Memphis- It's 3 a.m. in what many call the birthplace of rock 'n' roll, and I'm walking out of a former brothel with two women. I just met them inside. Well, met them six hours ago. It's been a long night.
My new pals, from Tampa, have traveled to this river city to commune with the spirit of Jeff Buckley, an indie-rock icon who drowned in the Mississippi River 10 years ago. The women took a picture of his old shotgun-shack house. In the photo, red eyes glow in a window. It's either Buckley's ghost or a golden retriever; they can't decide.
I've come to Memphis for Elvis Presley and Otis Redding, for whom major anniversaries also are being celebrated. The King died 30 years ago and the town is in full-on hunka-hunka mode. Redding was the heart of Stax Records, the Memphis label that turns 50 this year. Redding died 40 years ago. There's always a major music anniversary here. But 2007 has some doozies.
The women and I have just spent the better part of the night at Earnestine & Hazel's, a brothel-turned-juke joint built in the early 1900s. Some say the bar is haunted by ghosts of bluesmen; they might be right. It is, without a doubt, the perfect place to hold a rock 'n' roll seance.
While we're there, bartender Karen Brownlee dishes about how B.B. King used to hang out upstairs, and just like that, King starts wailing on the bar's jukebox, trusty guitar Lucille cutting through the cigarette smoke. Paranormal investigators visit all the time, says bar owner Russell George. "They're always looking for ghosts," he says, chuckling.
In Earnestine & Hazel's, Memphis makes beautiful, haunted sense.