Q: Aren't you the guy related to Joe Walsh? My band recorded a tape for him at Kiva in the 1980's, what happened to those tapes?
I am not related to Joe Walsh. Years ago, when Walsh was the opening act for Stevie Nicks, he let me sit in on his afternoon soundcheck at the Humphrey coliseum in Starkville, Mississippi. Behind the "How ya doin'?" crazy act is a musicial genius and while rehearsing "Over and Over" he improvised a collage of the most amazing guitar textures and phrasing ever heard. It was a fun afternoon--Wyzard (the bass player from Mother's Finest) showed me his alembic bass and we talked shop while Nicks was beautiful, gracious and smelled better than any woman on earth. I have no idea about how to retrieve any master tapes from Kiva studios but rumor has it there were tons of local artist recordings, late night jam sessions with Albert King and a Jim Varney comedy album that never saw the light of day.
Q: Why are there so many bad drivers in Memphis?
Unless they are being chased by a police car, the majority of Memphians are responsible drivers. The wreckless speed demons who ride your rear bumper are from Arkansas and if someone pulls in front of you and drives 10 m.p.h., they are probably from Mississippi.
Q: Do you remember that song Rick Dees did making fun of Elvis?
Why did Rick Dees seem to have it in for Elvis Presley in 1976? If the "He Ate Too Many Jelly Doughnuts" parody was not enough, he made three unsuccessful on-air attempts to crank call the King at his bedroom phone. Ginger Alden answered the hotline all three times and refused to hand the phone to Elvis while interrogating Dees ("How did you get this number? We just changed it.") on how he had become privy to the most secretly guarded phone number in Memphis. Sources claim that Alecia Kerwin set him up for the ambush (she was in the works to be the next girlfriend and Alden was to be kicked to the curb) and leaked info about Elvis's private number during visits to Dees' house on Sardis Lake. She told Mr. Disco Duck that Elvis would return from pre-dawn racquetball sessions and listen to WHBQ-AM waiting for Dees to play either Stevie Wonder's current hit song "Isn't She Lovely" or "When I Need You" from Leo Sayer before he would fall asleep.
Q: What is the story behind Led Zeppelin recording in Memphis?
Page had his finger on the pulse of the Memphis music industry during his tenure with the Yardbirds and wanted to work with Terry Manning after hearing his Home Sweet Home album.
For the sake of accuracy, Led Zeppelin did not actually record anything in Memphis, Page mixed part of their third album (and tracked some overdubs) at the original Ardent Studio that was located at 1457 National Street. Sorry to burst your bubble if your band paid the bucks to cut a demo in the beautiful cutting edge studios on Madison Avenue thinking you were walking in Mr. Zoso's shoes, he laid down the guitar solo from "Since I've Been Loving You" inside a shack (today it is a convenience store) in the Nutbush section of town.
Q: Why do the locals refer to the University of Memphis as "Tiger High School"?
The university suffers from bad self esteem and has little or no respect from the local community. Things are starting to improve--primarily because of Fed Ex. Big Fred's machine paid for the beautiful addition to the business college and before the economic downturn, they hired many Fogelman school graduates. If anything renews interest in the school's dismal football program it will start with a fun tailgating environment at the new Fed Ex-financed "Tiger Lane" area near the Liberty Bowl. The baseball program was gifted with the "Fed Ex Field" renovations, it is a great place to take your kids to watch some college baseball. And yes, campus icon "Stan the Man" is still alive and well, taking care of those batboy duties. Everyone loves him.
Q: Why are there so many good musicians in Memphis?
It seems that everyone in Memphis plays music--even the homeless people have guitars and harmonicas. Local musicians leave Memphis and find work with the best and most successful artists on the planet. Jon DeCleux use to theorize there is something in the water aquifer that creates all of the Elvis' and Arethas when they are in the womb.
Q: Did you see Evel Knievel jump at the Mid-South Coliseum? What year was that?
Sorry, but I missed that one. One thing is for sure, he was a crazy son of a bitch. Who in their right mind would jump over stuff on a Harley Davidson motorcycle? When they write the book on the history of the world the chapter about crazy people should include a mention of Evel Knievel. Years later, Knievel was so annoyed at getting the Elvis: What Happened? treatment from Shelly Saltman that he used an aluminium baseball bat to break Saltman's arm and beat him unconscious. It ruined the daredevil's career but the publisher killed the book.
Q: Is the Mid-South Coliseum still there?
It's still here but closed for business and the local politicians are scheming on a plan to demolish it. Professional wrestling icon Jerry Lawler is a prominent voice in the opposition but it appears that everything "is already rigged" and the deals have been made. You know, the same stunt they pulled with the Carpenter library at the university a few years back--abandoning a public building in order to get federal money to build something else. I was joking about the silly situation with one of the county commissioners last summer and she suggested the city should turn it into a homeless shelter.
Q: Did you ever meet Elvis?
I was waiting in the ticket line at the old Paramount movie theatre (in the Eastgate shopping center) with my father one afternoon in the spring of 1977 when Elvis pulled up and parked in the alley between the movie house and where the Shoney's use to be located. One of his entourage exited the car and entered a side door of the movie house (to rent the theatre for a private showing?) while the King and another member of the Memphis mafia signaled my father and backed their still idling vehicle beside him--they spoke for a few minutes. Afterwards, my father explained that he knew the Memphis mafia member from the Scottish Rite and was suprised that Elvis used the secret handshake. It happened so fast--but man, do I regret not walking over and saying hello to Elvis.
Q: What happened to Memphis radio?
In the old days, Memphis always had the great radio shows. Everything in the industry became McDonaldized in the 1980's, the stations look and sound the same in every town. Rick Dees and Bob Landree were hilarious on WHBQ AM during the John Long era. Ron Jordan was perfect for the AOR audience on the old FM 1OO airwaves. I miss Oliver C. Reed from WMC AM, he was a class act on and off the air. Yes, I was the caller known as "Dave from Senatobia"- it was a semi set-up he used to spice things up when the broadcast was dull.
Q: What is really going on with the feuding about Beale Street?
Despite all of the whining local "musicians" directed toward John Elkington, anyone who can turn an abandonded slum street into a major tourist attraction deserves a truckload of gratitude. There is a lot of jealousy based in the simple truth that Elkington was a good businessman and most of the players on Beale are not true musicians. The tourists enjoy the smell of piss and rubbing shoulders with street hustlers and criminals while cruising down the third-rate version of Bourbon Street, but Beale is not the place to find good food or the best music in Memphis.
Q: Hey! You plagiarize Anthony Bourdain!
That is a lie. I have been using hyphens since elementary school-long before anyone knew of this Bourdain character. He should eat more and talk less.
Q: I grew up in Memphis, are things there as bad as they say?
It's worse than what you have heard. The local governments are corrupt, the crooks that were running the show when you lived here now have relatives and cronies in their place. Crime is out of control and the police focus on issuing traffic tickets. The school system is merely a training ground for future criminals and most of the small business sector has moved out of the city limits. But hey, it is still Memphis.
"I'm sorry, but I don't want to be an emperor. That's not my business. I don't want to rule or conquer anyone. I should like to help everyone, if possible, Jew, gentile, black man, white. We all want to help one another. Human beings are like that. We want to live by each other's happiness -- not by each other's misery. We don't want to hate and despise one another." Charlie Chaplin