In memory everything seems to happen to music.
I agree with Tennessee Williams. For me, music has not only added texture to the memories but it’s also created some highlights.
Here’s a glimpse of my musical scrapbook and writing.
Her voice is powerful still. For me it’s also the sound of Patsy Cline’s words as she confides in a girlfriend about love and celebrity, her struggles to pay the bills, fix the flats and iron her clothes before appearing on the Opry. The letters are the context for a book and were showcased at the Country Music Hall of Fame (Nashville) and the Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum (Memphis).
…Like an average family, everyone has a job to do, but what makes it different from typical driving gigs is the level of intensity. While all drivers face deadlines of some sort, the tour drivers are responsible for moving a virtual city that has to be transported and quickly set up. Instead of one boss, there are many: the lead driver, the road manager, the production manager, the stage manager…
Johnny Rivers. A conversation with…There are perhaps a handful of guitar riffs so distinctive they become indelibly associated with an artist. For Johnny Rivers, the opening of Secret Agent Man, which he wrote with P.F. Sloan, insured his place among the greats of the guitar. Yet, it was just one of a string of ’60s hits in a decade in which he sold more than 20 million records…
Last Train to Memphis. Liner notes – Like the Panama Limited that for so many years chugged along the rails between Chicago and New Orleans, Johnny Rivers’ Last Train to Memphis is a journey across our musical landscape, passing through styles as effortlessly as that mighty engine once charged through he heart of America…).
For fun, Mike Freeman and I offered tours to Elvis fans, either walking or driving them past the places of his life. We wrote the definitive guide never imagining that one day we would live in the house he made famous in 1956 — before he bought Graceland.
1034 Audubon Drive
After recording Hound Dog and Don’t Be Cruel and filming the Ed Sullivan, Milton Berle and Steve Allen Shows, Elvis came home to this simple suburban ranch house in East Memphis.
As much as it could be, this was my home for eight years. The house is legendary thanks to Alfred Wertheimer’s photographs, Life Magazine and the documentary Elvis ’56. I met many a deadline while living here, even with Elvis fans parked out front. We tried our best to see the house preserved.
We listed the house for sale on Ebay and the sale didn’t close. Record mogul and philanthropist, Mike Curb, stepped in. We were sued by spoon-bender Uri Geller. We prevailed. The house is now part of the Mike Curb Institute of Music History at Rhodes College. They held house concerts there, and we were privileged to hear Mike Farris, Terry Manning, and attend a couple more shows. It was always odd seeing the things I’d left in the house that I’d bought when we lived there to give it a retro feel. Mike Farris sat on my old dining room chair for his show. The curtains I made still hung in the kitchen.
The house flooded in 2017 when Memphis was hit by an unusually long freeze. Overhead pipes burst. Paneling, flooring, kitchen cabinets and more were destroyed. A few months later the house burned when workers left fans running overnight, overloading the electrical system. “A total gut,” a workman told me. The original wallpaper that I uncovered is gone, as is everything but the shell.
The house is being renovated. The exterior looks just as it did when Elvis, and later I, lived there. Its place in musical history will never be lost.
My philosophy is best summed up in a song sung by another Memphian, Alex Chilton. With Gary Talley and the rest of the Box Tops backing him, he sings, “It’s a necessary function meant for those without compunction, who get tired of vanilla every day.”
Vanilla is sometimes the subject of my food science writing. Vanilla flavors my world and my ice cream, but I also like a splash of espresso or a sprinkling of biting cinnamon on top, with some blues, rockabilly, Americana or rock ‘n’ roll in the background. And every now and then, a little bass in the forefront.