Tom Waits and a Topless Dancer at the Ritz Music Hall in Memphis, 1977 (NSFW)

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Tom Waits and an alleged librarian
  • Ron Hall
  • Tom Waits and an alleged librarian

You know what would be cool? If you could actually hear what Tom Waits sounded like back in 1977, when he sang "Pasties and a G-String" at the Ritz Music Hall in Memphis, while you take some time to consider the artistic merits of this photo of the gravelly-voiced singer and a topless dancer. Oh wait, because FM-100 broadcast the show live (yes, THAT FM-100), and someone had the good sense to record it, you can.

Now, while you're listening, I'll play Paul Harvey and tell you the rest of the story.

The Memphis Flyer's own Jerry Swift was pleasantly surprised this week when local pop culture writer/collector Ron Hall sent him some revealing photographs from Waits 1977 visit to Memphis. Swift owned the Ritz and was the first person to book Waits locally.

The Ritz concert was infamous because a Memphis stripper named Sherry Love joined Waits on stage for "Pasties and a G-String," but Swift has always insisted that there was no actual public nudity that night at his Madison Ave. club.

From a piece I wrote prior to Waits 2006 visit to The Orpheum:

"When the contract came in, I was looking over the rider," Swift says with a salty chuckle. "It had the usual stuff — food, drinks, and things like that. And then I saw, 'The club owner must provide a stripper on stage.' I called and asked, 'What's with this stripper shit? This is Memphis, and I don't know if we can do that.'"

Fortunately for Swift, a man by the name of Art Baldwin had recently arrived in Memphis with a bevy of exotic dancers imported from Tacoma, Washington, and one of the Tacoma girls was available for the gig.

According to Swift, there wasn't any actual stripping involved. The dancer just had to dress like a streetwalker and hang out under the street lamp.


Busted!

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