A Dozen Drinking Songs From Memphis, For A Blessed St. Paddy's Day Night


In honor of St. Patrick, COVID-19, and social distancing (who says you can't have it all?), The Memphis Flyer presents a collection of drinking songs, be it stay-at-home or down-the-street. Because we know, all official words of caution notwithstanding, many of us will be out there today, fighting the good fight and drinking the good drink. And, believe it or not, it turns out that many a Memphis native knows a thing or two about drinking. Who knew? Here, in no particular order, are some tunes to inspire the raising of the wrist in these troubled times...

And, of course, to get drunk, you have to have something to drink. Here, Memphian Todd Snider waxes poetic about that very process, which takes on added significance when just running to the grocery is fraught with danger.

Thanks, Todd. That'll come in mighty handy, especially if there's a beer drinkin' woman in the house.

Memphis Minnie was by all accounts one such a woman, and though we doubt that the CDC embraces drinking in excess, Memphis Minnie seems downright celebratory about the prospect.

But let's not limit ourselves, shall we? Back to Memphis Slim, who seemed to understand the importance of expanding your palate.
For Carl Perkins, who famously played shows and recorded tracks with his favorite family member, Old Grand-Dad, close at hand, the key to having a real Southern good time was revealed when our hero "reached in his pocket and he flashed a quart."

Jerry Lee Lewis, ever the Renaissance Man, prefers something a little more sophisticated.

Jackie Brenston, who with his Delta Cats (and Ike Turner) invented rock 'n' roll and distorted guitar along the way, liked to live dangerously: "Going around the corner and get a fifth, everybody in my car's gonna take a little nip...boozin' and cruisin' along!" We KNOW the CDC doesn't recommend any of that.

Mr. Brenston was such a pro-active promoter of libations that he could have been the protagonist of this song by none other than Jack Oblivian, singing with a latter day version of the Compulsive Gamblers (full disclosure: I played organ on this track, and I was drinking at the time...but that free alcohol was my only financial stake in the recording.)

Harlan T. Bobo seems compelled to drink, even if he drops hints that it's not always the healthiest choice:
And we drank for the party
And we drank through the night
We drank for a rescue
We drank for goodbyes
Drank for an uncertain future
Drank for a slippery past
Drank as though each swallow were the last

Of course, as Harlan well knows, drinking and lost romance can only lead to one thing, a state of mind that Charlie Rich knows well:

If you get carried away, that drink might become your whole life. Here, Chan Marshall of Cat Power, who used an all star band of Memphis players while recording the track, contemplates life in the environs of The Lamplighter. Meh, it could be worse...

But, get carried away, and that beer joint becomes something else altogether. Let's let Dan Penn take us home with some observations on his favorite drinking establishment.

We'll leave you on that sad note, ever hopeful that, by listening long and hard to these message songs, your drinking becomes more transcendent than co-dependent, and, whether you practice social distancing or not, you may reach an epiphany about the good Saint Patrick tonight, wherever you may be. 

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