Levitt Shell kicks off 10th concert season

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - The Levitt Shell kicked off the 10th anniversary of its free concert series on Thursday night.

Built in 1936, it was originally called the Orchestra Shell.  Elvis performed in his first paid show there in 1954.

In 2008, the Shell was restored and renamed.  500 free concerts have been performed there in the last 10 years, attracting longtime listeners and brand new fans.

"We love the vibe of the Levitt Shell," said Bartlett resident Mark Bogan.

Mark's family and the Ruffin family from Tipton County are longtime Levitt Shell fans.  They love the allure of an open-air concert where you can bring your own food and drink.

"Everybody mingles," said John Ruffin, "you come and sit by somebody else and you're gonna talk with the next group beside you. My cooler's open to everybody!"

"We work at Le Bonheur," said Lynda Bogan.  "This is the place we stop at on our way home, where we can forget what we've taken care of during the day.  We can decompress."

The Shell, with its bright neon lights, chill crowd and free music attracts curious first-timers, too.  Arriya Cowan is from Whitehaven.  She was on a walk in Overtown Park with her daughters and decided to check the concert out.

"I think it's a great thing," said Cowan, "especially for people with kids. It exposes us to new things in Memphis."

On this night, they were exposed to Mindi Abair and the Boneshakers.  Mindi's a Grammy-nominated blues-rock saxophonist.  The Shell will host 53 free concerts this year, half in the summer, the other half in the fall.

John Ruffin plans to see most of them even though his drive to Midtown isn't short.

"I'm from Munford," he said, "and I drive here a lot, and I bring more people with us every time."

This historic Levitt Shell celebrates 10 years of hosting talented artists and bringing people together.

"We love Memphis so much," said Lynda Bogan, "and we're so proud of what Memphis has to offer from the Levitt Shell to the Greenline.  It's a good place to live."

To see the full list of concerts, click here.

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