At the age of 13, Damion “Yella P” Pearson saved up his lunch money for a month to purchase his first harmonica. Inspired by the records of blues, jazz, and soul music pioneers, he spent countless hours teaching himself to play. He gravitated towards the greats that he discovered in his father’s record collection – Marvin Gaye, John Coltrane, Stevie Wonder, Billie Holiday, and George Clinton. He was also inspired by radio artists of this time such as Tupac, Digital Underground, Sade, and Playa Fly. As his passion for music grew, he eventually took up the guitar, saxophone, trombone, and piano.
Music was both a passion and an escape, and playing became a way for him to tune out the noise of the troubled Memphis neighborhood he grew up in. One of five brothers, Yella often kept to himself and played music to pass the time. He was also an avid reader, an interest fostered by his mother. He immersed himself in books from the local library and from his father’s vast collection of literature. Yella’s passion for music and education flourished through these years, and he began what would become a lifelong commitment to education and art.
In 2001, Yella P was invited to perform alongside ‘Big Jerry’ Parnell, a Beale Street blues legend. It was there that he learned the art of busking, playing alongside other musicians on the street while learning how to catch the eyes and ears of anyone happening to pass by. He fell in love with the culture of street musicians, and he knew that he wanted to be a full-time musician. However, at his mother’s insistence, he decided to take a more traditional path. He enrolled at Tennessee State University, and unsurprisingly, joined the world-renowned Aristocrat of Bands.
After earning a degree in Music Education, Yella P returned to his hometown of Memphis, TN. He spent years teaching music to children in his community. Though he worked diligently as a educator by day, he eventually found his way into the Memphis nightlife. In 2010, local legend John Williams invited Yella P to perform with his ensemble, John Williams & the A440 Band. At the time, it wasn’t common for a soul and funk band to feature a harmonica player as part of their regular lineup, but Yella P easily won over audiences with his passionate performances. He played weekly with John at clubs throughout the city of Memphis, building a loyal fanbase along the way. Though often introverted off stage, Yella transformed in the spotlight. He easily transitioned from smooth and soulful melodic accents to bold and fiery solos that brought the entire audience to their feet. Word of Yella P’s talent spread, and so did the demand.
A versatile entertainer, Yella P is at home in a variety of spaces. On any given day, he might be seen playing traditional gospel in a baptist church, raunchy southern soul in a Mississippi juke joint, or rap at one of Memphis’ underground hip-hop events. He’s also shared the stage with esteemed musicians such as Eric Gales, The Barkays, Larry Dodson, Kirk Whalum, Eddie Floyd, Anthony Hamilton, and the multi-platinum rock band LĪVE. And as one of the few authentic bluesmen in his generation, Yella has played alongside blues music greats such as Robert Finley, Kenny Brown, Theodis Ealey, and as the opening act for Bobby Rush.
In 2017, Yella P joined forces with Cam Kimbrough (grandson of blues legend Junior Kimbrough) to form Memphissippi Sounds. Their first meeting was a chance encounter. They’d both been hired to back a hill country stalwart on Beale Street. Their musical chemistry was instant, and this performance eventually led to them forming one of the most exciting acts in modern-day traditional music. As their name suggests, this duo combines the sounds of their respective hometowns, Memphis’ Beale Street blues and Mississippi’s Hill Country blues, with plenty of soul and hip-hop added in the mix. In 2021, Memphissippi Sounds released their critically acclaimed debut album, Welcome to the Land, a project that charted internationally. They were also nominated for their first Blues Music Award for Best Emerging Artist Album, and they won two Blues Blast Music Awards – Best New Artist Debut Album & Sean Costello Rising Star Award. They’ve played festivals throughout the United States, Europe, and Canada, and most recently toured Spain and the Czech Republic.
In 2023, Yella P resigned from his teaching position and fully dedicated his time to his art and entrepreneurial pursuits. He also released his first single, Right Now!, a bold mashup of blues, soul, and modern rock. In 2024, he launched his music education non-profit, Inspired 2 Play, combining his love for music, education, and wellness to support aspiring artists and musicians. He’s a mainstay in the Memphis music scene, and he performs throughout the United States and beyond…