Once and Again

October 2nd, 2014

When my advertising agency handled the reopening of The Peabody in 1981, we were often asked what the reimagined hotel would be like. I’ve always liked our answer:

The Peabody will be better than it ever was, and almost as good as people think it was.

Such is the stuff of legends.

As published in The Daily News, October 3, 2014, and in The Memphis News, October 4-10, 2014

(photo: St. Paul and The Broken Bones)



Last week, I wrote about passing institutions – a couple of examples of places and people that won’t come our way again. I said the past can inform the future, but we can’t go back to some other time.

Then, last Sunday morning, Otis Redding came to my church. Had Joe Cocker with him. Al Green and Howling Wolf stopped by and brought James Brown. Booker T. Jones was on keyboard, Sam and Dave were on backup, and nobody needed a mike. 

“I need you I need you
I need I need you baby
I need I need I need I need I need I need you baby
I need I need I need I need I need I need you baby
I got to get you pick it up that telephone
Please please oh baby”

See what I mean? You’ve heard that before, ah, but you haven’t. You’ve seen it sung – no – poured out before, leaving nothing behind, everyone drenched in heart and soul, ah, but you haven’t. The kinda short, kinda ordinary looking white guy that wrote and sang those words – looking like the bank teller he once was – reached deep down inside of me about 45 years ago and pulled up the future. The kinda tall, kinda country club looking white guy on the keyboard  – looking like a lawyer – has the kind of chops that cut across and through and behind everything and take you somewhere else. The singer was Paul Janeway, the keyboardist Al Gamble, and the song was “Call Me,” a hit single for their band, St. Paul and The Broken Bones – lately on CBS This Morning, and NPR’s Morning Edition, and in my parish hall and on the Levitt Shell stage, and up and coming.

Very new, very old, very Memphis soul getting a brand-new following. You don’t know them yet and you’ve known them all your life.

Then, this week, Lafayette’s Music Room – named for one of those institutions – is opening again and Boggs is in charge again. We remember my late friend Thomas Boggs – drummer for The Counts and The Box Tops, the original Lafayette’s manager, the face and heart of Huey’s, the guy as much as anyone responsible for our zoo becoming world-class, and the guy as much as anyone responsible for making people smile about this city.

But not that Boggs and not that Lafayette’s, not the Thomas Boggs that met his future wife, Wight, at the old Lafayette’s but their son, Alex, who will manage the new Lafayette’s.

A very new, very old, very hot Memphis club in a very new, very old, very hot Overton Square. A lot of us talk about hearing an all but unknown Billy Joel and a new band called Kiss at Lafayette’s back in the day. 

Now, it’s up to Paul Janeway and Alex Boggs and this generation to come up with things worth hearing and talking about someday, to impress and remind the future.

I’m a Memphian, and our beat’s coming back. Reimagined.


I'm a Memphian by Dan Conaway

If you don’t read it, I’ll read it to you.

The book is available in print online and all over town and now in audio online at Amazon, Audible and iTunes, read by the author – columns, comments and character references for a city filled with it and often absolutely full of it. Take a look or a listen.



Doug Weatherford: This post is excellent in conveying the story of the musical expression of an era which penetrated the psyche of a worldwide generation and strongly influenced the music of succeeding generations, and it was fomented and incubated primarily in Memphis right along with Rock n Roll, spawned before it and the written and published Blues music before that, ALL in Memphis. Now a new generation is struggling to redefine and re-present this iconic music, so let's open up to the effort and support it before this story of the successful, trailblazing collaboration of Black and White music pioneers is lost and we're left with nothing but self serving one dimentional views of the past. If Thomas Boggs were still with us, he would be the one to lead the charge and re-inspire the generations who spawned and listened to that music and built Overton Square and brought Beale Street back. The next step is to provide the venues and nurture the environment for this generation to honor the Memphis music which impacted the world by absorbing the original genres into leading edge younger sounds in places like fabled LaFayette's Music Room. Just maybe Tommy's son Alex is the one to lead this effort. We should all look forward to that possibility.

Butch Uhlhorn : Another great rant!

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