Your Memphis Memories: That Time with Willie Mitchell

In Memphis Memories by Rebecca PhillipsLeave a Comment

This is the first entry on what I envision to become a lasting series of people’s Memphis memories that come to us via email or messages.

This first one is from Tee Cardaci in Brazil whom I had emailed back and forth with before our book was published in 2014. Tee is a DJ who has a fondness of Memphis’ music history and wanted to share a story with us that could have been included in either our book or into a guest blog post, but that never happened. With Brazil comes festivities such as Carnival and, in that year in particular, the World Cup. So you can imagine life gets busy for a DJ in those scenarios and, honestly, I didn’t expect to hear back.

But just last month, he emailed me. And to my upmost pleasant surprise, he remembered us and sent us his memory. This is his story.

Hey Rebecca,

So sorry we lost touch! My fault. Did the book ever come out? I’d love to see it if there’s any link to it online.
I was thinking of you because I posted a photo on Instagram yesterday along with the story behind it, the story I told you about. Purely as someone who enjoys Memphis history, I thought I’d share it with you, even though its usefulness to your project is long past. It’s an abbreviated version of the story but you’ll hopefully enjoy, none the less 🙂
Hope all is well with you and the fine folks of Memphis.
Hugs from Brazil ->t.
Yes, Tee, our book came out and your story’s usefulness is not long past! I hope it sparks others to share their own memories of this place as well. -rebecca
This is his story.
This 45′ has a special place in my collection and in my heart. First time I went to Memphis, after touring Stax, I looked up the address for Royal Studios, home to Willie Mitchell and his Hi label. I nervously knocked on the front door and a young woman stuck her head out tentatively. “Can I help you?” I stammered something about being on a pilgrimage to see where Al Green and Ann Peebles recorded all those records I love so much and a voice from behind the door called out, “Well, don’t just stand there. Get in here, boy!” The door opened to reveal the man himself, sat behind the reception desk, dressed nattily in a beige suit with stocking feet rested on top the desk. “Poppa Willie!”, I shouted, completely in shock. “It’s your lucky day, boy! That man right there is Memphis royalty!” I hadn’t even noticed the guy in the corner but it was none other than Wayne Jackson, former Mar-Keys, member of the Stax house band and founder of the Memphis Horns, the hottest brass section in the history of soul music, back in town from LA to record a session! I was speechless at the site of the two legends in front of me. “Well, come on, boy”, he said, “I’ll give you a little tour.” He stood up and, using a stylish cane, walked down the hallway. Stopping in front of a closed door, he said to me while kicking it open, “I don’t go in here much any more. Too much shit in there. But go on in and have a look.” It was his office… covered in gold records from Al and Ann and other Memphis legends. I was speechless. We hung out for a while just chatting and them sharing their chicken lunch with me with incredible humility. Finally, before I left, I remembered I had this 45′ out in the car in one of my bags, which he kindly signed, “with music and love”. Sadly, both of these titans of soul music are no longer with us but I’ll cherish forever that record and the memory of that beautiful day in Memphis.
Also, for perspective, here’s a pic found of the historic marker outside Royal Studios. As you’ll see it used to be an old theatre. From a typography perspective, the name of the studio, set into relief stone on a classical style serif font, is pretty cool 🙂

Thanks to Tee for sending us his story. If you have one of your own you’d like to share, please send it over to memphistypehistory@gmail.com and you may find it documented here sometime.

Rebecca Phillips

I am a female born in the United States though I generally fear the border patrol. Buy me an ice cream cone and maybe I'll paint you something.

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