By Jae Henderson
If you ask Fred Jones his formula for success there’s one word you will always hear: PREPERATION. In a conversation we had after leaving his favorite restaurant, Stein’s, Fred talked about some of the rigors of this business. One sentence he said saddens me but as an African American woman I know it to be true.
“I don’t care how much I achieve, I will always be a black man.”
Unfortunately, there are still many people who believe that when a product is produced by an African American, it’s inferior. One would think after developing a reputation for consistently creating great events “The Fred Jones” wouldn’t have to contend with that, but he does just not as much as he used to. Fred doesn’t complain about it. He recognizes it and to combat this possible preconceived notion Fred works hard to create a quality professional product that is designed to exceed the expectations of others. He also tries to anticipate a need before there is one. Him being very hands-on and knowing exactly what’s going on is paramount to this happening.
Fred learned early in his career the importance of being prepared by watching others. He told me a story about his early years while working with the late and amazingly talented Isaac Hayes. In 1972, Isaac was pursuing an Academy Award for the soundtrack of “Shaft” and hired a man in LA to help him maneuver the political landscape associated with that. He said that when he and Isaac arrived for the first meeting, the man had already compiled a list of things Isaac needed to do. He had already done his research and he was prepared. Fred and Isaac didn’t have to waste time talking about what he needed to do, instead Isaac could get right to work doing it. Isaac did what he suggested and won! In 1972 and even today that is quite a feat for an African American.
Fred further illustrated his point by reminiscing about Club Paradise, a once popular night club in Memphis, and how the owner, Andrew “Sunbeam” Mitchell, showed him the importance of being organized with your ticket sales to make sure you can maximize your profits. When you’re organized, it’s harder for people to cheat you.
Today is all about preparation. It’s 9 a.m. and I’m meeting Fred at the Southern Heritage Classic production meeting at the Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium. These meetings are held once a week for a month prior to the event. It includes all of the entities involved in the execution of the event and serves to make sure that everyone is knowledgeable of the schedule and the logistics of any activities occurring on the Liberty Bowl property. This includes the Classic College Fair, the live broadcast of the “Tom Joyner Morning Show,” Classic Tailgating, and the Classic Football game. As I look around the room, I see representatives from the Memphis Police Department, Shelby County Sheriff’s Department, Homeland Security, Memphis Fire Department, Ticketmaster, Emergency Mobile Health Care, iHeartRadio, Jani-King, several Liberty Bowl and SHC staff members and others. During the meeting, they hand out a very detailed schedule and give an overview.
Most of it is pretty standard. They discuss set-up, entry and exit points, parking, etc. One of the new things the Liberty Bowl is implementing this year is grease disposal receptacles throughout the tailgating areas. This will allow people who fry food to dispose of their grease properly rather than dumping it on the ground and aid the Liberty Bowl staff in clean up. Fred emphasizes the need to be prepared for a large crowd of tailgaters. Great weather is predicted and this year could possibly yield one of the largest groups. In past years, there have been over 10,000 tailgaters inside and outside the stadium gates.
After the meeting, we head back to the office to attend to more Classic details. When I get there, I am introduced to Ms. Louise. She actually remembered me from my radio days. At the moment, she is handling invoices and menus for people who purchased suites to view the game. I am informed that she is Fred’s former assistant. She “retired” last year after working with him 16 and a half years. She has returned to help during Classic season. If anyone knows the inner workings of the Classic, it’s her. Edith and Bonnie are here too attending to matters concerning tickets and finalizing details for people running ads on the Jumbotron during the game.
Each day Fred creates a to-do list. It is primarily composed of follow-up calls he needs to make. Fred and I work on a press release for the media, he takes a few phone calls and then goes into a meeting with Ms. Pat. She’s the person in charge of all the ticket sales. Preparation and a great team keeps things running smoothly at SMC.
Fred Jones Nugget of Wisdom:
Know your product, research it, work at it and believe in it. At some point, others will too.
About the Blogger: Jae Henderson is a native Memphian. She works as a freelance marketing and PR professional, journalist, blogger, book author and just became the newest addition to the Southern Heritage Classic team. She’ll be giving the inside scoop and sharing all Fred’s business until the big game. Go Tigers!