Remembering the post-Elvis Memphis musical era...

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.

Memphis musical group Target showcased charismatic vocalist Jimi Jamison (who later enjoyed huge mid-1980's commercial success in Survivor before turning down an invitation to join Deep Purple in the early 90's) together with world class guitarists Paul Cannon and Buddy Davis backed by rhythmic assassins Tommy Cathey and Bill Marshall. Music biz heavy Jerry Moss signed them to his prestigious A&M Records label while famed booking agent Frank Barsalona put the band in North American arenas opening for Black Sabbath, Kiss, Robin Trower, Bob Seger, and others.

On the other side of town, melodic rock outfit Creed were Memphis contemporaries featuring guitarist/singer Steve Ingle, keyboardist Hal Butler, guitarist Jimmy Rusidoff, bassist James Flynn and drummer Chip Thomas. One of only two new artists signed to Elecktra/Asylum in 1977 (the other being The Cars) they recorded at the famous Caribu Ranch studio in Colorado. Steve Ingle tells the story of noticing John Lennon's and Elton John's autographed entries while signing his name in the studio guestbook. Creed opened for Ted Nugent, Pat Travers and others on the American west coast and had a regional radio hit with their song 'Firecracker'.

In elementary school, the plan was to model my adult life after the Burt Bachrach lifestyle: those Martini and Rossi commercials were just that cool and having a meaningful career with a squeeze like policewoman Angie Dickinson seemed like resonable aspirati tons...

Do yourself a favor--stay away from the nasty tourist trap Beale Street. Let the naive tourists enjoy the novelty of smelling urine and rubbing shoulders with professional beggars and criminals while cruising down the third-rate version of Bourbon Street,There was a lot of jealousy based in the simple truth that Elkington is a good businessman and the majority of the con-artists banging away with some musical instrument or hollering on Beale are failed high school rock musicians passing off as Stevie Ray Vaughn clones. Beale Street is pathetic, dangerous and boring...

Have you seen this photo of Roger Glover (the bass player in Deep Purple) accessing the internet in 1984? I knew a former engineer from the Lockheed Missiles and Space Company (it was located at the old TVA nuclear power plant site in Iuka, Mississippi) who used the same approach circa 1989! In 1989, he was doing some freelance work salvaging avionics from a drug cartel's cargo plane seized in Belize and found the keyboard and modem that smugglers had left behind. He wasn't sure what he had but managed to convince an extremely high dollar hooker friendly with the Prime Minister's son (she had been around a dealer or two) to show him how it worked. He used some primitive type of browser that I can't remember the name of ...long before beta copies of Netscape were in circulation.

I miss the days when Eric Burdon would call in to Art Bell's "Coast to Coast AM" late night radio show. He phoned in unannounced the first time and during the conversation Bell asked about his background and then Burden identified himself. Apparently he had called in a few times afterwards which lead to Bell inviting him on as a guest for two hours. Burdon used to talk about living in a trailer in the desert somewhere in the southwest United states these days and being ripped off in the music business. He insisted quite confidently that his close friend Jimi Hendrix had been murdered. I called Art Bell off-air a few times, usually about an hour before his live broadcast. In 1993, I put Bell in touch with someone protesting at the Waco siege the day the ATF engaged their assault. A few months later Bell asked me about the background of then vice-president Al Gore's father/family and said Burdon wanted to know if Arthur Lee was still living in Memphis...

Mad magazine should be required daily reading in all kindegarten and elementary schools. This is the only way to guarantee children develop a healthy sense of skepticism before they are indoctrinated into socialism from the teacher's unions...

Memphis newspaper columnist Bill E Burk was a trusted acquaintance of Elvis Presley (earning the nickname "007" from Vernon Presley) who often met privately with the king to plant info/stories in the Memphis Press-Scimitar. Years later, Burk championed the German heavy metal group Scorpions before their first Memphis visit in 1980 only to be snubbed for an interview at the start of their next tour in 1982. Burk retaliated by phoning a contact at the Leber-Krebs New York office with a false claim of owning "incriminating" and "homo-erotic" photos of a certain group member taken at the Hyatt Regency during their last stop in Elvis-town. Burk claimed they were "too graphic" for publication in the local newspaper and threatened to "give them to a friend at Stern magazine in Germany." Within minutes the band's publicist called to apologize followed with desperate calls from three members of the band (calling in sequence from various locations on the globe) for phone interviews. It was an eventful evening when the Scorpions played the Auditorium North Hall in Memphis (with opening act Iron Maiden) on the tour--the concert was temporarily stopped after audience members jumped the into the orchestra pit as the makeshift flooring (pieces of 1/4 inch plywood with a thirty foot drop below) began to give away! In the weeks before the Memphis Press-Scimeter closed it's doors, Burk excercised his "five finger discount" privilege and helped himself to all things Elvis that were in the newspaper's archieve--spending the rest of his life publishing the images in a fanzine and traveling the world speaking at Elvis conventions...

In 1977 at Sherwood Jr High in Memphis, Tennessee there was this kid who always fell asleep in Ms. Gladys Scott's music class. On more than one occasion Ms. Scott directed the students to exit the classroom--she refused to embarrass the child by waking him in front of others. While standing in the hallway with other students, you could hear her comforting the boy as she escorted him to the assistant principal's office-- where he could finish his nap. Years later, I learned that during this time the boy's parents were in a very bitter and violent divorce (his father was a Vietnam vet who had just returned home addicted to drugs while his mother had a new boyfriend that did not want the child to live with them) and she was protecting the boy when he had no one else. It was the highlight of my life to walk into her classroom -- she made learning fun. Scott was a classicaly trained opera singer who exposed students to all music and explained music theory in a way that 12 year-olds could grasp. She was a diva who knew her stuff! I distinctly remember her dissecting Natlie Cole's song "Our Love" while methodically explaining how the background vocals were stacked and using Henry Mancini's "Moon River" and Maurice Ravel's "Ma Mere I'Oye" (also known as the "Mother Goose Suite") to illustrate how different string players worked inside of a chord. Unfortunately, there are not enough teachers like Ms. Scott (with the love of teaching and passion to mold young lives)-- many enter the field for the job security offered with government employment (and two months vacation every year) while riding the clock until they are eligible for a state or city pension.

On February 20, 1981, Andy Kaufman was the guest host of ABC Television's "Friday's" late night comedy show. Without any question, it was the night for the greatest moment of true dada and surrealism in television broadcast history.

Kaufman had a strong anti-drug stance in his personal life but was placed smack dab in the middle of an early 1980's drug-type comedy routine. During the broadcast of the skit he appeared to break out of character, apparently forgetting his lines and wandering away from the other actors. In a moment of true comic genius Michael Richards walked off stage, grabbed the cue cards and slammed them on the table in front of Kaufman. Maryedith Burell appeared stunned as Kaufman threw a glass of water on Richards and started a mini-food fight with Melanie Chartoff. It was a beautiful illusion of chaos as Jack Burns ran onstage and called for the control room to go to a commercial break just as a perceived shoving match broke out.

Everyone thought it was for real. The cast, audience and everyone watching on television thought they were witness to the worst train wreck ever broadcast on the airwaves. Only Kaufman, Burns and Richards were in on the joke that could have been remembered as the most amazing choreographed stunt in television.

When they returned from the commercial break Kaufman and Burns were still going at each another with crew members restraining them. You know, one of those fake fight deals that you see in professional wrestling or on the playground between two jabronies who do not really want to fight. In an instant, you could sense the whole thing had been staged--they almost pulled it off.

It was an honor to help rally support and encourage Edwin Hubbard's efforts during his "audition" for the conductor position at the Germantown Symphony Orchestra. Guerilla marketing via the internet was a relatively new concept in 1996 and he was ahead of the curve--one of the first musicians in town supportive of Unfortunately, the political fix was in. Hubbard would not be offered the conductor job--he knew this even before he ever picked up the wand to guest conduct for his "audition".. He died of a massive heart attack during the intermission of the concert--two days later an autogrpahed photo in which he refered to me as his "high-tech savior" arrived in the mail..

© 1995-2019

  • Rick Dees in 1977


    Target signing w/ A&M