Last Night in Memphis

I’m grateful we found ourselves here this weekend, in Memphis. Because while a Civil Rights Museum isn’t going to console or answer anything like Friday’s obscenity, it does give evidence that there is a great will among us, a will that won’t allow us to say: Fine. You got us. We’re done.

On a weekend of so much confusion and what I can only assume is hopelessness and cold for so many, the National Civil Rights Museum – centering on the death and politics and Dreams of Dr. King – reminded me that we can and will move on past so much, including gunmen.

With a small group of friends and family, we walked among the words and footage and the intense amount of detail covering King’s life. The place also leaves you with messages that linger like poetry, messages about how the man with the rifle didn’t stop anything except another man whose work, Dream and love continue. The gun and its carrier are black and white footnotes, forgotten but for the curators.

I can’t say it was comforting. But it was something. Hopeful, maybe. Like hopefully we’ll have the will to start talking seriously about how nobody needs these goddamned guns.


Before dinner on Sunday, we watched a blues band do its thing at an outdoor place on Beale, where blues bands are everywhere and tourists bounce from one place to the other for a song or two. We watched Cowboy Neal and the Real Deal. Great name and a solid band. Doing “Sweet Home Chicago,” “Thrill Is Gone,” and other standards along with some nice originals, too.

At one point, a skinny older guy who was strolling through the sparse afternoon audience hawking the band’s CDs took over at the mike. He sang a few, commented on the nice weather (overcast, a little mist in the air) appealed for some tips and then mentioned Connecticut.

Beale 1

He was about as eloquent and clumsy as anybody could be on such a topic, but he hung in there about what a strong country we are, the USA, and how we’ll keep everybody in our thoughts and prayers and how we will stand strong if we stand with each other.

He then told his band mates the next song, in G, was “Stand By Me.” The bass and drum started, and he came in and sang that song like I’ve heard it a million times and like I’ve never heard it before.

If the sky that we look upon

Should tumble and fall

And the mountains should crumble to the sea

I won’t cry, I won’t cry

No I won’t shed a tear

Just as long as you stand,

Stand by me.

Goodnight from Memphis, Tennessee.

Back to Tennessee

Welcome to Memphis, he says.

Welcome to Memphis, this totally says.

Mankato was freezing this morning. I had to use a snow shovel to pry open the pickup truck’s ice-locked door. The windshield had the texture of rock candy and you could even hear it scoff as the helpless plastic scraper slid across its surface.

The wind hurt like hell and the day was just beginning. But it didn’t matter. This was the first day of the week in which we’re driving south to play in Memphis. We’re leaving later this week and playing Friday night at the Poplar Lounge, then a private gig Saturday for FedEx and fighter pilots. There will also be time Sunday for fried chicken, Sun Studios and Shangri-La Records.

This is the make-up gig that had to be rescheduled from October, when my appendix decided to flare up and split the scene on the week we were to leave. That distraction did little to temper the excitement about the trip that was explained ever-so-passionately in an October blog entry.

So we’re ready, again, with a little more to give than in October. There’s the new  Christmas tune some of you have heard, “Single King,” which is based on this piece of flash fiction from a few years ago. Ann suggested turning it into a song and I’d say we’ve done so with nice results. (No recording exists yet, but trust me, it’s good enough to ruin your holidays.) The Poplar will also see the world premier of a tune titled “Make Myself.” It’s a catchy little rumbler that’s about being done, just done, with it all.

Chipper stuff, and you should be there. But if not, we’ll tell you all about it on New Year’s Eve at Wine Café. .

OK. Time to pack. The next entry will likely be from Memphis, or while en route with the righteous rig from Keepers RV. It would be great if we all kept in touch, so follow along by subscribing to this blog or @joetougas on Twitter. Send encouraging messages if you care to and we’ll put them to good use.

Thank you very much.