I don't know if it's the 10 cups of coffee I had at home this morning before my 9 a.m. meeting at Starbucks or the bowl of smothered cabbage and peppers I had for lunch at the Four Way Restaurant (unbelievable), but I feel like adrenaline is running through my veins right this minute. It could also be because it is January and as I write this it's around 70 degrees outside and the kids at the Soulsville Charter School outside my window are lying on the grass reading books like they were in Central Park. It's a good day. It's also Friday, which doesn't hurt.
But I think more of it is that I am just so freaking in love with Memphis I don't ever want to leave it again. I went out of town for the holidays and, while it was great to visit with old friends I hadn't seen in a long time, I couldn't wait to get home. I needed to drive past the studio where Al Green recorded all that phenomenal music and see purple and neon-green houses and get to that bowl of cabbage.
The latest, greatest news to happen in Memphis was the recent announcement that Wayne Jackson and Andrew Love, aka the Memphis Horns, will be receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Recording Academy next month, the highest honor the music industry bestows on musicians. No one I can think of is more deserving. And no other city in the United States can lay claim to them. This will be the fifth time in five years that someone from Memphis has received either a Lifetime Achievement or Trustee award from the Recording Academy. We had Booker T. & the M.G.'s and Estelle Axton in 2007, Hi Records producer Willie Mitchell in 2008, former Stax Records owner Al Bell in 2011, and now the Memphis Horns in 2012. Come on with that. You don't like Memphis? Move to Dallas or some other place that is completely devoid of soul.
The list of artists with whom Jackson and Love recorded reads like the most prestigious who's who list in the music business: Elvis Presley, Aretha Franklin, Rod Stewart, the Doobie Brothers, Stephen Stills, Joe Cocker, Bonnie Raitt, Sting, Peter Gabriel, U2, Willie Nelson, B.B. King, Billy Joel, Steve Winwood, Robert Cray, Joan Baez, Neil Diamond, James Taylor, and dozens of others. To date, the two have performed on 52 number-one records, 116 Top 10 records, 83 gold and platinum records, and 15 Grammy winners. Take that to Austin or Seattle or Nashville and ask them what's up.
I get asked all the time about why Memphis has had and continues to have so much musical talent and I still don't know the answer. But I hope everybody in this city takes note and appreciates it — from the old days of Stax and Hi to the punk scene in the late 1970s and early '80s to all that's going on now.
I think it has something to do with the fact that people from Memphis who make music aren't pretentious, they don't give much of a crap what other people think, and they aren't afraid to be themselves and step out on a limb. How common was it, after all, for a black saxophone player and a white trumpet player in the 1960s South to team up and live like brothers for most of their adult lives? It was pretty unheard of. But Love and Jackson didn't see color like so many people at the time. They just loved each other and had a sound like no other trumpet player and saxophone player in the world. Yep, only in Memphis. And as I mentioned, no one deserves this Lifetime Achievement Award more. Except for me, of course, for when I played the guitar at the Bull Shot on the Highland Strip in 1977 while under the influence of a little pill called a Quaalude. I don't know why I never got my props for that. I was robbed of my fame and forced to live a life behind the scenes.
But back to that adrenaline ...
I think part of it is also because things are starting to look up, not only in Memphis but also across the country. I just read that there were 200,000 new jobs in December and that the national unemployment rate is at its lowest point since February 2009, not long after President Obama inherited that mess from the previous administration and Wall Street and the Evil Empire of credit card companies and banks. And he is finally scaling back the military and military spending, which is jaw-dropping if you really stop and think about the way this country acted for the eight years before his presidency. And yet once again, as I mentioned recently, somehow he will get no credit and the Republican candidates running in their primaries will find a way to turn this good news into some sour-ass criticism of him — if they don't take credit for it themselves.
Of course, the way they are bickering and attacking each other, each one would have to take credit for it individually and blame the others for it not being better news. If Newt Gingrich could stop gnawing away at his own flesh for a couple of minutes, I'm sure he would find a way to blame it on Obama's communist ties. What a bitter, sad man he is. I don't feel so bad about my non-award-winning career after all.