Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Lenguas Largas, White Night, TSOT at the Hi-Tone Friday

Posted By on Tue, Aug 26, 2014 at 9:31 AM

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Lenguas Largas blew me away two years ago at Gonerfest 9. They played the outdoor stage at Murphy’s, and their three (or was it four?) guitar attack came off as a disjointed, jangly Skynryd that had risen up out of the Arizona desert. They’d sold out of all their vinyl, and they impressed me so much that I actually bought a CD, the most archaic and pointless of merch. They’re stopping in at the Hi-Tone on Friday as part of the Recess Records 25th Anniversary Cavalcade of Clowns. Recess put out their most recent LP, Come On In.

You could call Fullerton, California’s White Night punk, but that wouldn't really cover all the bases. They also fall into the surfy/garage/weirdo stoner genres. Emphasis on stoner, as they include the ubiquitous 420 in their Bandcamp address. A recent Facebook post praised the citizens of Colorado for their legalization of the good stuff. The band is out in support of their album Prophets of Templum CDXX.

When TSOT announced their permanent hiatus last spring, Midtown bar owners and sound guys alike breathed a collective sigh of relief. But like a cockroach rising out of the glowing embers of Chernobyl, Richard Martin's banjitar refuses to be extinguished or silenced. My first night in Memphis seven years ago was spent at the Hi Tone where TSOT had a regular Monday residency. I believe my reaction was, “What the shit is this?” I didn't get it. And that's because I wasn’t in on the joke. Once it dawns on you, a TSOT show is what all rock and roll shows should be: fun and unpredictable. And usually Sambeaux in his underwear.





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Thursday, August 21, 2014

River Series at Harbor Town Amphitheater

Posted By on Thu, Aug 21, 2014 at 7:31 AM

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A new concert series hosted by Goner Records and Shoulder Tap will take place at the Harbor Town Amphitheater. Things gets started this Saturday, August 23rd, at the small amphitheater behind Maria Montessori School in Harbortown. Organized by Goner's Zac Ives and Robby Grant, high honcho at Shoulder Tap (a label and artist collective), the series benefits the school. Folks who have kids may know the location from Rock-n-Romp or other private events that were held there. Grant and the Memphis Dawls are on the bill for the 23rd. On September 20th, Mark Stuart and John Paul Keith will play. And on October 18th, Limes and Ex-Cult wrap up the series. Guest DJs will keep things moving between acts. Go down there, dig the great music and cool view, and for Pete's sake, stay out of the vegetable garden. 


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Saturday, August 16, 2014

Time Warp Drive-In Pays Tribute To Elvis

Posted By on Sat, Aug 16, 2014 at 10:16 AM


In a special edition of the Time Warp Drive-In, Memphis auteur Mike McCarthy and Black Lodge Video’s Matthew Martin celebrate Elvis Presely’s film career on the 37th anniversary of his death.

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The program kicks off with Jailhouse Rock, Elvis’ third and greatest film appearance. By the time it premiered in 1957, Elvis had already changed popular music forever and cemented his place as the biggest music star in the world. But to Elvis, true immortality meant film. He idolized Marlon Brando, and his performance in Jailhouse Rock owes much to Brando’s sensitive biker warlord in The Wild One. The plot is a paper thin extrapolation of Elvis’ bad boy public image, but it hardly matters. Elvis is at the height of his musical power and raw sexual charisma. The film’s centerpiece is a Busby Berkley style musical number of the title song, but even its antiquated and stylized setting doesn’t take the edge off the song or Elvis’ performance. The sequence has been copied dozens of times and remains an ideal towards which all subsequent music videos aspire to.




After a “headlight vigil” is Viva Las Vegas. As Elvis’ film career went on, the quality of his films slowly declined, as he pumped out quick, but profitable, product throughout the 60s. But 1964’s Viva Las Vegas is the exception, primarily for one reason: Ann Margaret. Many of Elvis’ endless parade of love interests were one-note bimbos (Mary Tyler Moore excepted), but Ann Margaret was an exceptionally talented dancer and, if not exactly a great actress, a natural movie star with a personality as big as her halo of fiery red hair. She and Elvis had a torrid affair during and after the shooting of the film, and it shows on the screen big time. Acting or no, it’s clear that these two beautiful people can barely keep their hands off of each other. Add in a classic title song better than most of Elvis’ 60s output and it equaled the biggest grossing film of Elvis’ career.


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Next is King Creole. Directed by the legendary Michael Curtiz, whose filmography includes Casablanca. Said to be Elvis’ favorite role, his turn as Danny Fisher, New Orleans street urchin turned caberet singer is certainly his best film performance, rivaling James Dean in Rebel Without A Cause.




The evening ends with The King’s 1972 swan song, Elvis On Tour. The concert documentary features performances filmed over four nights in 1972 interspersed with backstage footage and an interview. This is Elvis in full Las Vegas jumpsuit trim. His voice is strong, and his stage presence unmatched among mere humans, but it’s clear that he doesn’t have the same intensity as the man who was swinging from a pole in Jailhouse Rock. But after the extraordinary life he led, you’d be a little blasé about playing coliseums as well. 

The Time Warp Drive In begins at dusk on Saturday, August 16 at the Malco Summer 4 Drive-In. 

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Friday, August 15, 2014

Summer Movie Journal #5

Posted By on Fri, Aug 15, 2014 at 1:22 PM

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Full Metal Jacket (1987; dir. Stanley Kubrick)—Kubrick is a cable television hypnotist; stop to watch a scene or two, and the next time you check your watch, two hours of your life have vanished. Part of this comes from Kubrick’s distinctive mixture of precision imagery and ambiguous human agents; his shifty films, which often concern the breakdown of orderly systems, always feel like you can eventually figure them out if you could just see them one…more…time. Like The Shining, Full Metal Jacket is a horror film, but it’s more matter-of-fact about the world’s terrible things than its predecessor. Its main subject is the way people like Matthew Modine’s Private Joker and Vincent D’onofrio’s Private Pyle are ground up in the human being lawnmower that is the U.S. military-industrial complex, embodied in the film by R. Lee Ermey’s mad-god drill instructor. Ermey’s florid, obscene litanies of abuse, which he delivers nonstop at maximum volume, coexists uneasily with Kubrick’s tightly composed images of military harmony, including a shot of Marines climbing ropes in the twilight as beautiful as anything in a Miyazaki film. For most viewers, Jacket’s merciless first forty-five minutes overshadow the film’s second half, which takes place in Vietnam and includes a little thing called the Tet Offensive. But it shouldn’t: one look at Animal Mother’s 1000-yard stare ought to keep you locked in. And in the age of CGI, Kubrick’s meticulous craftsmanship stands tall. Just think; they had to set those building on fire during the battle scenes every single day. Grade: A+

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Hot Fuzz (2007: dir. Edgar Wright)— Edgar Wright is another filmmaker who stops me in my tracks whenever I’m idly channel-surfing. Hot Fuzz, about a London supercop (Simon Pegg) who thinks something fishy is going on in the small English village where he’s been reassigned, is the only action-comedy anyone needs to see, a triumph of verbal and visual wit more immediately accessible than anything Wright, Pegg and co-star Nick Frost have done so far. But for genre connoisseurs interested in a bit of fun, this pastiche offers endless treasures. Its network of cross-references and allusions are bewildering, edifying, inspirational: the Lethal Weapon theme music, the Silent Rage lookalike who can only say “Yarp”, the Straw Dogs shotgun violence played off as a joke, the casting of The Wicker Man’s Edward Woodward as the town’s security head, all the songs from The Kinks Are The Village Green Preservation Society, the A-Team like way in which the bad guys aren’t killed. To say nothing of Timothy Dalton as the guiltiest-looking, most shamelessly wicked murder suspect in film history. Grade: A+

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A Summer’s Tale (1996; dir. Eric Rohmer)—Although Eric Rohmer’s funny, lovely romance about the romantic adventures of a young man and three women had its long-overdue U.S. theatrical premiere earlier this year, it isn’t coming to Memphis; looks like Kansas City (where it’s currently playing) is as close as it’s going to get. This is a shame, because this is perfect mid-August fare, a chatty couple of hours that records, with grace and equanimity, all the dumb games people play when they’re too young and uncertain to deal with love, sex and commitment. I don’t tend to look to Robert Louis Stevenson for advice about today’s youth, but he’s spot-on about the central dilemma of the clueless dude at the film’s center: “He does not yet know enough of the world and men. His experience is incomplete... He is at the experimental stage; he is not sure how one would feel in certain circumstances; to make sure, he must come as near trying it as his means permit.” Out of such hesitations and feints are authentic feelings and many painful memories born. Grade: A

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Post Tenebras Lux (2012; dir. Carlos Reygadas)—There’s too little to hold onto in Reygadas’ emotional autobiography, for which he won the Best Director award at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. Its internal logic remains opaque, and its few potent-looking individual vignettes fail to compensate for its many dead spots. I liked the two visits by the devil (I think) and the scene where the guy rips his own head off, but the rest of the imagery and emotions were either hidden or buried. I feel sorta dopey disliking this movie, though. It’s easy to tee off on typical Hollywood product because village-idiot brainlessness is often what it’s selling. It’s tougher to take down something “challenging” or difficult or unconventional. Because these works may require more time and effort for viewers to unpack it mysteries and challenges, you feel like a chump and a simpleton when you finally give up and say, “I don’t get it.” But I don’t get it. Grade: B-

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“Friend Like Me,” from Aladdin (1992; dirs. Ron Clements and John Musker)—I didn’t discover Robin Williams’ soul while watching The Fisher King or Good Will Hunting; I discovered it in a Disney cartoon. The connection between creativity and solitude—and the way in which Williams’ manic flights of free-associative fancy frequently exhausted other people whenever he escaped from the prison of his own head—is the subtext of Williams’ Genie’s mantra: “Phenomenal cosmic power, itty-bitty living space.” Nevertheless, Williams’ magical wish-granter is his greatest role, in part because it best embodies the radical notion of the comedian as world-builder. Wonder, joy and generosity in the movies are all too rare, but these things are all present in this gloriously surreal, genially self-indulgent two and a half minute musical number, which still delights me after dozens of viewings. (Favorite moment: the way the Genie leers, “Well, lookie here!” after conjuring up a tiny harem for his new master.) Before bursting into song, the Genie declares “I don’t think you quite realize what you’ve got here”; that purely expository line will assume new shades of meaning and gravity as we continue to grapple with Williams’ huge (and often frustrating) artistic legacy. Grade (musical number only): A+

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Thursday, August 14, 2014

Settling Up With Chips: American Sound Studio Marker

Posted By on Thu, Aug 14, 2014 at 12:59 PM


Friends of American Sound Studios and the Shelby County Historical Commission unveiled a Shelby County Historic Marker on Wednesday at the former location of American Sound Studios. Studio founder Chips Moman attended the ceremonies where Mayor A C Wharton declared August 13th to be “American Sound Studios Day.” The band that Moman led through over 100 hit records sat beside him in the parking lot of the Family Dollar store that occupies the site today. Reggie Young, Gene Chrisman, Bobby Woods, and Bobby Emmons listened to wrestling eminence Dave Brown read the text. Moman and band, along with bassists Tommy Cogbill and Mike Leech, played on hits for Elvis, Dusty Springfield, and Neil Diamond, among others. It’s hard to believe the same room of folks made “Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head” and “Midnight Mover.” It was way too late to save what was by all accounts not a nice building. But it’s gratifying to know that Moman and the Memphis Boys saw the city give them proper thanks and recognition. We should all be grateful to Eddie Hankins of Friends of American and Jimmy Ogle of the historical commission. 

Hear Dave Brown read the marker text here:



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Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Crosby, Stills, and Nash at the Orpheum

Posted By on Wed, Aug 13, 2014 at 12:48 PM

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Crosby, Stills, and Nash, the most successul three-quarters of a band in history, are coming to the Orpheum on Wednesday, August 20th. 

Former Hollie Graham Nash will sign his book Wild Tales  at the Booksellers at Laurelwood on Wednesday at 1 p.m. Line tickets are required for the signing and come with the purchase of the book at Booksellers.

Get concert tickets here.   

Hear CSN at their best and get some very sound life advice from David Crosby here.



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Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Noisey Trolls Us

Posted By on Wed, Aug 6, 2014 at 8:18 PM

Chris Shaw was our idea. Noisey was in Memphis. In addition to rolling through the usual suspects, they broke script and spoke to our official intern/actual music writer/lead singer of Goner Records' media darling Ex-Cult, Chris Shaw.   We're damn glad the big-time, protracted-adolescence media is catching up. Ex-Cult is on a tear. Wait and see what happens as they head out west over the next two weeks. Watch this video for some great quotes from Project Pat, Jody Stephens, Nots, and Peter Buck. In the comments, please discuss who would win in a music showdown between Chris Shaw and Andrew VanWynGarden.


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Thursday, July 31, 2014

Sound Advice: Bob Reuter's Alley Ghost at Kudzu's

Posted By on Thu, Jul 31, 2014 at 11:27 AM

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From a Memphian frame of reference, Bob Reuter was something akin to Don Perry and Jack Oblivian having a baby. Reuter was a St. Louis-based musician and photographer who epitomized and chronicled his city’s underground art scene. He had a radio show and played gigs with his band Alley Ghost.

Reuter died after falling down an elevator shaft during the construction of his recording studio in 2013. It is a testament to his influence that his band has continued to play his music. They will headline a fantastic roughhouse of a bill that includes Memphis’ Richard James as well as James Godwin’s project James and the Ultrasounds at Kudzu’s on Wednesday, August 6th.


Summer Movie Journal #4

Posted By on Thu, Jul 31, 2014 at 10:10 AM

Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum
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22 Jump Street (2014; dir. Phil Lord and Christopher Miller) — It may not be as awesome as The Lego Movie, but 22 Jump Street proves that Lord/Miller is the best comic filmmaking team since Trey Parker and Matt Stone. Which isn’t to say that it’s a triumphant laugh fest from beginning to end — the winking meta-commentary about 22 Jump’s paint-by-numbers sequel status and the homoerotic subtext of Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill’s partnership are two running jokes that needed a time out or two. But there are very few dead spots in this omnivorous parody machine: Lord and Miller have never built a world safe from their nonstop barrage of goofs, gags, and random chuckles. Some of the best bits involve “The University of the Internet,” a bunch of girls trudging home behind Hill whenever he takes the walk of shame back to his dorm, anything involving the Lucas Brothers, the dance routine/fight scene on the beach, and everything Jillian Bell says and does. The greatest joke of all involves Tatum, Hill, Ice Cube, and a mix-up that’s obvious in retrospect but so surprising at first that Tatum’s ebullient reaction to and celebration of it deserves to go on as long as it wants. Grade: B+

Continue reading »

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Skinny's Birthday at Newby's with Clanky's Nub

Posted By on Tue, Jul 29, 2014 at 1:43 PM

Brian "Skinny" McCabe, the booking agent and jack of all trades at Newby's, has won so many Best of Memphis Awards that he got a tattoo. Read Bianca Phillips' interview with him about that. Friday is his birthday. What else would one do but celebrate with some Clanky's Nub? The Nub is ... god knows what. But their drummer is Jay Sheffield. Read Sheffield's bio below the video for Clanky's Nub's "Linchpin." Also on the birthday bill are the Soul Thieves, and KPhonix. Happy Birthday, Skinny. 



Jay "Pokechop" Sheffield has been a professional drummer in Memphis for 22 years. He has been in or with in no particular order: The Scam, Snotjet, Mash-O-Matic, The Mudflaps, The Stumblers, Kick'n Chick'n , Chicken Head, Homemade Flavor, Uprisin, Ross Rice, Joe Norman and The Beakers,The Lakesiders, Daisy Cutters, Lance Strode and the Cathouse Ramblers, Greg Hansen, Eric Lewis, Deep Shag, Dust For Life, Corder-McCormack, The Riverbluff Clan, Dave Cousar, Jim Wilson and the mighty neckbonz, The Coolers, Greg Hisky, Jimi Davis, Davis Coen, and Clanky's Nub. He is truly the finest drummer you can afford.

Monday, July 28, 2014

New Reigning Sound Video

Posted By on Mon, Jul 28, 2014 at 2:55 PM

Greg Cartwright is on a tear. He has the Wall St Journal eating out of his hand and every media outlet following him around like a million pups. It's about time. He writes a great song and shouts with the best. The new record is damn good. We'll review in the next batch. 


On TV This Week: Prince Mongo on "American Pickers"

Posted By on Mon, Jul 28, 2014 at 1:12 PM

From left: Frank Fritz, Prince Mongo Hodges, and Mike Wolfe
  • Greg Akers
  • From left: Frank Fritz, Prince Mongo Hodges, and Mike Wolfe

The moment we've all been waiting for is upon us: This week we will finally get to see Memphis weirdo Prince Mongo on the History Channel's hit TV show American Pickers.

From the show's home page: "Eccentric Prince Mongo answers to an other-worldly power and commands Mike and Frank to buy, but refuses to quote them any prices ... "

The episode is titled "Alien vs. Picker".

The Memphis Flyer encountered the experience live when Frank and Mike were in Memphis back in March.

You can see Prince Mongo in all his rubber chicken glory on American Pickers, the following scheduled times:

Premier: Wednesday, July 30, 8 p.m.
Thursday, July 31, Midnight
Wednesday, August 6, 7 p.m. and 11 p.m.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Sound Advice: The Grifters on Beale

Posted By on Fri, Jul 25, 2014 at 11:08 AM

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Memphis legends The Grifters play W.C. Handy Park tonight at 6 p.m. After a long period of working on other bands and projects, The Grifters made a comeback last year at a show for the a Shangri-La Anniversary party. The band seems to be keen on playing more shows, as they are also scheduled to play Goner Fest 11 in September. Check out a video from The Grifters below and get downtown by 6 tonight for the free show.


Thursday, July 24, 2014

Ross Johnson Remembers the Antenna Club

Posted By on Thu, Jul 24, 2014 at 3:45 PM

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In honor of the Flyer Flashback page that's been running in the Flyer this year, here's a history of the Antenna Club that Ross Johnson wrote for a cover story in October of 1997.


Til The Well Ran Dry

A selective history of memphis' original punk club.

by Ross Johnson

The plain-looking bar at 1588 Madison has been known variously as the Mousetrap, Detroit Rock City, Good Time Charlie's, the Well, Antenna, the Void, Barristers, and currently as Madison Flame. In its incarnations as the Well and Antenna, it served as a backdrop for the development of Memphis' punk/underground music scene. From 1979, when the Well opened its doors, until 1995, when manager Mark McGehee closed the Antenna Club, this site produced an endless variety of noise and musical aggravation. That such a scene developed out of a Midtown watering hole is an interesting story. That it thrived and persisted for 16 years is an even stranger one.

In 1978 the bar was known as Good Time Charlie's and owner Frank Duran featured live music after hours from Memphis bands like Crawpatch, but in early 1979 he changed the club's name to the Well and began featuring local rock bands on weekend nights. In February of that year local pop-rockers Hero (featuring soon-to-be Crime drummer Carlton Rash) had a Friday/Saturday booking there. Randy Chertow, bass player for the Randy Band, went down that Friday night to check out the club as a possible site for his group.

Hero did not draw much of a crowd that evening, but Chertow liked the club and wanted a booking as soon as possible. To speed up the process, he called the next afternoon, saying he was an agent from New York City with a band needing a place to play that Saturday night. When the conversation ended, the Saturday-night bill at the Well featured Hero and the Randy Band. This event marked the beginning of the punk scene in Memphis.

Previously, vaguely punkish groups like the Klitz, the Scruffs, and the Randy Band made do with bookings anywhere they could get them, usually misrepresenting themselves as kickass rock groups to club owners who wanted only cover bands who could draw drinking crowds. Any group that was arty or that played original tunes was less than welcome on most Memphis club stages. Frank Duran didn't care about any of this; he simply wanted customers for the Well. And the Randy Band provided that on a regular basis with weekend bookings there.

The Randy Band was largely responsible for pulling the strands of Memphis' burgeoning underground music scene together at that time. Singer/guitarist Tommy Hull and bass player Randy Chertow met in 1976 and began playing in local clubs as the Randy Band in 1977. Chertow cites early Memphis pop-rockers the Scruffs as inspiration and competition, but the Scruffs left Memphis for the New York scene in 1978, discouraged with the lack of live music outlets in Memphis for any band that didn't play boogie or metal.

The Randy Band played Uncle Ernie's, the Cosmic Cowboy, Prince Mongo's, the Oar House, the Midtown Saloon, and even numerous times in the pub at Rhodes College. But it was at the Well that they found a sympathetic, interested audience, consisting mainly of teenage girls and friends of Chertow's, who was an expert at getting the most unlikely people together in social and musical situations.

By 1979 the group consisted of Chertow, singer Hull, guitarist Ricky Branyan (formerly of the Scruffs and glad to be back in Memphis), and a number of drummers that came and went. With Branyan's boyish good looks, Hull's expertly crafted and catchy pop songs, and Chertow's melodic bass playing (people often joked that the Randy Band had two rhythm guitarists and a lead bass player), the band started pulling good crowds with regular weekend bookings at the Well. People still speak of those early Well performances in glowing terms; it is a shame that the Randy Band's sound was never adequately documented on vinyl (this was before CDs, folks). But they did start things rolling at the Well, soon attracting the attention of other Memphis bands desperate for a new place to play.

Tav Falco's Panther Burns had just formed in early 1979 and were looking for somewhere besides a cotton loft on Front Street to play. Falco's crew noticed the rather large crowds the Randy Band was drawing and wanted to be a part of that scene. They also noticed the growing numbers of teenage girls attending Randy Band gigs, but that's another story.

So the Burns and the Randy Band started sharing weekend dates at the Well. During this period Duran would occasionally pull the power on the Panther Burns when they got particularly noisy and unmusical (which was pretty often in 1979). Duran had no problem ejecting unruly drunks from his club or offensive musicians from the stage. He would always let performers know when they had gone too far and if they didn't quit then, he would make them stop one way or another.

Memphis all-girl band the Klitz, got in on these Randy Band/Panther Burns bills too. The Well was very much a drunken social club in those early days, with band members swapping out both musically and sexually, quite a lot like other developing punk scenes across the country at that time.

The Well gave the Memphis scene something of a working-class orientation to go along with the expected dose of drink, drugs, noise, and excessive emotionality. Older regulars from the Good Time Charlie's/Mousetrap days still hung out at the bar in the afternoons for cheap beer, and if they got particularly drunk they would often stay for the band sets on Friday and Saturday nights. Band members were often treated to impassioned critiques of their estimable musical talents from the happy-hour regulars who were too drunk to get off their bar stools and crawl home. Some of the Well musicians also started dropping in early to drink and debate with the older crowd who came in during the afternoons. A number of unlikely friendships between redneck barflies and punk-rock irregulars developed during those foggy happy hours.

When the legal drinking age in Tennessee changed from 18 to 19 in 1980, the problem of underage drinking raised its head. The police started making regular late-night raids at the Well checking for underage drinkers. More than once Duran came close to losing his beer license.

Tiring of the aggravation, he decided to sell his interest in the club to local hair stylist Jimmy Barker, who wanted to turn the Well into more of an arty new music club. With financial backing from Phillip Stratton, Barker opened the Antenna in March 1981 with a show featuring Memphis' Quo Jr. and rockabilly trend-jumpers the RockCats (at the time featuring New York Dolls drummer Jerry Nolan).

Plastic forks hung from the ceiling (the health department later made Barker take them down); the walls were painted black; the mirror behind the stage was gone (a memento from the bar's earlier tenure as a strip club); and there were television monitors showing what soon came to be known as "videos." Barker's videos featured himself and a number of his friends dryly emoting in front of a static video camera. From March 1981 until the Antenna closed, the bar featured these monitors which were turned on immediately after bands played; those flickering images were often on during bands' live sets as well. This practice had a disconcerting effect after a while, especially when one of your favorite bands finished a set and a Duran Duran video came on immediately afterward. Many people got their fill of rock videos at the Antenna long before MTV killed off popular interest in the form. But it was one of those things you got used to if you spent any time there.

BARKER CHANGED MORE THAN JUST THE look of the club; he booked national acts at the Antenna. Previously the Well had featured Memphis bands exclusively, allowing a rather fragile scene to develop musically and commercially without competition from out-of-town groups.

A few weeks after the Antenna opened, Barker booked the Brides of Funkenstein, who put on an extravagant show, the likes of which most Well customers had seen only on television or in live concerts at larger halls.

Of course, Barker lost money with this practice, and soon partner Phillip Stratton was looking for someone else to help him with the more mundane aspects of club management. Enter Steve McGehee from Frayser.

McGehee, who had worked for a number of years at TGI Friday's, was looking for a club to manage. Barker was forced out rather abruptly and McGehee took over the day-to-day operations of the club in June 1981 with Phillip Stratton remaining a partner until 1984, when McGehee bought him out. The Antenna remained McGehee-family-owned and -operated until it closed.

McGehee booked a combination of local bands along with national and international acts. He recalls using Bob Singerman's New York-based booking agency a lot in the early days. More often than not, agents would call him with a group they wanted to book at the Antenna.

As the years went by, McGehee saw more contracts and riders from the out-of-town acts that appeared there. When the Irish group Hothouse Flowers played, he had to add some extra stage planking to accommodate a rented grand piano they insisted on having; he had to have the piano tuned as well. German noise-rockers MDK played the Antenna in 1983 and insisted that Steve provide a meal, shoving a copy of their contract in his face and saying,"McGehee, feed us." He obliged with a few of "Burrito Bob" Holmes' special burritos that were languishing in a freezer in the club's little-used kitchen. They ate them greedily and in appreciation flooded his bathroom and stole several pairs of blue jeans after they stayed at his house.

The Antenna became a regular stop for SST record-label bands in the early to mid-'80s. Black Flag played there numerous times with Henry Rollins before he turned into a professional careerist and self-promoter. Word of mouth played a part in bringing national groups to the Antenna. Touring bands would tell other groups that the Antenna was the best place (or only place) to play in Memphis.

In 1991, McGehee produced T-shirts to commemorate the club's 10th anniversary. On the shirts was a list of every band that played the Antenna during that period. McGehee compiled the list from booking calendars and memory. Looking at that list now one sees the names of groups that have gone on to sell millions of records as well as obscure loser bands that played once and then broke up.

R.E.M. played the Antenna several times. The band once called Tav Falco to see if the Panther Burns would be interested in opening for them. Falco, who had never heard of them, passed on the offer.

Davis McCain's (of Easley Recording) band Barking Dog took that opening spot and even supplied the PA which R.E.M. blew that evening. Those were the days before Michael Stipe and his boys became college favorites, and they often played in an intoxicated state on stage. By the time their first IRS album was released in 1983, they were pulling crowds too large for the Antenna to accommodate. But Steve McGehee had them first and their recently fired manager, Jefferson Holt, used to take the door for them, even lending beer money if you were broke and particularly desperate for a beer.

THE CLUB DEPENDED ON LOCAL bands for the most part, of course. The Crime and Calculated X were big draws in the early '80s, peddling Memphis versions of power pop and British synth rock respectively. Hipper bands may have looked down on these two, but they also envied their ability to fill the Antenna to capacity. The Panther Burns waxed and waned in their drawing power over the years at the Antenna.

"You either hated or loved the Panther Burns," McGehee says. "They were either really good or really bad. There was no in-between with them. The same was true of the Modifiers."

Probably no other Memphis band personified the Antenna better than the Modifiers. The core of the group was singer Milford Thompson and guitarist Bob Holmes with second guitarists, bass players, and drummers coming and going. They played a brand of music that could best be described as a cross between Ferlin Husky and Black Flag years before the current interest in bands that rock up country sounds.

Unfortunately for them, the Modifiers were ahead of their time, and after an extended period in Los Angeles in the mid-1980s, they broke up.

"People would get mad at me for always booking the Modifers as an opening act, but I didn't have to pay 'em anything," McGehee recalls. "They played for beer. They would show up at noon for soundcheck and by 5 p.m. they would be so drunk they could barely see."

The Antenna was more than just the bands that played there. Steve's sister, Robin, tended bar in a cheerful manner and served countless drunks who never stopped trying to pick her up.

The Antenna had a reputation as a violent club, but in reality there were few fights in the bar, quite a feat when one recalls the sheer volume of drunken Memphians who came to the club for the express purpose of "punkin' out." Rebel from Frayser took money at the door and always had a good story for anyone who cared to listen. And finally, there was broken-hearted Rowena (immortalized in a Modifiers song of the same name) who sat at the bar night after night looking for a kind word or gesture.

In 1988, the state of Tennessee assessed McGehee a rather large amount in unpaid sales taxes, effectively keeping the Antenna in perpetual bankruptcy until it closed. No matter what resentful musicians may have thought at the time, McGehee did not make a fortune running the Antenna.

"I lost more than I made," he says. "I promise you that. A lot more."

McGehee married in 1988 and started a family, putting a further financial strain on his situation. He recalls that on St. Patrick's Day 1991 he was ready to close the club down, but he asked his brother Mark if he would take it over for him. Mark McGehee stayed on until the Antenna closed.

Mark had to scramble for bookings while local groups played at the New Daisy and other Memphis venues. Steve recalls that Club Six-One-Six seemed to take away a lot of his business after it opened with a similar format as the Antenna.

By June 1995 the brothers McGehee, tired of the struggle, decided to sell the bar. It reopened later that year for a brief period as the Void, and former Barristers owner Chris Walker ran it as Barristers Midtown for a few months during the spring of '96. Currently the club is known as the Madison Flame. Local bands appear there on an irregular basis.

Essentially the club's history came to a halt in 1995 when the McGehees threw in the towel.

"It got to be more of a hassle trying to pay off the back taxes than it was to keep it open. I only regret that more people didn't hear and see the stuff I did there because there was some incredible music that happened in that place," Steve McGehee says today. "I remember many nights when I was in there by myself seeing great bands and saying I can't believe there's nobody here to see these people. Now there were also a lot of times when I wished I wasn't there. But great bands would come and go and nobody would ever know it."

And what ever happened to Barry Bob anyway? (Ross Johnson was a drummer with Panther Burns. His retrospective on that band appeared in the February 1-7, 1996, issue of the Flyer.)

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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Funny Elvis Thing

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