[email protected]: A ‘circle of support’ helps keep ‘The Classic’ rolling

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Maxine Maclin first began working with Fred Jones Jr. in a one-room office with two desks, two telephones, two chairs and not much else. (Courtesy photos)

Visionary Fred Jones Jr. is the founder of the Southern Heritage Classic and the face of the annual cultural celebration, which celebrates 30 years this month. Helping to make sure that what “Fred dreams becomes the reality” is a loyal circle of support that includes three women – Maxine Maclin, Bhalander “Jo” Boyd, and Shri (Shy-ree) Green.

Maclin, senior producer for The Classic, was brought on as staff after the first year, in 1991. She had worked as promotions director for radio station WDIA and collaborated with Jones on various projects sponsored by the station.

“I was no longer working with the radio station when Fred asked me to come and work for him,” said Maclin. “I brought on two ladies who had helped me in promoting events prior to that time. The three of us had worked together on concerts and stage productions, and we were members of the same church.”

Southern Heritage Classic staffers Shri (Shy-ree) Green and Bhalander “Jo” Boyd keep their eyes trained on the details en route to making the annual event a crowd-pleasing success. (Courtesy photo)

Maclin’s “two ladies” are Boyd and Green. They were initially volunteers but soon became staff members leading the production for various Classic events.

“If Fred comes up with something it is our job to iron out the details and make sure it happens,” said Boyd. “Part of what we do is recruit and coordinate the volunteers each year. This year, we are taking on the gala, a black-tie affair that kicks off Classic festivities on Wednesday. We’ve worked with Fred long enough to know what he wants and how he thinks. It’s our job to make it happen.”

“It’s all about the game, but it’s so much more than just a game,” said Green. “We take care of the details and try to make sure the scheduled events happen as planned, but they don’t always happen as planned. But when they don’t, we take care of that too.”

Producing The Classic is no easy task. It takes a lot of planning and sometimes long hours. Green recalls the early days when they were using mail-outs to drum up interest.

“You had to have so many pieces for bulk mail and we would be working until three or four in the morning putting mail-outs together,” said Green. “But to see The Classic grow to be what it is today is just phenomenal.”

“Fred envisioned what it could be, and it’s rewarding to have been a part of building The Classic. It’s a family reunion. It’s a class reunion for the two schools. It really is a Memphis tradition.”

For Boyd and Green, the perks that have come with working with The Classic the past 29 years include having met music greats such as Lou Rawls, Maze featuring Frankie Beverly, The O’Jays, The Whispers, Charlie Wilson and the Gap Band, Stephanie Mills and other recording artists.

Maclin, who is charged with sponsorship, social events, tailgating and pre-game activities, also works with Jones’ Summit Management, promoting concerts and other events across the country.

“When I first came to work for Fred, there was a one-room office with two desks, two phones and two chairs, and not much else. Fred sat at one desk, and I sat at the other one. It’s wonderful to see how it’s grown and the economic impact The Classic now has on the city of Memphis. Fred envisioned the game in Memphis. Both schools were 200 miles from the city. It was his dream, and it is a joy to be a part of that.”