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Preserving Memphis's Musical Heritage

Memphis Music Archives Development Fund


(June 9, 2021) While it waits for its 501(c)(3) nonprofit designation, the Memphis Listening Lab, led by a group of local music professionals, is using a project fund at the Community Foundation to accept donations and create a listening facility, library, and offices at Crosstown Concourse that opened in June 2021.

The Community Foundation can accept complicated or unique gifts, and one that stands out is the million-dollar collection of albums and CDs—largely rock, jazz, blues, and R&B from Memphis and the Mid-South—that longtime collector John King, a founder of Ardent Studios, donated to the Memphis Music Archives Development Fund to support the creation of the Memphis Listening Lab. It includes 30,000 45 RPM records, 12,000 LP’s, 20,000 CD’s, and 1,000 music books: a rare and historic collection that King began assembling in the 1950s and that would be virtually impossible to assemble again.

The collection will provide the WYXR community radio station and Crosstown Arts with a historical archive unlike any other in the Memphis area. And, it honors King’s desire to keep his collection intact—while introducing it to local music enthusiasts as well as those new to the region’s trademark sounds and music legacy.

“We have a large collection of music the public can come in and listen to at individual listening stations,” says Jim Cole, Memphis Listening Lab librarian and archivist. “We also have a sound room equipped with some high-end audio gear for a more curated listening experience.”

Additionally, the facility houses music editing equipment, a podcasting station, and space for a variety of music events.

“Without the development fund through the Community Foundation, we probably would have completely had to stop our development and our construction,” says Memphis Listening Lab Board member Jim Thompson, owner and chief designer at EgglestonWorks loudspeakers. “Just being able to have a group we can lean on, especially considering the challenges we’re facing during the pandemic especially—it was a super important group of people ready to lend us a hand and get us resources we needed in a pretty challenging time.”

Watch the video below to see more about how the Community Foundation is fueling the potential of the Memphis Listening Lab.


Excerpted from the 2021 Community Foundation Annual Report