I wrote this a few days after "Hurricane Elvis" hit Memphis. In late July 2003, a severe thunderstorm with straight-line winds approaching 100 mph, hit Memphis. Almost a half million people were without power for upwards to two weeks - in Memphis - in July.
The National Guard was dispatched to help keep order. I was reminded of the last time I was aware the National Guard was patrolling the streets of Memphis.
In the Summer of '78 I had just turned 14.
I lived in Malesus, Tennessee, a little community in south Jackson.
I held in my hands a ticket for my first ever concert.
It was to see Boston at the Mid-South Coliseum.
Back in the day, coming to the city to see a concert was quite a big deal.
And man, I was juiced.
Ask any lover of rock music, and Boston’s self titled debut album defines an era of music.
It is iconic.
To this day, I can air guitar the licks of every song. Give me a set of drumsticks and I’ll play every rhythm with precision. I don’t even need drumsticks, that’s what my hands were for beating on the dashboard of my friend’s car as we South Jackson boys cruised the northside between McDonald’s and Danver’s on a Friday night.
You know that scene from "Wayne’s World" when the guys in the car start head banging at the fast part of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody?” That’s not Hollywood folks, that happened, often.
I had to convince my folks that I could go with my group – the boys, (S.S.Y.P. - only a few of us know what that stands for) down to Memphis, see the concert, umm, behave, and get back home without incident. I mean if you can’t trust me with David, Rusty, Chris, Brett and Greg, who can you trust me with? They consented, I got the ticket, and I was something, let me tell you.
We had it all planned.
We’d head out of Jackson to Memphis in time to grab a quick bite before getting to the Coliseum to buy our gosh-awfully expensive black concert t-shirts with that wicked Boston logo on it, and wear the shirts during the concert, grab something to eat on the backside and be home around midnight or a little later.
No big deal.
The more we planned, the more excited I got.
It hurts being this cool!
Just days before the concert, all hell broke loose in Memphis. Striking police and firefighters — martial law, National Guard. Watching Memphis TV from Jackson, I quickly got the sinking feeling that a wrinkle was forming in my plans. Not living in the city at that time, I couldn’t appreciate what that episode in Memphis’ life meant; all I knew was that my folks were no longer willing to let me travel to Memphis to see Boston.
Rarely in my adolescence did my folks ever give absolute, “you shall nots.” Most often, I was encouraged to use my best judgment.
But when you’re a slave to the rock-n-roll, man, there is no judgment.
A brother’s gotta rock, you know?
The day of the concert, I sold my Boston ticket to Joey, another brother in our teenage fraternity, who went in my place.
The group of guys reported later that the concert was everything I could have imagined and more.
I was bummed.
Sunday’s Commercial Appeal had me remembering the events of the city back in 78.
It’s not the first time Memphis has been placed on the brink of its own demise. Disasters come. Some of them come from straight line winds, some from epidemics, and others from the tension living in community and learning the hard lessons of civility, or the consequences of the lack thereof.
Sometimes we look back on what we’ve lived through and we wonder how we made it, and we realize, ironically, we made it exactly because we are in community.
Sometimes we look back and laugh at our foolishness. Reflection gives us room to realize the life energy wasted tearing each other down when we are much stronger building each other up.
For me, well, it was only a few months later that I was able to see my first concert in the Mid- South Coliseum,
it was Peter Framptonand yes, that night, I absolutely felt like he did.
— not too shabby,-
Then, followed only weeks later by KISS.
Dr. Love made a housecall that night.
For a 14 year old — it was a wonder- year.
But I’ll never forget that I missed going to Boston.