A singer and songwriter with an uncommonly strong and evocative voice, Sid Selvidge was a superb example of a successful regional artist -- he opted to stay in his adopted home of Memphis, Tennessee rather than pursue opportunities that would lead him out of town, and trusted his muse over the whims of the music business. Selvidge was born in Greenville, Mississippi in 1943; he took up the guitar as a teenager, but his first step into a career as a performer came when he landed a job as a weekend disc jockey on Greenville's WDDT-AM after winning a high school talent contest. Selvidge's show was devoted to jazz and rock & roll, and he cited the experience as valuable training in how to use his voice as well as making him a local celebrity. After visiting Memphis, Selvidge fell in love with the city ("Getting up to Memphis was like pulling up the shades," as he put it), and he soon took a job with KWAM-AM, a radio station in West Memphis, Arkansas, across the river from his new home. Selvidge enrolled at Southwestern College in Memphis and began exploring the city's musical community, where his circle of friends came to include blues legend Furry Lewis and cheerful musical iconoclast James Luther Dickinson. While Selvidge would go on study anthropology at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, he maintained close ties to Memphis, and was performing regularly at local venues, where he preferred to work with just his guitar as accompaniment. In 1969, Enterprise Records (a division of the mighty R&B label Stax) signed Selvidge to a record deal, and released his debut album, Portrait. While the album spawned a regional hit single, "The Ballad of Otis B. Watson," Selvidge was unhappy with the production and arrangements on the album, and rather than commit to music full-time, he took a teaching position at his Memphis alma mater, now known as Rhodes College. Selvidge was eventually lured away by a contract with Elektra Records, but the album he cut for the label was never released, and when he recorded his third album, he did so on his own with the help of a friend and financier. Produced by James Luther Dickinson (who occasionally performed with Selvidge in the experimental blues group Mud Boy the Neutrons), 1976's The Cold of Morning was released by Selvidge's own Peabody Records label after his business partners walked away from their deal, but despite the fact it was effectively distributed by Selvidge himself out of the trunk of his car, the album received enthusiastic reviews and respectable local sales, and led to a run of shows in New York City that were praised by the New York Times, who declared, "his voice is an astonishing instrument." Despite the modest success of The Cold of Morning and offers of major-label record deals, Selvidge chose to remain in Memphis, playing small venues on his own terms rather than reaching for a brass ring he wasn't sure he wanted. In Memphis, Selvidge performed regularly and ran Peabody Records, where he oversaw projects as diverse as Alex Chilton's purposefully shambolic Like Flies on Sherbert and an album of standards sung by actress Cybill Shepherd. In 1993, Selvidge finally released a major-label record when he was signed to Elektra/Nonesuch as part of their American Explorer series; his album Twice Told Tales raised his public profile and led to a return to New York, where he was accompanied by his son Steve Selvidge, who was launching his own career in music. While there was no immediate follow-up to Twice Told Tales, in the 21st century, Selvidge returned to recording at his own languid pace, releasing three albums through the local Archer Records imprint -- 2003's A Little Bit of Rain, 2005's Live at Otherlands, and 2010's I Should Be Blue. Selvidge told a reporter that his greatest goal in life was to perform at the Levitt Shell, a prestigious outdoor venue in Memphis' Overton Park, on his 100th birthday, but fate had other plans; cancer claimed his life in 2013 at the age of 69. In 2014, Omnivore Records reissued The Cold of the Morning in a remastered and expanded edition, a project that began with Selvidge's cooperation in his final year. His son Steve has gone on to a successful career as a member of the Hold Steady and Lucero, and collaborations with the North Mississippi All Stars, Todd Agnew, and Big Ass Truck. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi

Sid Selvidge - Portrait [Full Album] (1969)
Sid Selvidge - I've Got A Secret(Didn't We Shake Sugaree)
Sid Selvidge Levitt Shell Memphis levittshellarchive video #8
Sid Selvidge - Miss The Mississippi And You
Sid Selvidge - Lazrus
Sid Selvidge "Ballad of Otis B. Watson" - "Portrait" LP (1969 Memphis folk)
Sid Selvidge "Miss Eleana" - "Portrait" LP 1969 (Memphis folk)
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