Thursday, June 5, 2008


My story on Memphis (The Band), appears in this week's Charleston City Paper.

Memphis wishes, rock star dreams

Eight years in, everyone thinks Memphis (the band) is still a little bit country, a little bit rock ‘n roll

By Andrea Warner

Twelve years ago, Jeremy Thompson and his cousin, Scott Morgan, were sowing some oats and wearing out their tire treads on a road trip to California. The two fell hard for Memphis, and when they started looking for a name to christen their new band, Elvis’s homeland seemed a natural fit for their rockabilly sound. Thompson admits that since their “Eureka!” moment, the band has often been dismissed as a country outfit based simply on Memphis’s physical proximity to Nashville. In reality, Memphis the band is more button-down shirts with ripped jeans discretely hiding their cowboy boots, than full ranch hand chic.

“I keep trying to tell everyone that Nashville’s six hours east of Memphis, but it hasn’t quite worked out as I thought,” Thompson laughs.

Memphis is the perfect band for fans of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, or anyone who appreciates songs that tell stories with a bit of blues, funk, and twang. Morgan is Memphis’ voice, and his rough growl is the stuff of back roads and beer, rollicking and rich where called for, and Walker’s drums provide a great backbone to the majority of Memphis’s songs. The cousins are joined by Shannon Morgan (percussion), Ryan Davis (bass), and Peter Lucey (keys and accordion), and help flesh out Memphis’s unique cross blend of sounds and influences. One of their most popular songs, “Fallen Down,” is a beautiful, bluesy ballad that harkens back to the scratchy-throat slumber of an old Tom Waits song.

Though most members of Memphis still hold down day jobs (Morgan is a published author!), they try to go on one small tour every year. Thompson admits the band is still awaiting their big break, but he’s ready for it.

“I have not experienced anything in my life that compares to being on stage with four other people,” Thompson says. “Myself and the bass player, we just want to tour and be out doing what we do best, and that’s play music.”

Thompson would like to see Memphis’s trajectory be something akin to that of Phish or Widespread Panic or Government Mule; independent but with a big enough following to move Memphis to the next level.

“We’re not Daughtry being played once every two and half hours in six radio stations just in my town,” Thompson says. “We’re not corporate. We’re not mainstream. Bands like The Mississippi All Stars have said, ‘We have the means to do it ourselves are out there, we’re going to show you we can do it, keep our fans, and keep it alive’ I really like that.”

But Thompson can’t help but hold one rock star dream close. It’s deceptively simple, hedonistic, and just a little juvenile.

“I’ve always wanted to throw a television out the window of a hotel room,” he laughs again. “But, the other members of the band keep me straight. On the next tour we’re going to take the TV with us, so we can throw it out the window and not be charged with any damages.” A gentlemanly approach, but keep your eyes to the skies if Memphis comes to your town.

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