When I interviewed the High Priest of Memphis Mojo—Jim Dickinson—I asked him if he’d be interested in submitting his inimitable insight on barbecue, music and movies to me for an article. Mr. Dickinson sent along some very interesting details to me on these cultural topics back in late 2008.
Dickinson worked with musicians such as Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones, The Replacements, The North Mississippi All-Stars and countless others. I conducted one of Jim Dickinson’s final interviews that you can read in Insured Beyond The Grave.
Memphis Barbecue and Favorite Meals On The Road
By Jim Dickinson
There are two things that people from Memphis and people from anywhere else cannot peaceably discuss-the shuffle beat and barbecue. To those of us fortunate enough to be from Memphis, if you have two hands on the snare drum you are playing a march and if you grind your meat up it’s dog food and there’s no such thing as barbecue beef.
That said, even in Memphis the best barbecue is a memory. Culpeppers was King. The rib sandwich was a thing of beauty. The pulled pork sandwich always with slaw (the best sweet slaw has mustard and Louisiana hot sauce mixed in it) at Paynes on Elvis Presley Boulevard is the last of the best.
The greatest of all time pulled pork barbecue sandwich however honors go to an obscure storefront on Summer Avenue in the Berclair district where I was a boy. It was called Shorty’s, named after the famous chef from 3 Little Pigs over by the Memphis State campus in the Normal neighborhood.
Shorty’s sauce was as good or better than Barretta’s, and his meat was cooked to disintegrating perfection. He had the occasional coon or opossum if you were in the secret circle. Never had a Que to compare.
The Rendezvous in Memphis is famous for tourist barbecue. I am not a fan of dry rub, but I have to say their barbecue lamb chops are immorally good. There is a good Tops on Union Avenue in Memphis in the Medical Center and a good Coleman’s #2 in Hernando, MS. But if you get much further away from Memphis the sauce gets weak and vinegary and the waitress ask you if you want slaw as if it was a choice.
I do not hold with Texas or East Coast barbecue. It’s like the groove in a Memphis drum track with the horns dripping down like thick brown-red sauce. There’s nothing like the real thing.
FAVORITE MEALS ON THE ROAD
K.C. Steak House Carlile, AR-Jack Cheese Sandwich and French grind coffee/Home baked hippy bread/Alfalfa sprout organic mustard
On the road with Arlo Guthrie- Eugene, OR-Whole Earth Dirt Eaters Food Cafe/ Trucker breakfast- The Elite
Cafe on the traffic circle, Waco TX/Smoked Sausage sandwich and hot slaw grill fried
Ray’s Lounge MadisonAve. Memphis, TN/Roast beef sandwich with onions, pepper and horseradish on a hard roll- –
Elsie’s 1969s Cambridge MA/Chicken Salad- Jim’s Food Center, Oxford, MS
Dyer’s Hamburger- Beale Street, Memphis, TN
DoNuts anywhere in New Orleans, LA
Chicken Fried Steaks. Threadgill’s- Austin, TX
Essential Music, Film and Musicians According to Jim Dickinson..
Oscar Dinard (legendary)
Phineas Newborn, Jr.
Hargen “Pig” Robinson
Two Ton Baker (the Music Maker)
My mother Martha Huddleston Dickinson
Lady in the Lake
Track of the Cat
House of Wax (Vincent Price)
Man Who Shot Liberty Valence
Pete Kelly Blues
Face in the Crowd
The Alamo- John Wayne
Desert Island Records:
Villegas- Introducing Villegas
Sketches of Spain
Eddie Condon -Jam Session Coast to Coast
Amad Jamal at the Pershing Vol 1
The Wild One- Shorty Rogers
The Weary Blues Langston Hughes
Jack Kerouac and Steve Allen
Down and Out- Sonny Boy Williamson
Cowboy Songs and Stories- Tex Ritter
Muddy Waters at Newport
Charlie Parker- I Remember You
(Photo Credit: C. Taylor Crothers)
Insured Beyond The Grave Vol. 2 (features Jim’s son Luther Dickinson)