they own and manage 3 other business: Tamarindo Restaurant, Drift and Mignonne. FiveTen specialized in home art, décor and design services and supports the work of local artists, artisans and businesses in these endeavors. The studio hosts many art showings, handmade furniture from craftsmen and unique objets d’art. Currently, you can find the works of Githinji Mbire noted below.

Restaurants: There are 2 places that immediately come to mind and both of them are restaurants. These places reflect the diversity, ingenuity and soul of Oakland:

Brown Sugar Kitchen: . This small gem of a restaurant draws all kinds of people from all over the Oakland and San Francisco for breakfast and lunch. It has been open for only about six months and has created a large number of regulars. This is quite an accomplishment considering the building was formerly a truck stop in a remote part of town. The chef/owner creates a unique vision for her food. Though technically considered “soul food”, Tanya, the chef/owner, melds Caribbean, Southern and European influences for an unexpected and satisfying experience. The seasoning of the food is well balanced and allows the freshness and quality of the ingredients to come through. You can expect to dine with world famous artists, politicians and notable community leaders. The music is great, the servers are friendly and the atmosphere inviting. If you’re lucky to come at a time when the restaurant is not overly crowded, Tanya will come and greet you and talk to you about music, food, Oakland happenings or whatever. Her co-owner husband will do the same. This couple cares about the development of West Oakland and chose this community to live and do business.

Coffee with a Beat: located at 458 Perkins, Oakland, CA (no website). This small coffee shop is THE neighborhood hangout. With a melting pot of customers, you can go there is get an excellent cup of coffee, bagel and sandwiches and listen in or join the lively debates on the topic du jour. You’ll find artists, writers, students, moms, retirees, small merchants, cyclists and just about every other type of neighborhood resident, slowing down to talk and learn about their fellow neighbors. You’ll also find: teachers quietly grading students papers; students surfing the net using the wireless access available at the shop; or people simply relaxing and watching the activities in and around the shop — much like European cafes. There’s always Jazz, Reggae or old school R&B music playing. The shop is run by a family just as interesting as its customers. Some family members go to jazz festivals all over the world, participate in coaching high school sports, attend art school and still have to run a successful shop.

Local Artists:

April Banks: Currently showing at MOAD (Museum of the African Diaspora) in San Francisco. You can also see her works hanging in Brown Sugar Kitchen.

Kebe Konte: He also owns Guerilla Café in Berkeley, CA, where you can find some of his artwork.

Githinji Mbire: He’s a painter/sculpture and you can run into him in and around Oakland. His work can be found at FiveTen Studio.

Raymond Saunders: .

Amanda Williams:, Her works can be found at MOAD and Brown Sugar Kitchen.

Eric Holt on july 8, 2008 at 00:26:39 PM says:

From SoulCommune
At 2:21pm on July 8th, 2008, The Lovenoise Group said…
learn more about Lovenoise at:

Also check out these Lovenoise Alumni our of Nashville,TN:

Memphis Transplant Soul singer Valencia Robinson:

Brandi Sellerz (soul singer) :

Crisis (Soul/hip - hop): Delete Comment

At 2:04pm on July 8th, 2008, The Lovenoise Group said…
would you consider artists from Nashville, TN? There is a large soul community growing out of Nashville, TN out of a 5 year old event called “Lovenoise”. It has been compared to Black Lilly in Philly by some major soul players like: ?uestlove, Dwele, Eric Roberson, DJ Jazzy Jeff and (producer) Craig King. I would love for you to check out one of the up and coming artist….Darnell Levine……

Tonya Dyson on june 17, 2008 at 11:34:21 AM says:

Hello Nelson, My name is Tonya Dyson. I saw your post on soul commune where you’re looking for Memphis soul singers/bands. I would love for you to check me out! I’ve attached a copy of my bio below and a link to watch a video clip of my live performance. In addition to that I am the publisher of an online magazine called “NeoSoulville” where we talk about all cultural and progressive happenings- including music, literature, film, theater, spoken word, visual arts- in this city and surrounding areas. I may also be able to assist in your search of great things to do here since that’s exactly what we specialize in! You can visit the website: Thanks for your time and consideration! Tonya Dyson-Jerry 901-497-1406 _________________________________________________________________________________________ Memphis is a city known for its deeply spiritual connection to the history of soul music. After all, this is the city where Stax/Volt Records was born and flourished, the home of dozens of highly respected soul music impresarios and a bevy of gospel singers who have charmed audiences around the world for decades. How pleasing, then, to find a new generation of soul music coming to life here in the bluff city in the guise of Tonya Dyson. After seeing her perform there will be no doubt that she represents the shape of things to come. Having wooed local, regional, and worldwide audiences for a couple of years as part of the soulful duo “Men-Nefer”, Tonya was able to hone her already phenomenal vocal skills, writing savvy, & stage presence. The group attended and performed in several conferences nationwide. They also made regular appearances at the annual Memphis Music & Heritage Festival, Juneteenth Festival, & several other regional events, showcases, and venues where they’ve performed with phenomenal artists like Stevie Wonder, Justin Timberlake, Eric Roberson, Calvin Richardson, Algebra Blessett, Kindred, Frank McComb, Jaguar Wright, Keke Wyatt, and several others. After four years with “Men-Nefer” the members mutually agreed to pursue different creative endeavors. Tonya is now taking steps towards completing her debut album which is currently untitled, and the current results are a powerhouse of gospel-influenced soul stirrings that are reminiscent of the best songs of people like Aretha Franklin, Chaka Khan and Sarah Vaughan. Tonya Dyson is the real deal in the revival movement and the new soul underground seamlessly blending gospel, jazz, and R&B into a promising attempt to reboot Memphis’ soul legacy. More more info visit:

Khadijah Ali-Coleman on june 8, 2008 at 02:35:33 PM says:

I’m a big fan of your’s Nelson George.

I hope you decide to add Washington DC to your list of places to visit. The Capital Hip Hop Soul Fest which will take place on July 26th will be a great place to start to find awesome talent. The line-up is stellar…bands, vocalists, etc.

The event takes place in the northeast area of DC in a community called Deanwood where Marvin Gaye grew up. This in itself will make good TV.

Email me if you’d like more info.

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