Desoto County Sports

The Bar-Kays named to AutoZone Liberty Bowl’s Outstanding Achievement Award 

Legendary Memphis group to showcase the “Music That Made Memphis”

Photo: Kevin Kane, past president of the AutoZone Liberty Bowl and current head of the Memphis Convention and Visitors Bureau joins James Alexander of The Bar-Kays in unveiling this year’s AutoZone Liberty Bowl Outstanding Achievement Award. (Bob Bakken/

Many names come to mind to describe what Memphis music is all about, but the Bar-Kays are certainly included in the conversation. 

Football fans across the nation tuning in for the Dec. 29 AutoZone Liberty Bowl will discover, if they don’t already know, about the Bar-Kays sound, when they perform at halftime of the 65th annual bowl game at Simmons Bank Liberty Stadium. Kickoff for the contest, expected to pit SEC versus Big 12 teams, is 2:30 p.m. 

The Bar-Kays will also perform at the President’s Gala the night before at the Peabody Hotel, starting at 6:30 p.m., when they receive the award.   

The Bar-Kays were named the recipient of the 2023 AutoZone Liberty Bowl Outstanding Achievement Award at a Tuesday morning event in downtown Memphis, with original member James Alexander on hand for the announcement.

Each year, the award is presented by the AutoZone Liberty Bowl and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital to recognize excellence in the field of music and  entertainment. This time-honored recognition dates back to the early years of St. Jude and its founder, entertainer Danny Thomas. 

In being named this year’s award winner, the Bar-Kays will join other recipients, such as Danny Thomas, Elvis Presley, B.B. King, Lou Rawls, Clint Black, Little Richard, Alabama, The Beach Boys, LeAnn Rimes, The O’Jays, KC & The Sunshine Band, The Temptations, Big & Rich, The Commodores, The Isley Brothers,  The Four Tops, Scotty McCreery and Starship featuring Mickey Thomas. 

“Every year we honor outstanding achievement in the field of music and entertainment,” said AutoZone Liberty Bowl Executive Director Steve Ehrhart Tuesday morning. 

“The Bar-Kays embody Memphis music wherever they go,” said Memphis Convention & Visitors Bureau President/CEO Kevin Kane, a past president of the AutoZone Liberty Bowl. “In a few short months, they will be celebrating their 60th anniversary.”

Over those 60 years, Alexander said there have been about 200 musicians who at one time were part of the Bar-Kays. However, tragedy struck the group in 1967, when a plane crash took the lives of several original members and another standout talent of the time, Otis Redding.  They were flying to a concert in Madison, Wisconsin, but crashed in poor weather conditions into Lake Monona in Madison. Alexander was not on board, but was driving a bus carrying the band’s equipment at the time.  He, along with the other surviving members, chose to rebuild The Bar-Kays and continue their careers with the group.  

“We won’t disappoint,” Alexander said about performing at the game and the gala. “we want you to come and have a good time. This is Memphis and this is the way we do it.”  

The group has created 29 albums, sold more than 25 million records and have entertained audiences around the world. They have been inducted into the Memphis  Music Hall of Fame, the R&B Hall of Fame and the Beale Street Walk of Fame. 

For tickets to the AutoZone Liberty Bowl President’s Gala or the AutoZone Liberty Bowl Football Classic, call the AutoZone Liberty Bowl at 901-795-7700 or visit

Bob Bakken

Bob Bakken is the most recognized and most trusted name in DeSoto County news and sports reporting, as readers continue to express their appreciation for his accuracy and fairness in the stories he writes. Bob is also heard on 95.3 The Rebel twice a week with sports updates and high school football play-by-play broadcasts in the fall. A former newspaper editor and writer, his award-winning background also includes television news producing, sports media relations, and radio broadcasting.

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