May 2009 Archives

Jerry Schilling talks about Elvis in Florida

mwjerry_3048907.jpgJerry Schilling, a former member of the "Memphis Mafia" and past president of the Memphis and Shelby County Music Commission, will be in Naples, Fla., on Saturday to sign copies of his memoir "Me and a Guy Named Elvis." In an interview with The News-Press of Fort Myers, Schilling recounts the story of meeting a 19-year-old Elvis during a pickup football game:

Even back then, there was a superstar quality about Elvis.
"It was like James Dean had just walked out of 'East of Eden,'" recalls Schilling, 67, of West Hollywood Hills, Calif. "And it was kind of magical."

Me and a Guy Named Elvis_3048906.jpgSchilling's appearance coincides with an exhibit called "The Art of Elvis" at the American Royal Arts gallery in Naples.

The story appears to have at least one fact wrong, when it says the show "coincides with what would have been Elvis' 75th birthday this year. The Commercial Appeal's stylebook gives Elvis' date of birth as Jan. 8, 1935, so he wouldn't have been 75 till next year.

In other news of former Elvis associates, Red West continues to receive high praise for his starring performance in the Ramin Bahrani film "Goodbye Solo." Says Jack Garner of the Rochester (N.Y.) Democrat-Chronicle:

(W)ith Goodbye Solo, West offers a touching breakthrough performance at 72 that reminds me of how veteran Richard Farnsworth forged a latter-day career as an actor in his 70s with The Grey Fox, The Natural and The Straight Story. For that last film, Farnsworth became, at 79, the oldest nominee ever for an Oscar.

UFC has Memphis on short list

Mixed-martial arts fans in Memphis might have something to look forward to, now that UFC, the sport's major league, is looking to produce an event here in town. That's according to, citing a story in the Northwest Indiana Times.

A UFC card would be a major step up for the sport's presence in town, as the only sanctioned MMA event in Memphis so far was a relatively small-time affair in April at Minglewood Hall in Midtown.

Obama checks Memphis in cybersecurity speech

President Barack Obama mentioned Memphis today during his speech announcing the administration's new cybersecurity policy. The theme of the remarks was that the blessings of the interconnected digital age also can be a curse: The networks we depend on are vulnerable to attacks that could be crippling to the economy. A highly networked just-in-time delivery service like, say, FedEx would be among those threatened. Here's what Obama said:

This is a matter, as well, of America's economic competitiveness. The small businesswoman in St. Louis, the bond trader in the New York Stock Exchange, the workers at a global shipping company in Memphis, the young entrepreneur in Silicon Valley -- they all need the networks to make the next payroll, the next trade, the next delivery, the next great breakthrough. E-commerce alone last year accounted for some $132 billion in retail sales.

The Politico has video of the speech.

Lucero in Los Angeles

Speaking of Los Angeles, Memphis favorites Lucero, led by "$5 Cover" star Ben Nichols, will play a show at the Varsity Theater next Wednesday. Decider-Los Angeles has a little preview, touching on the evolution of the band's sound over the years.

Also from Memphis on Decider-Los Angeles (though not on "$5 Cover"), Jay Reatard, who kicks off a tour in two weeks before his new album drops in August. Reatard plays the Hi-Tone Cafe in Memphis on July 10.

Justin and Melissa Gage's 'Memphis and the Delta Blues Trail'

The LAist blog mentions a book-signing tonight by Justin and Melissa Gage for the new travelogue "Memphis and the Delta Blues Trail" at the Stories book shop in the Echo Park district of Los Angeles. The Los Angeles Times music blog has an interview with Justin Gage, who hosts the popular Aquarium Drunkard music blog, hosts radio programs on Sirius XM and Little Radio, and runs the indie record label Autumn Tone. Melissa Gage is a former travel editor for CitySearch who works as a freelance writer and screenwriter.

Here's an excerpt from the book's promotional blurb:

From Beale Street's barbecue, blues, and rock 'n' roll to the city's five-star dining and lodging, Memphis is a monster mecca of American music and more. The A-side is world-famous attractions and the flip side has funky shops, historic sites, and gold record legacies.

And here's a link to the book on

Phineas Newborn Jr., Memphis jazz royalty

08-28 Phineas Newborn Jr.jpgIn addition to the obvious legends of rock and roll, soul, funk and blues, Memphis has produced its fair share of jazz luminaries, from big-band leader Jimmie Lunceford in the 1930s and '40s to a trio of piano masters who came to prominence the 1970s, the late James Williams, Mississippi-born Mulgrew Miller and Donald Brown. One name that could top them all would be Phineas Newborn Jr., a bop-era musician who is considered one of the most virtuosic of all jazz pianists. has been compiling what it touts as the world's biggest online jazz encyclopedia, and it is posting biographies of both current and historical figures as they are written. Newborn's entry was just posted within the past few days, and Miller's has been up for a month or so. These are meant to be definitive biographies, suitable both for true jazz heads and casual readers. They are also rich with links, including to purchase music.

Richard Taylor convicted in Connecticut casino conspiracy

richardtaylor.jpgThe Memphis man known as "Mr. Casino" was convicted today of organizing a cheating conspiracy at Native American-run casinos in Connecticut.
Richard Taylor, 43, could face decades in prison in the state's first major cheating case.
I ran across this story on the Web site of The Day newspaper in New London, Conn. Among other Connecticut newspapers, the Norwich Bulletin also covered the story.
All told, Taylor ripped off the Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun for $70,000.This story helps explain Taylor's system, which involved recruiting dealers to let players cheat in exchange for a cut of the ill-gotten winnings.

Memphis Auditions on 'So You Think You Can Dance'

TV Guide's Kara Howland recaps the Memphis auditions that aired Wednesday night on Fox TV's "So You Think You Can Dance."'s TV blog also recaps the show, which included a session from Miami, as well. The best dancers were sent on Las Vegas.

Both blogs mention one Marico Flake, who happens to be a Memphis police officer. Flake earned a ticket to Vegas by showing off the Southern hip-hop style known as "jukin'" or "jookin'." Of course, if you've been reading The Commercial Appeal, you already know about Flake, nicknamed The Doctor, and other jookin' and buckin' crews. That story includes a couple of links to jookin' videos, which I'll repeat here and here.

Here are links to stories that ran in The Commercial Appeal when the auditions took place in March. We reported at the time that judges were "disappointed because the talent, at least by the usual expectations for the Tuesday afternoon callbacks, was lagging behind what had been found in other cities."

The Neelys in St. Louis

Food Network stars Gina and Patrick Neely, of the famous Memphis barbecue family, are making the rounds for their new cookbook, "Down Home With the Neelys: A Southern Family Cookbook." They will be in St. Louis on Saturday, and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch caught up with the couple. Of interest in this particular interview, Gina says she doesn't exercise, and Pat has a cousin who runs a barbecue restaurant in St. Peters, Mo., out in St. Charles County.

Chris Brown to Film in Memphis This Summer

Embattled R&B star Chris Brown will come through Memphis this summer to work on a new film, according to the New York Daily News (I saw this first on

Due in court Thursday in his assault and criminal-threat case against ex-girlfriend Rihanna, Brown plays a homeless character in an as-yet-untitled "tearjerker," the News reports, according to a "pal." Filming will take place over three weeks in Los Angeles and here in Memphis.

Brown's page lists him working on two films in pre-production for 2010 release, but it doesn't appear that this Memphis-filmed project is either of those.

UPDATE: Brown didn't actually appear at today's hearing, though he is due at a preliminary hearing June 22.

Your Memphis Grizzlies: The Biggest Losers

nbHornets4.jpgThe stories about Memphis ranking poorly in some survey or another seem to appear with mind-numbing frequency these days. Why, here's one that just came out today: Memphis ranks low on a ranking of city fitness indicators. Forbes in particular seems to have it in for us: Remember the "second-most-miserable city"? and second-most-dangerous city? (Come on, guys, at least give us the satisfaction of dead last!)

Here they go again. writer Monte Burke ranks our very own Bad News Bears, the Memphis Grizzlies, as the most-losing franchise in sports. As Burkes points out, this "honor" comes on the heels of Griz owner Michael Heisley clocking in as the third-worst owner in the NBA. Besides what some people view as stingy absentee ownership, Burkes also mentions the Griz's roots in basketball-averse Canada, and the supremacy of the Memphis Tigers in this market, as reasons for the futility, which includes zero playoff wins in three appearances. Fine, all of it. But then he gets all ign'ant:

Me? I blame the name. Grizzly bears? In Memphis? A more fitting moniker: the Memphis Blues, which would describe the malady the team has afflicted on its fans.

banner_01.gifFirst off, we Memphians have plenty to give us the blues besides a bad NBA team (though a bad Tigers team would definitely worsen our blues). What we don't need is some fancy sports writer denying our sporting heritage! You see, Monty Monte, before the Memphis Hound Dogs, the Memphis Mad Dogs, even before the Memphis Showboats, we had the Memphis Southmen of the World Football League. The team boasted the "Miami Trio" of Jim Kiick, Larry Csonka and Paul Warfield, who had two Super Bowl rings and a perfect 17-0 season on their resumes.  None other than Elvis Presley was a fan of the team. The problem: "Southmen" was an impossibly lame name, so fans referred to -- and now remember -- the guys as the Memphis Grizzlies.

Thus, about 25 years later, when the hapless NBA Grizzlies -- who, by the way, originally were to be called the Mounties -- were moved to Memphis, Memphians of a certain age were able to embrace the name because of the link to the old WFL. At any rate, it was much better than the corporate-naming-rights alternative, thankfully squashed by the NBA: Memphis Express (maybe they could've worn purple and orange!).

So, Monty Monte, blame the owners, the terrible promotions, unmotivated players, bad coaching, an indifferent city -- just don't blame the name!

UPDATE: I got so carried away that I misspelled Monte a couple of times. And how could I forget the Memphis Maniax?

UPDATE: For the record, the Griz story actually appeared on all the way back on May 15. I saw it on Yahoo! Sports, which posted it Monday.

Where do the vegetarians go?

A user from Los Angeles on the food site Chowhound asks for recommendations on vegetarian dining in Memphis. It reminds me of Jennifer Biggs' story last week on the veggie options at University of Memphis-area watering hole R.P. Tracks. This thread on the always-useful Goner Records Message Board also could help point the reader in the right direction. 

Welcome, and Let's Get Started

Welcome to Links to Memphis, a new blog dedicated to highlighting our city's place in the world -- and on the World Wide Web. Yours truly is Mark Richens, deputy online news editor for The Commercial Appeal, and my task here is to provide a new perspective for understanding Greater Memphis by linking to stories about Greater Memphis from outside Greater Memphis.

Just as it can be enlightening to read about U.S. politics in, say, a British newspaper like The Guardian, folks in the Mid-South can get a kick out of reading, for instance, what The New York Times has to say about innovations at Methodist University Hospital. Entertainment value and chuckle opportunity aside -- remember when BusinessWeek reported that Bartlett is in Tipton County? -- I hope this blog helps us appreciate what a unique and interesting place we live in, a place known around the world for reasons good (hello, West Virginia!) and bad (g'day, Australia!).

Part of the inspiration for this blog was the excellent Memphis & the World series that ran in The Commercial Appeal in 2007. Our reporter and photographer spanned the globe to show the different ways that Memphis and the Mid-South touched people's lives as far away as India and Zambia. I hope to find more articles like that, from all points on the Web, and bring them to you in a way that keeps you coming back for more. I'm looking forward to blogging and sharing Memphis-related stories about everything from shady business to garage rock to the outdoors and the visual arts. The only thing I'm going to shy away from is University of Memphis sports, which are so well covered on other sites by the company.

So, please, bookmark this blog, add it to your feeds, recommend it on your favorite aggregator site, Tweet about it, and tell all your friends. And don't forget to send me links about Memphis that you run across. And comment. I do love the comments.
  • About Links to Memphis

Deputy Online News Editor Mark Richens takes you through all the news about Memphis from sources outside the Mid-South.