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Memphis in the Meantime

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10:34 p.m. Aug. 11

MEMPHIS, TN.---There are few better places to have a cold beer than in the lobby of the Peabody Hotel in downtown Memphis. And a beer in Memphis in August is special as beads of condensation drip down the bottle like tears in a Bobby Bland song. That's why they serve beer with a white napkin down here. First you wipe off the bottle then you dry off your eyes.
I've been visiting Memphis on almost an annual basis for 20 years and a stop at the Peabody (built in 1869, closed in 1923, reopened in its present location in 1925) is always on my list of things to do. The Peabody lobby is the launching point of the Delta as argued by historian David Cohen in 1935. He wrote, "The Mississippi Delta begins in the lobby of he Peabody Hotel and ends on Catfish Row in Vicksburg. The Peabody is the Paris Ritz; the Cairo Shepherds, the London Savoy of this section. If you stand near its fountain in the middle of the lobby...ultimately you will see everybody who is anybody in the Delta........"

There's a black piano in the Peabody lobby that sometimes has a piano player and other times plays mechanically by itself. [Although Freddy Cole, the brother of Nat King Cole, will perform Aug. 26 at the Germantown Performing Arts Center just outside of Memphis.] Tonight I stopped in the lobby after watching the Iowa Cubs beat the Memphis Redbirds at AutoZone Park, across the street from the hotel. After an unusually thoughtful blog the other night from Nashville, I was back to myself: wasting time on the Cubs---even their minor league team.
Perhaps my second favorite thing to do in Memphis is to sit in the right field bleachers at AutoZone park and watch the sun set over the Peabody. I grab a pork sandwich from the Rendezvous rib stand along the third base line and snag a bottle of water. All of that is in one hand. The other hand is consumed by my scorecard and three days worth of decomposing newspaper parts that have accumulated in the back seat of my car.
People are sure to keep a safe distance from me,
The Cubs game was boring, outside of being able to scout 21-year-old phenom Felix Pie. (pronounced pee-ay). He got a single in four at bats, the only hit coming of the Cardinals Mark Mulder, who was in Memphis on a rehab assignment. Pie later struck out on a high fastball with two outs and a man on second. He doesn't take a lot of pitches, which means he will fit in well with the big league Cubs. Pie does play center field with a flair. He wears his socks high like current Cubs centerfielder Juan Pierre, he has big white wristbands and he salsa stepped off the field after the Cubs won 5-4. His number 20 reminded me more of former Cub Adolfo Phillips than former Cub Corey Patterson.
After the game I checked my voice messages from a public phone in the lobby. I love old school hotel lobby bars, especially since I don't have a cell phone. There was a message from my friend Maggie asking about things to do in Memphis. Because of the events of the week, her friends cancelled their honeymoon to London, England and picked Memphis instead. Good idea. I read today that in the U.K. you can't even carry a book on a plane----coming to a country near you, I'm sure.
Well, there's a story I wrote on Memphis in this Sunday's Sun-Times, something I saved from a visit several months ago. And I did a couple of stories in the 36 hours I've been here. But here's a fine twin spin I have yet to share : have a hamburger at Huey's, then visit Shangri-La Records. There's several Huey's in town, but go to the one at 1927 Madison Avenue in Midtown. These are the best burgers in the city and they're only $5. Huey's has a Texas Toast burger with pepper jack cheese and jalepeno, a Smokey Melt Burger (with smoked cheddar cheese), a West Coast burger (guacamole, Monterey jack cheese on a toasted whole wheat bun) and a couple of other variations.
Midtown is a residential neighborhood away from downtown. A couple of years ago during the NBA playoffs I was at the Midtown Huey's and Phoenix Suns guard Steve Nash was sitting down the way, wearing a Bob Marley tee-shirt. and blending in with the regulars. Maybe he too, was going across the street to Shangri-La, 1916 Madison Ave, (www.shangrl.com). The place is packed with Memphis rockabily and soul CDs and vinyl, blues, gospel, indie rock, and '45s. There's also books and fanzines. Memphis country-soul-rock producer Jim Dickinson is the hipster saint of this place. Today I was pressed for time at Shangri-La, but I did pick up the LP "Jamaica" by Herb Jeffries. It had a cool Belafonte like cover and great song titles such as "Devil Is a Woman" [didn't hear that on Bob Dylan's XM Radio show devoted to the devil], "Don't Spank De Baby" and "Calypsociety." The liner notes mention that Herb debuted in Detroit, moved on to the Grand Terrace in Chicago and then opened his own club in Paris. The notes don't say if this is the same Herb Jeffries who was the singing black cowboy. Or maybe he became a cowboy after his calypso phase. I will have to do some research. No one in the Peabody lobby could help me out.
I have so much more to say about Memphis. It's my third favorite American city behind San Francisco and Chicago. With the possible exception of New Orleans, no other American city has given us so much music [Elvis, Stax, Hi Records, The Rev. Al Green, Jerry Lee, Charlie Rich, Alex Chilton, Tav Falco, Bobby Bland and B.B. King, Furry Lewis and I'm missing dozens of others]. The range of Memphis music is as diverse as the faces you see in the Peabody lobby. Tonight there were people dealing it and working it. One young woman sat on the lap of her man, another man sat alone with a word puzzle. There are other hotel lobbies, of course, but this was a symphony of life in the Delta--- the sound of sweat and tears.



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16 Comments

If you love Memphis like we do,
check out the above website. Fantastic!!!

Hey, Dave! Thanks for the love... and thanks for shopping here. Glad ya enjoyed it and come back often!

Thanks!
Let me know when you get more Trinidad/Calypso stuff in. Also Charlie Rich vinyl for the lonely nights around the turntable.
Later,
Dave

Dave, stunning news: Hernando's Hideaway is being sold and closed, and the owners are taking the name with them to parts unknown. It will be in the CA tomorrow.

Yikes!
I knew I shouldn't have stayed out so late at Automatic Slim's on Thursday. Did head over there Friday. I would have taken pictures.
Please keep all of us updated.
Thanks,
Dave in memory of Linda Gail Lewis

Dave--

Does the Peabody still have the ducks?

Yes, twice a day,
I like mine well done.

Your pal, Dave

Hi Dave,

I love reading about your travels. Today you made me feel like I was right there in the Peabody having a sip, instead of sitting at a crappy desk here in Chicago.

Thanks, Lynne

Good information, very useful for travelers to Memphis. When I was in Sydney, I stayed in the Four Seasons hotel Four Seasons Hotel Sydney and nearby it excellent beer was also sold in the local bar.

Very cool!
Thanks

Hernando's sold !!!! That's a Memphis landmark. I use to play there in the 1970's with Jimmy Busby and then with my own band "The Loman Craig Band". Picked there for about 4 years.Would love to set at the bar again !!! Lots of great memories. I can still see the crowds and hear the music.


Can anyone tell me what is the current status of the Hernado's property? Thanks, Dave, April 2008

I played drums in the Loman Craig Band at Hernando's Hideaway in the 70's. What a great time that was! The crowds were jumping and the music was going until 4:00 in the morning.

Hey there Loman and Larry !! I was there with you two ! I was pushing the beer and pizas !

Hernando's will live in my memories forever ! I had the best times there ! Of all the bands that played there your's was the greatest !

Big hugs to you both !
Rose Marie

My husband and I were the last owners of Hernando's Hideaway. We sold it in 2006. We only had business 1 good night per week. We were just spinning our wheels, trying to build it back up. I still have all the old pictures and memoriable if anyone is interested in it....stepahniefaltus@yahoo.com

Hey Steph, thanks. Could you e-mail any photos? Dave Hoekstra

Hey Loman and Larry!! I guess I sort of stepped into Hernandos sometime after you left. I remember coming in to see you all performing as well as the many nights the Loman Craig band played in West Memphis behind Panchos. I spent my years at Hernandos from 1982 to 1996 as the lead guitarist, bass guitarist, keyboard player and bandleader. Those were the years when there wasnt really a "band" as it was just a group of musicians performing. We never knew who would be playing on any particular regular basis. Nevertheless, I was there paying my dues 7 hours or more per night depending on how long Jerry Lee wanted to play with us. Good to see something on the web about the old place. When the casinos moved into Tunica, the nightclub business in Memphis absolutely died away. I just kick back and remember the good old days.

Waoooow... after so much time.. I was there every night in August and we had really good times. Glad to see you 're ok

Hi Sylvia from France. Are you the college English teacher that used to come visit us at Hernandos? I have often thought about all of the overseas people that visited and still stay in touch a few of them via email. You can contact me at roberttinsley@gmail.com and I will get back to you.

Well, I`ll be damned. Just for shits and giggles I Googled up your name Loman and here you is! Larry Henson is here and so is Rose Marie, too! There goes the neighborhood, buwahahahaha! How`s it goin` with the you guys?

Hey Michael!! Check out the Memphis Entertainer's Reunion page on Facebook coming up June 27, 2010. If you are in the hood, you are welcome to come out. Loman is signed up as well as Larry Henson and Tommy Howe. Come join in for some memories!

http://www.facebook.com/group.php?v=app_2344061033&gid=102578896451095#!/event.php?eid=111134215573368&index=1

Hi,

My husband and I met at Hernando's Hideway in 1992, although we have only been married for 4 years. I was wondering if it was still opened and came across your post here. I hate it has closed. Do you know if the building is still there and if so, what business is it?

Hope you are well.

May God Bless You,
Roma

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Dave Hoekstra

Dave Hoekstra has been a Chicago Sun-Times staff writer since 1985. His collection of Sun-Times travel columns, "Ticket To Everywhere," was published in 2000 by Lake Claremont Press. He was lead writer for "Farm Aid: Song for America" (Rodale Press, 2005) which commemorated the 20th anniversary of the Willie Nelson inspired effort.
He won a 1987 Chicago Newspaper Guild Stick O-Type Award for Column Writing. Hoekstra wrote and co-proudced the WTTW-Channel 11 PBS special: "The Staple Singers and the Civil Rights Movement," nominated for a 2001-02 Chicago Emmy for a documentary program/cultural significance.
He lives in Chicago.

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This page contains a single entry by David Hoekstra published on August 11, 2006 10:30 PM.

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