2015 marks the 50th anniversary of the Gentrys' hit "Keep on Dancing." The Gentrys spawned two enduring Memphis characters: wrestling titan Jimmy "the Mouth of the South" Hart and Larry Raspberry, leader of the Highsteppers. Raspberry plays Lafayette's on Sunday, December 28th.
The wrestling trickster and the wildman bandleader have a similar way of behaving in public: Look them up on YouTube to witness the manic, messianic urge to rile people up. Dewey Phillips had it. Jerry Lee Lewis had it. Where did the two Gentrys get it?
"Jimmy and I were actually roommates when we would stay in hotels on the road," Raspberry says. "He was always a rabid and avid fan of wrestling. I have to give him propers, that if there was any kind of methodology or anything to pick up, he picked it up. For me, mine was the rhythm and blues, Solomon Burke-type delivery that went on in between songs. I heard an interview with Sam [Moore] of Sam & Dave, and he made the comment that they would — he called it 'preach.' I very much resonated to that. I don't think I can tell you that Jimmy and I pulled that from the same well. But I accept the similarities. They are kind of raving, aren't they?"
Raspberry played the old Lafayette's. His voice-in-the-wilderness song set-ups made an enduring impression on one film director.
"Terence Malick came to a gig in 1976," Raspberry says. "We shot some gigs in Austin. [He] remembered one of these ravings for all these years. That song 'Pee Wee' is a spoken-word song. And it is one of those set ups. He remembered and asked if I could do it still. He asked me to send him a tape to prove it. I did, and that's what he wanted. No rehearsals. Just show up on that day and do it."
— Joe Boone
Larry Raspberry plays Lafayette's on Sunday, December 28th. With the Joe Restivo 4 opening.