Memphis Fast Fiction Home
03.12.2011
onerous
Memphis Max

They called him “The Hound”, or rather, that’s what he paid the doorman at the Chisca to tell everyone he was called. He claimed he got the name because his old lady said he was sniffing around for a record deal like a hound dog sniffed for a bone.

The Hound, who apparently came from money, had even financed the recording of his own single. Every record store refused to cary it after a single listen.

The Chisca was his haunt of choice because that’s where Dewey Phillips broadcast his wild radio show “Red Hot and Blue” from. Phillips, himself notorious drug addict and speed freak, had even once give him a shot on-air. But after a few disastrous minutes, Phillips cut the session short, declaring The Hound “the most onerous son-of-a-bitch” he’d ever met.

The Hound took that as a sign and picked that as the title of his next record. Which, in turn, caused a local church to decry The Hound’s inherently lewd and sexually provocative material as even more subversive than normal.

Ironically, this unexpected attention lead to The Hound’s only record sales.

He sold eighteen records.

Five of which were returned, unplayed.

Memphis Note
The Hound, sadly, isn’t real. But Dewey Phillips and his wild radio show, “Red Hot and Blue”, were. Phillips was an uncontrollable force of nature behind the mic, often fueled by amphetamines, that loved both white and black music. He was the first person to play an Elvis Presley record on the air, and helped to bring rock and roll to the masses.

29.11.2011
harbinger
Matt Farr

The neighborhood kids called him Blackfoot.

Initially, it was supposed to have been a jibe about how filthy his feet were, but Blackfoot took to it like a pig to stink, going so far as to cover himself with warpaint and stick feathers in his hair.

They weren’t eagle feathers like real Indians had, of course. These were much smaller, from robins or blue jays that lived in the neighborhood.

Fully resplendent in his war gear, Blackfoot was the sort of child that others parents looked at as a harbinger of their own child’s descent into savagery.

Sometimes the other kids would invite him to play Cowboys and Indians with them because he could be a better Indian than any of them. Blackfoot always felt a special joy when he was allowed to play with them, even if the rest of the children were trying to shoot him.

Then the two men from protective services knocked on his door one day, asking to speak to his parents. His mother cried a lot when they pointed at him. Blackfoot hid in the bushes until the men left.

That night, they scrubbed his feet, but they never could quite get them clean.

Memphis Note
Before video games, television and the Internet sucked the life out of children the world over, summers were a time to go exploring and adventuring. And if you lived in Memphis, this was often done without shoes, which inevitably led to your feet turning as black as the tarred asphalt you ran across.

12.11.2011
legendary
Sherry Whitten

Kemmons was still sitting at the kitchen table when Dorothy Lee came down the next morning. He hadn’t come to bed the night before. The notebook, laid out before him, was blank when she’d gone to bed. It was covered in words and sketches now.

“Oh, lord, you’ve gone and had one of your ideas, haven’t you?”

Her husband was legendary for obsessing over things, it part of what drew her to him.

“It’s just after that trip,” he started, without a hint of exhaustion in his voice. “Those places we had to stay in, none of them, not a stinking one, were fit for a family.”

She grabbed a mug from the cabinet and put the kettle on to boil, listening to him talk.

“I think I should do something about that. Build a place for families, with clean rooms, and a bible in ever nightstand.”

“Sounds reasonable. But how will people know your place is different?”

He paused for a moment, thinking, chewing the end of his pencil.

“A sign.” He answered, with a smile. “Big, with lots of lights. And an arrow, pointing the way.”

“The way to what?”

“A good place for a good night’s sleep.”

Memphis Note
Kemmons Wilson founded Holiday Inn after a horrible road trip with his family to Washington, D.C. He was disgusted with the quality of motels he found along the way, and decided that he should open a chain of consistent, clean, and family-friendly motels. He opened the first one on Summer Avenue in 1952. His idea caught like wildfire, and went on to become one of the largest hotel chains in the world.

11.09.2011
mustache
Melissa Wolowicz

“Oh dear lord,” Muttered H.L. Sallee as he rounded the sidewalk to the small barbershop he ran at the Fort Chaffee Army Base. “If only half these yahoos were here for a haircut, I could retire early.”

A mass of people swarmed the front of his shop, jockeying for a view of the inside. Most were armed with cameras and flashbulbs.

“Reporters,” he grumbled.

Deciding he wasn’t making it through that, Sallee came in the back way, where he was immediately ambushed by his junior employee.

“Boss! You said I’d get to do it!”

“Pete’s been cutting hair longer than you’ve been alive, if wants to cut a bit more, he’s welcome to it. You should watch him, try to learn something.”

“Aww, nuts to that. He’s just doin’ a GI shave on him.”

“Let’s hope you’re good at it, because I guarantee you it won’t just be army boys getting that cut once those pictures get out.

The handsome man in the barber chair snapped up a lock of his dark hair and put it under his nose like a mustache, hamming it up for the reporters.

“Any haircut Elvis Presley has, the rest of the world will want.”

Memphis Note
When Elvis was drafted in 1957, he was in the middle of filming ‘King Creole’, and was able to get a deferment until the movie was finished. This, I think, is the only thing that kept the female youth of America from dying from a collective heartbreak. It would be two years before Elvis was back home in Memphis, which was plenty of time for his hair to grow back out.

25.08.2011
gnat
Caroline Mitchell

“My dad says that’s the beginnin’ of the end. That a half century of higher education at Memphis State will come crashin’ down because of them.” Betty said out of nowhere.

We were sitting on a bench between classes and I was too busy cramming for a French test to understand what she was referring to.

But then I saw them and I understood what had prompted the outburst.

Eight well dressed negroes around our age cut a path through the quad, flanked by plainclothes members of the Memphis police. Conversations fell to silence as they passed, everyone stared. They were the Memphis State Eight, the first black students ever admitted to the university.

“He says that race mixing is going to force the faculty to dumb down the curriculum ‘til everybody comin’ out of here is no smarter than a gnat.”

“I’ve got a class with them.” I said sharply. “They’re smarter than most of the whites in the class, me included. From what I can tell, they just want to be like any other student.”

She humphed and looked away.

“Also, Betty? Your dad’s a racist idiot.” I gathered my books and stood up. “Don’t be one, too.”

Memphis Note
The Memphis State Eight were admitted in 1959, five years after Brown vs Board of Education struck down segregation. Fearing an incident, the university forbid them to go anywhere on campus but their classes. They weren’t even allowed to eat in the cafeteria. But, every year after more and more black students were admitted, until no one even noticed the original eight any more.