Maker of things. Designer of Experiences. Team Player.

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I designed and built this four page story about David Porter's Consortium.

Memphis is a musical town, and this story deals with the past, present, and potential future of Memphis' music scene. Because the topic was music, I decided to use bright colors and lots of photography. I embedded large video players with bios of Consprtium students, to help readers become more familiar with the students personalities and musical goals.

I also included an 'easter egg' on the page. Mouse over the record spinner in the words "Soul Man" in the header.


Porter stands on the grounds of Memphis Equipment in South Memphis. The old shotgun houses of his childhood neighborhood on this site have long been demolished.

One of the last of the original soul men stood on a gravel road in South Memphis, dust gathering on his patent leather shoes, and looked back up a small hill.

All around David Porter, old military trucks were parked in row after row, and piles of salvaged parts - huge steering wheels, giant timing belts, mammoth tires - were stacked in their midst.

But Porter could see his boyhood neighborhood, no matter that Memphis Equipment had long since demolished the old shotgun houses on its property near South Third and E.H. Crump.

Porter presented a tour of sorts, pointing in the direction of one truck or another.

Over there, near an old-fashioned "Fire District" red truck, that was 290 E. Virginia, where he lived with his mother, Corinne, and 11 siblings. Right next door and one lot up the hill lived Carl Cunningham, who would go on to play drums for the Bar-Kays and die far too young in the plane crash that also took Otis Redding.

Across the street and a little up the hill, that was where Maurice White's house had been - Porter and White eventually graduated together from Booker T. Washington High School. Where Porter found success in Memphis creating some of Stax Records' most enduring hits, White would form the superband Earth, Wind & Fire and include two of his brothers, Verdine White and Fred White.

"All that talent on this one street - can you believe that?" said Porter. "This is unbelievable to me. Just to stand right here and see all this."

Porter had driven his luxury SUV that morning from his big house in one of Memphis's eastern suburbs - the house and the car paid for in no small part by the royalties he still receives from helping write great American standards like "Soul Man," "When Something Is Wrong (With My Baby)" and "Hold On (I'm Coming)."


Greg Humming Jr., 2, grabs a microphone to sing as David Porter watches the unexpected performance at The Consortium: MMT, located in a wing of the Greater Memphis Chamber of Commerce building.

His recent induction into the Memphis Music Hall of Fame is one of many honors, the most notable being his 2005 induction into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.

The house that had existed on the spot before him, Porter explained, is where he was born in 1941 - where his mother literally gave birth. It had running water but no indoor toilets. His father died when Porter was 2, the victim of a burst appendix.

There had also been a church at the top of the hill, nearer to where Memphis Equipment's offices are now. In a 1992 interview for the Smithsonian, Porter explained that Rose Hill Baptist Church is where he and White got their first taste for music that could stir people in the deepest way.

"That was really the introduction for me to the soul and the spirituality of performing, and not just getting up singing just to be singing, but putting emotion into it."

Beyond the company's high fencing, the tallest buildings from Downtown Memphis peeked out, about two miles distant. That is where Porter spent most of his summer, in a wing of the Greater Memphis Chamber of Commerce that had been converted into a music laboratory.

The inaugural session of his nonprofit music industry nonprofit, what he calls The Consortium: MMT, had wrapped up on Sept. 14, just days before Porter paid his first visit in decades to the street where he was born.

Porter, at 72, is chasing an ambitious goal - to resuscitate the soul music industry in Memphis.

If Memphis's soul music industry hasn't been completely reduced to the dust of Porter's old neighborhood, the business model these days isn't dissimilar to Memphis Equipment's - recycling aged but reliable vehicles back into use.

The funerals for great Memphis musicians these days seem more prevalent than hits produced here. Porter's writing partner, Isaac Hayes, passed in 2008, Willie Mitchell in 2010, Duck Dunn and Andrew Love in 2012.

The "MMT" stands for "Memphis Music Town," and Porter's vision involves bequeathing soul music fundamentals to a new generation of the Memphis songwriters, producers and singers. In six-week sessions held throughout the year, Porter intends to equip musicians with the skills and understanding he believes can reposition Memphis as a manufacturing hub for hit music.

Tuition is free. Porter expects only two things - commitment to the program and a promise to give back to Memphis after achieving success.

During the first week of The Consortium, in late July, Porter put it this way: "The future of all this is up to y'all, all you young people taking the knowledge of old-school theories, combining it with new-school technologies - that creates an industry."

'Feel the emotion'


Porter speaks to students at The Consortium: Memphis Music Town during the first day of sessions. "I'm passionate about helping every young person in this program," Porter said. "Success is grounded in collaboration."

For the last session of the inaugural class, on the Saturday morning before his visit to South Memphis, Porter brought in Steve Jordan, an industry veteran best known for his work as a drummer. He had recently finished touring with Eric Clapton but was in Memphis after a late-night recording session - in Nashville, where a massive music industry infrastructure has been built atop the foundation of country music.

Although Jordan lives in New York, his devotion to the cause of Memphis music ran so deep, Porter explained, that he had joined the Memphis chapter of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. The Consortium logo prominently features Jordan, along with four Memphis soul icons - Porter, Hayes, Otis Redding and Al Green.

Jordan was the first significant industry veteran to make an appearance in person. Other music-industry friends of Porter had appeared via videos that Porter financed - among them Maurice White and Philip Bailey of Earth, Wind & Fire; Super Bowl musical director Rickey Minor, and Jimmy Jam, longtime producer for Janet Jackson.

Jordan joined Porter on a small semicircle stage in the right corner of the large office space, both of them wearing sunglasses.

"I am a bit delirious, but I wouldn't have missed this for the world," Jordan said. "When David Porter asks you to do something, you don't hesitate. You just do it."

Jordan leaned back and held a microphone to speak to the assembled Consortium talents - 16 of the 24 accepted into the inaugural class were present. Some had to miss because they work on Saturdays. Almost all of them had juggled attending Consortium sessions at nights and on Saturdays with full-time jobs or college classes.

Many also had commitments to bands or other music gigs.

One standout in the first session had been 24-year-old Cordova High School graduate Tim Moore, who goes by the professional name of ColdWay.

He impressed Porter early, after a session on the importance of a song title, with something called, "How's The Weather (Inside Your Home)." Although his primary genre had been rap, Moore's omnivorous appetite for many genres of music revealed itself during the collaborative sessions Porter called the "Buzz."

If Porter asked the talents, as he called them, to "buzz" about songs with a memorable hook, Moore could go to '90s alt-rock as easily as he could to modern R&B or hip-hop.

Moore had produced and helped write a single for a local country duo, Zack Conner and Tyler Holmes, that by September had surpassed 1,750 purchases on iTunes.

If the song's line "looking for the sexiest thang with some country twang" did not sound like a Hayes and Porter standard, Moore said the program helped him understand how to lace even a country song with a touch of soul.

During the session with Jordan, Moore told him how he was a big fan of Clapton and wanted to know about how the band approached performing the emotional song "Tears In Heaven."

"It's a deep tune," Jordan said. "You feel his emotion, and you feel the emotion in everybody there."

At the mention of "feel," several heads nodded, Porter's among them. Another teachable moment had arisen - an Englishman's most enduring song rooted in what Porter learned all those years ago at Rose Hill Baptist.

'It ain't rocket science'


Porter is helping young artists hone their singing, songwriting and producing skills.

No matter how technical or sophisticated any particular concept, Porter made clear in almost every session that everything goes back to feeling, to connecting audiences with what he calls "soulfulness."

When they first began meeting, July was turning to August, and Porter preached his soul music gospel, seeking converts from musicians influenced by a mix of modern R & B, hip-hop, Dirty South rap and alternative rock.

But Porter promised that in the titles, grooves, melodies and hooklines of Stax, Motown, Hi and Muscle Shoals, there lurked formulas capable of music alchemy.

"It is attainable," Porter said at one early session. "It ain't rocket science."

Consortium members sat throughout the room at tables featuring images of classic soul 45s and album covers.

Porter always spoke into the microphone from the stage in the corner of The Consortium offices, his voice like a soul music Yoda dropping a half-century of professional wisdom on the students.

It is a voice, much like Porter's often-smiling face and still-slim physique, that could be mistaken for someone 30 years younger.

"We have got to get young talents like you guys to take the lead in locking into the opportunity of the creative process of feel," Porter said. "Now what you've got to know is the power of what came out of here is respected all over the world. The future of that, continuing to have that - it's in you, it's in young people."

After one of the first songwriting classes, several Consortium members talked about how Memphis might already have an industry, if the musical talent it produces felt compelled to stay and pursue their careers.

For 15 minutes, they stood on a corner near the University of Memphis Law School and swapped names of peers who found success after leaving Memphis.

Shandria Carter, a songwriter, talked about how she had performed as an opening act for someone now in Los Angeles. Steven Snipes - an Air Force veteran, stage name Snipes901 - countered with a keyboardist who left a Memphis church and hit big in Atlanta.

Two had made it as producers - Nate Walker and Elvis Williams - and Porter was determined to develop producing talent. In Porter's calculation, great producers could attract artists wanting something unique, and great artists would in turn attract songwriters.

"There are people who have left Memphis who are exceptionally talented," Porter said, "and that clearly lets me know, 'David, if you don't start talking to some of these people, they are all going to leave.' So rather than sit back and watch that happen, I would rather take the opportunity to inspire you guys to stay in Memphis."

True to the process


Porter sits down with music producers Jeremy Gilliam (left) and Landon Bowen (right), who are both 23, to discuss concepts during a night session at The Consortium: Memphis Music Town.

Look closely at the biographies of all the great names associated with Memphis's golden age of music, and you'll notice one way in which Porter is exceptional. He is among just a few of the recognized legends who were born and raised in Memphis, who achieved almost all their success in Memphis and who have always made Memphis their home.

His old writing partner at Stax, Isaac Hayes, immigrated from Tipton County, and his close friend from South Memphis, Maurice White, attained success after he left Memphis. Booker T. Jones, too, grew up in Memphis but has lived elsewhere most of his adult life. Otis Redding came from Georgia, Al Green from Arkansas.

Jerry Lee Lewis was native to Louisiana, Johnny Cash to Arkansas. Al Green grew up in Michigan, Willie Mitchell in Mississippi. Sam Phillips came from Alabama, Steve Cropper from Missouri. Aretha Franklin was born in Memphis, but her family moved soon after.

Elvis Presley, the man most associated with Memphis music, lived in Tupelo, Miss., until he was 13.

One way Porter is very much like Presley? His loyalty to Memphis.

When Porter's good friend Lionel Hollins, the former Grizzlies coach, sat in on a Consortium session in August, Porter introduced him as someone "who supports Memphis in a tremendously meaningful way" and "loves this city."

When Consortium supporters like Hollins attended, Porter would go over some of the program's principles.

Porter was formerly a songwriter for Stax Records and has co-written hit songs, "Hold On, I'm Coming" and "Soul Man," with the late Isaac Hayes.

"The limitation is no profanity, no name calling of females, no insulting words - if you can't get any more creative than that, you shouldn't be here," Porter said. "No blatant sex words. Listen, I am one of the greatest people on the planet saying something really romantic that isn't vulgar."

That concept of love coursed throughout the inaugural run of sessions, with Porter often using it to make a larger point about layering deeper meanings onto simple ideas.

"Just in the voice inflection, you can make 'love' mean several different things," Porter said in one Saturday morning session with songwriters. "You can make 'love' mean 'I can't stand you because I love you.'

"You can make it mean 'Oh, I just adore you because you are so beautiful.'

"Or you can make it mean, 'I love you, but I'm suspicious of you.'"

A contemporary song, "Grenade" by Bruno Mars, provided a glimpse of Porter's vision for old-school soul principles leading to new hits.

"What he's really saying is, 'I love you just that much. You that much of a power inside of me,'" Porter said. "In our time, a few decades ago, we'd say it another way: 'I love you so much that when something is wrong with you, something is wrong with me.'"

While at Stax, Porter studied hits coming from other places, especially Motown's writing team of Holland, Dozier and Holland. He told the songwriters that breaking down the elements of "Don't Look Back," a Smokey Robinson song for the Temptations, led him to a formula he first applied to the Sam & Dave hit "You Don't Know Like I Know."

It was the discipline of repeating and refining the formula, he emphasized one Saturday morning in August, that helped him create his greatest hits.

"I am here on a Saturday morning when I would rather be playing golf, and why is that?" Porter said. "Because I am passionate as hell about this."

At times, Porter sounded like he was channeling those relatives of his who are so well known as Church of God in Christ clergy, preaching almost as much as he was instructing.

"If this wasn't doable, I would not be doing this," he said. "This is plausible for Memphis. If Aretha Franklin can come out of here, if Al Green can come out of here. ...

"The list can go on and on. Y'all can come out of here. But you've got to be true to the creative process. And if we who know the process of how it happened don't give it to other generations, then we lose it."

No time for play


David Porter jokes around with friend and Booker T. & the MGs guitarist Steve Cropper and caddy Jeff Navarre at Spring Creek Ranch golf course in Collierville. Cropper and Porter say they have known each other since Porter worked bagging groceries at the Big D store across from Stax Records in South Memphis. Porter went on to write and produce many of the most enduring hits released by Stax.

On a Wednesday morning in September, Porter stepped out of his convertible Mercedes and greeted an old friend outside the clubhouse at Spring Creek Ranch, the exclusive golf club 45 minutes east of Downtown.

"Hey, Crop! You ready to play?" Porter said.

Steve Cropper, the legendary guitarist and one of the few people to precede Porter at Stax, had made the drive from his Nashville home two days earlier to watch his daughter play in her first golf tournament as a freshman at the University of Memphis.

Porter warned Cropper he had hardly had a chance to play over the previous several months. His focus was on The Consortium.

"Some remarkable things are happening, Crop," Porter said. "You would not believe."

Cropper and Porter had agreed months before to play the 18 holes of golf with the highest bidder in a charity auction, Terminix executive Howard Strelsin.

Even at 71 and with rust on his game, Porter played very well.

He hit the ball with an unorthodox swing, generating a gyrating motion that could have been a '60s dance move. When he stands over the ball, Porter said, his mind cues up an old Stax song.

Demonstrating, Porter hummed a bassline and, half-singing, went into that first Sam and Dave hit: "You-don't-know-like-I-know."

At one point, Strelsin told Cropper and Porter about how, when he was turning onto the Spring Creek property, another Porter and Hayes standard, "Hold On, I'm Coming," came onto his car stereo. Porter rewarded him with a practiced retelling of how that famous line came out of a late-night session at Stax.

"I was in the restroom," Porter said, "and Isaac was calling out, and I said, 'Hold on, man. I'm coming.' And that was it."

When Strelsin asked how long Porter and Cropper had known each other, Cropper chuckled and said: "Since he was sacking groceries at the Big D across the street from Stax."

'That's real good, David'

For young David Porter, the Big D was a step up from the mom-and-pop groceries that provided his first work experience in South Memphis. On the September day he revisited his boyhood neighborhood, Porter pointed out the now-closed storefronts on the way to the other homes of his youth - on Barton, down the street from Willie Herenton and, when he was in high school, at the LeMoyne Gardens public housing projects.


Porter holds a golf ball with the Stax logo printed on it as he takes a short break at Spring Creek Ranch in Collierville.

By the time he got the job at the Big D, Porter was married to his first wife, had two young children and was living in an apartment not far from the Satellite Records - the initial name for what would become Stax. He had tasted some music success, at one point recording a song with Willie Mitchell and competing in Beale Street talent shows against, among others, Isaac Hayes.

In a one-on-one session at The Consortium with 24-year-old producer Justin Chalmers, Porter used his backstory to demonstrate what might be possible, if Chalmers could find the time to devote to his passion for music. The North Memphis son of a local minister, Chalmers has a young son and often came to Consortium sessions wearing the uniform of the moving company where he worked.

"I got a girl pregnant and had no kind of resources," Porter told Chalmers. "I just wanted to do something with my life. The only indication that I had the right thought about it was when I would do something, people would say, 'That's good. That's real good, David.' They wasn't giving me no money - that's all I got, but it was all I needed to drive me to make the sure the next thing I did, I don't care if it's sacking groceries or writing a song, people would have no other recourse but to say, 'That's good.'"

Chalmers, like many of his peers, mostly had experience producing hip-hop sounds and had been surprised when The Consortium notified him of his acceptance. In recent assignments, Porter had detected in Chalmers an innate ability to modify hits from previous decades into sounds that fit the contemporary marketplace.

"If you take the discipline that you took to do an assignment while you were busting your butt to earn the money and pay the bills, and all the family issues you got ... there is something special there," Porter said. "So recognize that something special, and find comfort and joy in that. Sometimes there is so much bullstuff going on in your life, it is hard to recognize it. You just have to hope some kind of way you can see your way through it."

Porter's nostalgic drive around South Memphis concluded back at Memphis Equipment, and Max May, its president, came out to greet him. When they met, earlier in the day, May showed Porter an old aerial photo of the property - just seeing the roofline of his boyhood home got Porter emotional.

May promised to look for other old photos. He had been with the company for "only" 44 years, he explained. So much had changed, they agreed.

In 1969, as Porter well knew, soul music in Memphis was near its zenith. The Consortium's publicity materials point out that it was around that time that music was considered the third-largest industry in the city.

"I am so glad you came by," May said.

"Me, too," Porter said. "This has meant so much to me."

Porter got back into the Land Rover, headed toward Downtown and The Consortium offices. He was meeting with a young Memphis singer, KellyeAnn Rodgers, who already had signed a lease for a place in Los Angeles.

But Porter had a plan, one that involved two of the producers from the inaugural class.

"Some kind of way," Porter said, "we've got to convince her Memphis is the best place for her career."

Applying to The Consortium

Songwriters, producers and recording artists interested in applying for admission into the six-week sessions of David Porter's soul music nonprofit, The Consortium: MMT, can upload their information through Call 901-543-3559 for more information.