Celebrate Memphis: Kameron Whalum continues the city’s rich musical tradition

Local News

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (localmemphis.com) – Memphis has a rich music history, credited with birthing everything from the Blues to Rock and Roll. As the city marks its bicentennial, we’re celebrating the past but also looking at a new generation of musicians.  

Take Kameron Whalum. He’s a “Holligan,” one of Bruno Mars band members. But there is much more to this young Memphis man than his connection to a pop star!

“You grew up in this area?” asked Local 24 News Weeknight Anchor Katina Rankin.

“Yea. My church was right in that lot over there,” said Whalum. 

I met Kameron Whalum in the Orange Mound neighborhood where he was raised. A look around Whalum’s former stomping grounds looks much different than it did twenty-nine (29) years ago. There’s an empty lot where his church once stood. It is where Whalum got his start: singing his first solo in church and picking up the bass guitar, to beating on a drum before he transitioned to playing the trombone.

“We stay close, and we stay together. And we know that we got each other,” said Whalum.

It is here in this neighborhood he learned the importance of family. His father a preacher and former school board member.

“I don’t think anything phases him, or even if it does, you don’t see it,” said Whalum.

His mother an author.

“My mom is one of the strongest women I know.” said Whalum.

And, his two older brothers, Kortland and Kenneth, both entertainers.

“Whether Kenneth was, you know, playing music or basketball, I would be with him doing that. Whether Kortland was listening to music or doing whatever, I’d be with him so both of them sort of shaped who I am.”

And so did his education, from Sea Isle Elementary, Overton, Morehouse, and West New School for Jazz Contemporary Music in New York!

“I was forced to really grow up like that. (snaps finger). That help me focus in on, ‘Okay learn this, practice this, go to this show, go try to do this show,’ It made me put myself out there more.”

Then a phone call from Bruno Mars changed everything.

“March made 8 years that I’ve been with him,” said Whalum.

You may have noticed we’ve switched locations.  We’re at the Orpheum Theater, on stage, where Whalum performed when he was just 9-years-old. But let’s get back to stardom and Bruno Mars.

“We did that first show. He liked us, and they called us back and that’s when I was like, ‘Oh this is a real thing’,” said Whalum. 

Since 2017, Whalum has done more than two-hundred (200) shows with Bruno.

“It was maybe two weeks of rehearsals, like twelve hours a day or something crazy like that,” said Whalum.

“I’ve seen you hang out with like Charlie Wilson. Who doesn’t like Uncle Charlie? And then, I’m watching the Superbowl, and there you are with Queen B,” said Rankin.

“I’ve always loved Beyoncé. In 11th grade high school, I wasn’t necessarily thinking about, ‘Yea I’m going to play with Beyoncé on the Superbowl’, but it’s happening,” said Whalum. “Rihanna, Sting, the Marley Brothers, um, it’s a long list that we could talk about, but I don’t take those for granted.”

Put all the superstars aside, and we wanted to know one simple question.

“Who is Kameron Whalum?” asked Rankin.

“I’m a guy from Memphis, TN who enjoys having and hanging around my family, enjoy going to church. I enjoy helping young people,” said Whalum.

And since he told me he was singer, you know I had to get him to give us a note or two.

“I’m so in love with you, whatever you want to do is alright with me. You make me feel so brand new,” sings Whalum.

Kameron Whalum is also the artist in resident at STAX. 

Local 24 is a proud supporting partner of ‘A New Century of Soul,’ the official Memphis bicentennial celebrations.

Join us on Saturday, May 25, 2019, for a live two-hour prime-time special, ‘Celebrate Memphis’, in association with Memphis in May.

©TEGNA Inc. 2019. All Rights Reserved.

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