The globally syndicated blues radio show “Beale Street Caravan” is getting its first Black executive director, Thomas O. Crivens, Jr. The show broadcasts a weekly live-in-concert performances of the best blues musicians from Memphis and the Delta region. “Being a product of Memphis and its vibrant music scene, I’m excited at the chance to lead this showcase of the city’s musical talent and influence to the world,” Crivens said in a press statement. “Through the continued promotion and celebration of Memphis music, ‘Beale Street Caravan’ will continue to nurture pride in our city, while simultaneously increasing Memphis’ global visibility and recognition as a hub for music creation and performance.”
A native Memphian, Crivens is a graduate of White Station High School and Morehouse College in Atlanta, and holds an MBA from the Fogelman College of Business and Economics at the University of Memphis. He’s also served in executive positions at Memphis City Schools and Baptist Memorial Health Care Corporation.
During the pandemic, the radio show had to suspend its weekly performances due to health restrictions that prevented musicians from delivering concerts. The program instead opted to rerun its extensive archive of previous concerts. “With live music shows coming back into our lives, it’s good to know that ‘Beale Street Caravan’ will be under the steady hand and institutional knowledge of Thomas,” “Beale Street Caravan” Board Chair Cynthia Ham said. “We will once again be recording, preserving, broadcasting, and sharing worldwide the sounds of Memphis and the Delta region.”
Beale Street Caravan has become a formidable exporter: It’s the most widely distributed blues radio program in the world, attracting more than 2.4 million listeners each week. Produced here in Memphis, it regularly broadcasts, via nearly five hundred radio stations around the world, the live performances of artists from Memphis and the Mid-South, or inspired by the region. That’s quite an ascension for a show begun in 1997 with producer/executive director Sid Selvidge working under the auspices of the Blues Foundation.
In 2001, the program broke off to become an independent nonprofit. Having a talent as formidable as Selvidge as its first executive director set the bar high for Beale Street Caravan, but for the past two decades musician/producer Kevin Cubbins has excelled at the role, blending the professionalism of a studio engineer with the eclectic taste of an artist. Now he’s moving on and Thomas Crivens is stepping into the executive director role after four years of producing shows for the program.
The “Beale Street Caravan” is named after the Beale Street which, in its heyday, offered a carnival-like energy with bustling nightclubs, theaters, and stores. At the backbone of the lively entertainment strip, the Memphis jug band and blues flourished, and became a staple. The program attracts roughly 2.4 million listeners wordwide, and is considered as the the most widely distributed radio program in the world. It is broadcasted on 483 stations in the United States, Europe, Africa, Asia, and Oceania.