In some ways, Charles “Packy” Axton was the forgotten man in the Stax Records saga. The son of one of the partners, Estelle Axton, he was a saxophone player in the original Stax band, the Mar-Keys, along with Don Nix and others. Exiled from Stax by his uncle, Jim Stewart (by some accounts due to drugs and/or alcohol), he recorded only a handful of sides before dying tragically in 1974, only in his thirties. But the really hip Light in the Attic Records label out of Seattle has assembled all the material they could find into one cool CD called “Late Late Party”, and the album release party at the Stax Museum was something of an all-star gala, despite the odd time of 4 PM on a Tuesday afternoon. Scott Bomar of the Bo-Keys was there, as well as Andrea Lisle, local Memphis music writer, Robert Gordon, the author of It Came From Memphis, legendary bluesman/photographer Don Nix, who had been Packy’s bandmate in the Mar-Keys, and L. H. White, who was the “L.H.” in L. H. and the Memphis Sounds, who cut four sides under Packy’s direction that would ultimately come out on the Nashville-based Hollywood label. Altogether, it was a good time with good music, and the only sad thing being that Charles “Packy” Axton never saw such acclaim during his lifetime.
The marriage of rap and country is not as contrived as one might first imagine. For one thing, if hip-hop was born in New York, that doesn’t change the fact that many of its originators were the children of African-Americans who had recently migrated from the South. Furthermore, there is a fairly long tradition of “talking records” in country, a tradition that might have been influenced by “talking blues” from Black rural communities. So what Colt Ford is doing with his sophomore album Chicken and Biscuits is not a divorce from the grand tradition of country music, but a contribution to it. Songs like “Cricket on a Line”, “Nothing in Particular” and “We Like to Hunt” celebrate the classic pastimes of the traditional South, but from a younger perspective. The title track portrays the ideal woman, comparing her to the goodness of a plate of chicken and biscuits. “Ride On, Ride Out” is a collaboration with DMC of Run-DMC, and “Hip-Hop in a Honky Tonk” deals with some of the ambiguities of country’s attitude toward rap. “Convoy” is a remake of the classic 70’s trucker anthem, which was itself a sort of rap. Ultimately, while Chicken and Biscuits may not be every country fan’s cup of tea, it is great fun, and masterfully conceived.
Wanting a hamburger, I headed over to Jake’s Hamburgers on Skillman, but there was literally no place to park, so I stopped by Poor Man’s Music & More on the other side of LBJ Freeway, and then drove over to the Galleria.
At Valley View Mall, there were two new record stores, an Xperience Music (which is what the Eargazum chain is becoming), and Nu Era Music and More, which wasn’t on my store list and which I just happened to see as I walked through the mall. From there, I headed out to Oak Cliff and to a store on Cockrell Hill called Da Shop, and then to Rewind Music in the Wynnewood Village. At Top Ten, the owner Mike asked about Gary Bernard, the buyer at Select-O-Hits who he had known for some years, and gave me a cold root beer, and then I headed down to the Eargazum at Southwest Center Mall.
In Grand Prairie, there was a large store called Forever Young Music, and they had a Houston CD I had been looking for called Queen of Hits: The Macy’s Record Story, so I bought that and then drove over to the Irving Mall to leave posters and promos at another Eargazum location.
I had decided to eat at a Texas Land and Cattle Company in Garland near Lake Ray Hubbard, and I didn’t want to fight LBJ expressway traffic at the 6PM time of evening, so I decided to take the new George W. Bush Tollway, little knowing that by the time I reached the end of it in Garland, I would have spent almost $10 and killed nearly an hour. Worse, the tollway abruptly ends at a city street in Garland that doesn’t lead to I-30, so I had to drive down through Rowlett to get to the restaurant. The Dallas Cowboys pre-season game was on the TV screens at the restaurant, and I ordered their signature smoked sirloin, which is unique and very good.
Afterwards, there was supposed to be a jazz group playing at R. L. Griffith’s Blues Palace on Grand in South Dallas, but there wasn’t, and so I drove down to Brooklyn Jazz Cafe again. But the group there had quit playing because of the Barack Obama speech at the Democratic National Convention, which everyone was listening to. I hung around the club for awhile, but ultimately headed back to my hotel.
On the internet, much had been made of a trendy spot called Wild Eggs on Dutchman’s Lane in Louisville, so I drove out there after checking out of the hotel, and ate breakfast there, noticing the dramatic glass case full of eggs of various sizes, shapes and colors. The restaurant was very crowded, but I managed to park and find a table, and the breakfast was quite good. I then drove out to the West End to leave Haystak posters at Better Days Records on Broadway, and from there I drove back to the east side to visit Exclusive Wear and, I thought, Q-Ball’s. The latter store had closed, however, and I was quite sad to see it gone. My last stop was in Jeffersonville, Indiana at LB’s Music & More, but they weren’t open yet, so I left some promotional items in their mailbox. I got a fairly early start out of Louisville heading toward Lexington, and with no record stores between the two cities, I saw no reason to stop. My hotel in Lexington was actually the Marriott Griffin Gate Resort, and was by far the most impressive and luxurious of the hotels on my trip so far. There was a golf course, a restaurant in a 19th-century house, an indoor pool, an outdoor pool, tennis courts and a basketball court. After checking in, I headed through downtown to The Album, where I was surprised to find a lot of African LPs and Black gospel LPs, which I purchased. Practically next door to The Album was CD Central, which doesn’t always carry rap but does carry Haystak, so I left them some posters and postcards. After I visited the two Muzic Shoppe locations with materials, I headed out to Lexington Green, but there I learned that the Disc Jockey store, the last in that once-venerable Owensboro chain, was now closed. I had discovered that there was a restaurant and marina called Riptide on the Kentucky River south of Lexington, so I drove out Old Richmond Road to the spot, and it was on a lovely spot between two bridges on the riverfront. However, I was soon concerned when I learned that the restaurant was out of filet mignon. I had to settle for the New York Strip, but it was very good. I learned that the restaurant was more of a bar and club at night, and while I ate, employes were stringing up lights outside over a sandy beach area in front of the outdoor stage where a duo was playing and singing country music. There was an outdoor bar as well directly beside the river. After I drove the 20 miles back into Lexington, I stopped at Common Grounds Coffee House on High Street and had a dessert and coffee. Despite being a college town, Lexington can be boring at night, as I had learned on a previous trip. There were no rap clubs, no jazz clubs, and my hotel was the type of place where a lot of rich retired people were vacationing, so I checked the iPhone to see what was going on in Cincinnati, only an hour to the north, and found that there was a Reds game, with tickets as inexpensive as $20. I had not been to a major league baseball game since I was little, so I decided to make the hour drive north on I-75 to Cincinnati. As I expected there was plenty of parking, but, after parking, I found myself somewhat confused, for there was some sort of football game going on in Paul Brown Stadium, a high-school game or jamboree, probably, although it seemed early in the month for high school sports. I was tempted to go there instead for a minute, but finally, I walked the opposite direction toward the Great American Ballpark, which is exactly that, bought a ticket and headed into the very crowded game. Unfortunately, the Reds didn’t do very well, but I soon learned that the game was to be followed by a fireworks display over the stadium and the Ohio River. Long before the game was over, I could hear and catch glimpses of another fireworks show coming from over on the Kentucky side, Covington perhaps. The fireworks on our side of the river were dazzling as well, and then I walked out into the street to head back toward my car, listening to the hypnotic cadence funk of several young Black marching band drummers, mixed with the boom of nearby African drumming, all playing for tips from the sports fans walking past on their way home. I thought about cities like Cincinnati, how they have a soul, culture and personality all their own, and, looking up at the dazzling skyline, I wondered if there was something to get into. I debated heading over to the Blue Wisp Jazz Club, but the last time I had been there, the musicians quit playing at midnight, and it was nearly midnight now, so I drove back across the bridge into Kentucky. At Florence, with some difficulty, I found a Starbucks that was still open, and I drank a latte to keep myself awake on the 70 minute drive back to my hotel. Although I turned the lights out and went to bed, I was amazed to hear voices and the pounding of a basketball from outside my window. Looking out, I saw that a pickup game was in full action out on the court at about 1 AM, and it still was when I awakened at about 2AM. I don’t know when it broke up, but the next time I awakened, the court was dark and silent. The Griffin Gate is known as a golf resort, but it’s a streetballers dream as well.
I checked out of the Sheraton, and used my iPhone to locate a breakfast place called the Half Day Cafe, which turned out to be in a little village south of Sharonville called Wyoming. The cheerful, brightly-colored restaurant was crowded, but I had no trouble finding a table, and enjoyed a great breakfast there. Then I headed to CD Warehouse in Sharonville, CD Exchange in Kenwood and Everybody’s Records, dropping off Haystak postcards and posters, before Abdullah called me to meet him at a coffee bar near the University of Cincinnati. First I dropped more promotional materials at CD Game Exchange on Short Vine Street, and then I ran into some young men in front of a recording studio, and I talked with them briefly about Select-O-Hits Music Distribution, and then headed up the street and over to Taza Coffee Lounge, where Abdullah and a young rapper from the Elementz program were waiting for me. After enjoying a latte and talking with them, I headed on to Shake It Records on Hamilton Avenue, and then over to the westside CD Warehouse, listening to the CD of Cincinnati soul star Kenny Smith which I had purchased at Everybody’s Records earlier in the day. Afterwards, I headed across the bridge into Kentucky, and I decided not to eat dinner in the area, but to drive on to the Louisville area. The sun was just beginning to set when I arrived in Louisville, and I drove across into Jeffersonville, Indiana to the Buckhead Mountain Grill, which had an outdoor deck and was built on the bank of the Ohio River. Although it was somewhat cool, and a lot of people were out on the river deck, I chose to eat indoors. After dinner, back on the Kentucky side, I drove to Underground Sounds and then to Ear X-Tacy in the Bardstown/Highlands area. I had seen a place called the Pie Kitchen on Bardstown, so after I finished distributing promotional materials to record stores, I drove back there and enjoyed a cup of coffee and a piece of homemade chocolate silk pie just before they closed for the night. Then, driving downtown, I easily found the Hyatt Regency Hotel, where I valet parked my car and checked in. My room was large and spacious, with a beautiful view of the downtown skyline, and, better yet, an iPod dock that played the music on my iPhone. The hotel was within walking distance of the Fourth Street Live district, but I decided to go on to bed instead.