What A Special Treat!
West Memphis, AR
Today was one of those days that was much more in the end than I had anticipated at the beginning.
I've put my photos in a slideshow. Part 1 is my drive on the outskirts of Memphis International Airport. Home of? Right - Federal Express. I was disappointed not to be here during a typical week. They say (sorry, that's what Trump says!). I heard that it is fun to watch all the planes come in at night or leave before sunrise. One hundred forty planes land, one hundred planes take off. But I missed the arrivals last night and there were few takeoffs this morning. The upside was that there were a large number of Fed Ex planes parked at the airport this morning. I've included some photos where I was able to capture a view of some of the planes. The area is mostly blocked off from view, and there are security people patrolling the boundary.
Here's a neat video about what happens at the Memphis hub:
Part 2 - my drive into downtown Memphis. Pretty depressing as I think you will agree.
Part 3 - There is no Commodore Hotel in Memphis. Why is that relevant? It begs the question of what hotel was Lowell George referring to in "Dixie Chicken." Some say it must have been the Peabody Hotel. As you'll see in the slideshow, I came across that hotel in my drive downtown. On a whim, I parked and went inside. I'm so glad I did. I got there an hour before the duck walk. The what? You'll see. I took up my position 45 minutes ahead of time. It was an incredibly fun experience - especially watching the anticipation of the children. The hotel lobby is beautiful. The hotel opened in 1925, fell into disrepair in the 1960s and 70s; was bought by a local family who poured $25 million into it to restore it to its glory and reopened it in 1981. And glorious it is!
Part 4 - you will see a photo of me with the "Duck Master," Doug Weatherford. I approached him after the Duck Walk and told him how much I enjoyed the festivity. He told me that he is the hotel historian and that he was about to give his daily tour. He eagerly paid my $10 and for the next 90 minutes I couldn't wipe the smile from my face. Most of the tour was Doug talking about the history of music in Memphis. Some of stories I remember are:
- Neil Diamond wrote "Sweet Caroline" at the Peabody after seeing a photo of young
- Elvis looms large in Memphis. He loved the Peabody. Lisa Marie and Nicholas Cage spent
their wedding night there.
- Elvis and and Johnny Cash both recorded for Sun Records in Memphis.
- Stax Records was based in Memphis and was started by a brother and sister
- Steve Cropper ("Blues Brothers") is from Memphis and started as a studio musician for
Stax Records working with a fellow named Booker. Yes, Booker T and the MGs. The story is
that MG stood for "Memphis Group" but apparently the group was named after the
- Lansky Brothers is a clothing store in Memphis that was a favorite of Elvis and subsequently
became the clothier of many musicians. The photos guitars on the wall in the slideshow is
from the Lansky store in the Peabody. James Brown's shoe is on the wall since he didn't
play the guitar.
- Otis Redding recorded the vocals for "Dock of the Bay" in Memphis just before he died in
a plane crash. His friend Steve Cropper finished the song. Otis whistled at the end of the
song because he didn't like the last verse and decided to fill the time with whistling.
- US 61 from Mississippi is known as the "Blues Highway" and was the route many a
bluesman took to Memphis. Fittingly, US 61 ends at Beale Street.
- John Grisham's office in Memphis overlooked the Peabody and it is thought that is where
he came up with the rooftop scene in "The Firm."
- There were stories of Issac Hayes, Eddie Floyd and so many others.
- As the Duck Master, Doug has met most of these artists and readily shared photos of
himself with them.
After the tour, I spoke to the Duck Master about how much I enjoyed his stories about the music of Memphis. I said “It’s the wrong day to say this, but you have truly had a wonderful life.” He smiled a knowing smile, and shook my hand.
It was a good Thanksgiving if I had to be away from family and friends.