Goin’ Back to Memphis: A Century of Blues, Rock n’ Roll, and Glorious Soul
by James Dickerson
Simon & Schuster
This 257-pager chronicles the Memphis music scene from the turn of the last century through the mid-1990’s. From the origins of Beale Street and the Blues Era through the ’30s , to the slow period (locally) of the Big Band ’40s, this book gives a good explanation of the background of how Memphis, long the murder capital of the U.S. (you could buy cocaine under the counter in stores anywhere near Beale, and prostitution was rampant), reached it’s zenith in the late ’50s (with Sun, especially) and through the ’60s (with Stax, especially, but also the Hi and American labels).
The ’70s saw Stax’s devolution into gangsterism, gunplay and drugs. Although the ’80s are presented as a “Renaissance,” mostly such was based on the “Class of ’55” reunion recording and out-of-town bands (ZZ Top, Survivor, U2, REM) recording in Memphis. Contributing to this characterization is the author’s personal involvement (foolishly or courageously, he quit his newspaper job to start a failed music rag and record label) in the local scene. The resultant shift to the first person in the narrative is the only downside to the book. With lotsa cool b/w photos.